Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Peter Lorre and Sig Ruman
THANK YOU, MR. MOTO (1937). Director: Norman Foster.

Charlie Chan had been appearing in motion pictures for some years when 20th Century-Fox and Monogram came out with competing series about Oriental sleuths. Boris Karloff's Mr. Wong appeared in films released by Monogram, while Mr. Moto had the more prestigious Fox at the wheel. Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) is a "confidential investigator" but his real profession, he claims, is "importer." Another character describes Moto as "an adventurer, an explorer, a soldier of fortune." In any case, Moto never quite seems altogether on the up and up although in essence he's a good guy. In this second Mr. Moto film, he is in Peping when it develops that certain parties wish to obtain scrolls that will lead to the hidden tomb of Genghis Khan in the Gobi desert and all of its treasures. Prince Chung (Philip Ahn) and his mother Madame Chung (Pauline Frederick) own the scrolls and will not part with them at any price because they fear the Great Khan's (!) tomb will be desecrated. Assorted individuals are murdered for the scrolls by an unknown party, but Thank You, Mr. Moto is less a mystery than a film of action and intrigue. Characters include Colonel Chernov (Sig Ruman), who tries to purchase the scrolls from the prince; his wife, Madame Chernov (Nedda Harrigan of Charlie Chan at the Opera); Periera (John Carradine), an antique dealer who knows more than he's telling; and Eric Koerger (Sidney Blackmer of The House of Secrets). The romantic interest is supplied by Thomas Beck and Jayne Regan. Lorre is fine as Moto, and Blackmer, Ruman, Harrigan and Carradine are also notable. The best performances, however, come from Ahn as the prince and Frederick as his mother; there's an especially good scene when the prince tries to keep his mother from being tortured. Philip Ahn [Red Barry] was an extremely talented actor, one of those who graces every film he appears in. There is a moving conclusion as well.

Verdict: Creditable if imperfect Moto vehicle. **1/2.


Gary R. said...

"Thank You" is my favorite of the Moto films, so was happy to see your generally favorable review. I don't mind it being less a mystery; Moto being more of an Asian James Bond this time around. Actually, in the original novels, the character is indeed a secret agent for Japan. And, among the cast, it's always a treat to see Sig Rumann in a non-comedic role.

William said...

Thanks for the info, Gary. I'll have to hunt down the books as I've never read any of them. I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the Moto movies in the near future.

I like ol' Sig myself. He spelled it both with one "n" and two but I'm not certain which is the official version.