In Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939) set in Egypt, a plan is afoot to blow up a French flagship in a manner that will cause division between the American & French navies, which will benefit those evil Germans, the film's wartime teutonophobia being essentially propogandistic.
The war with Japan began in 1941 though America had already been involved in naval blockades of Japan. Still, in 1939 it was yet possible for Hollywood to imagine a Japanese hero.
What Hollywood couldn't imagine is a Japanese actor playing Kentaro Moto, & so it was up to Peter Lorre to create the bucktooth thick-glasses stereotype who likes to say "Ah, so."
Despite the physical stereotyping of the character design, Lorre is actually rather pretty as Mr. Moto, with an elegance & intellect truly worthy of admiration. Oddly enough, the first Mr. Moto we see on screen is his "double" played by Teru Shimada, & much as I love Peter Lorre as an actor, it's really a bloody shame no one realized Shimada would've been great in the starring role.
Mr. Moto is an escape artist & also good at magic. He does a lovely juggling clown act in one of his disguises. He's so good at judo that he can take down three tough sailors despite his own small size. I loved Mr. Moto when I was a child & caught Peter Lorre being him on the old Zenith television set. As an adult viewer it all takes more forgiveness, though Lorre as Mr. Moto isn't quite as absurd as hulking Boris Karloff as the San Francisco detective James Wong.
The acting in Mr. Moto's Last Warning is suprisingly good with villains played by George Sanders & Recardo Cortez, a heroine played by Virginia Field, & a nice little performance from John Carradine as a British agent who comes to a gruesome demise in a bathysphere at the bottom of the sea.
Some of the events are very colorful, & Cortez as the sinister agent has the wonderful cover of being the ventriloquist Fabian the Great with his smart aleck dummy Alfred.
This was Lorre's eighth & last outing as Mr. Moto, as Japanese heros would very soon not be a choice for Hollywood productions. With all the suitable forgivenesses in place, it's really a nice entry to the series. The character originated in the novels & tales of John P. Marquand, though the plots & even the character are not really the same as in the books.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl