'Mr. Moto Takes A Chance: Cinema Archives'
(Peter Lorre, Rochelle Hudson, Robert Kent, J. Edward Bromberg, Chick Chandler, et al / DVD / NR / (1938) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: This action-packed mystery has Japanese adventurer Mr. Moto on an archeological expedition in a remote Indochinese jungle province.
DVD Verdict: The fourth in the series of Twentieth Century Fox films featuring Japanese detective Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) opens with jungle stock footage right before aviatrix Victoria Mason (Rochelle Hudson) sabotages her own airplane and parachutes to safety in the Cambodian wilds of Tong Moi. The logistics of that plane crash and her parachute landing practically right on top of Mr. Moto on an archaeological dig isn't very believable, but it does set up a fast paced adventure involving native revolutionaries and a secret munitions base. As in the first two Moto films, Lorre dons a disguise for part of the story, this time as an aged Hindu wise man. You know it's Lorre all the while, but it adds some melodrama to the occasion, and he does get to spout some appropriately sage advice to friends and foes alike.
There's an early tribute to Lorre's brilliant portrayal in the 1931 Fritz Lang film 'M'. As the two newsreel reporters continue on their way following the first encounter with Moto, Marty Weston (Robert Kent) comments to partner Chick Davis (Chick Chandler) - "If I was casting a horror picture, I'd have him play the murderer".
If you pay attention the first time Moto reaches for a carrier pigeon to relay a message to his government contact, you'll note that the cage door is already open. Makes you wonder why the pigeon stayed put!
J. Edward Bromberg adds to the colorful proceedings as Rajah Ali, walking a fine line between Bokor's (George Regas) native upstarts and his French government superiors. This time around, in addition to Moto's clever detective work and martial arts skill, he also shows he can be deadly with a machine gun. Unlike his Oriental counterparts Charlie Chan and Mr. Wong, Moto can mix it up pretty well with the bad guys, and leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake that would make Dirty Harry proud.
All in all, an offbeat and different kind of mystery for Mr. Moto, reminiscent somewhat of the much later Charlie Chan film, 1948's 'The Feathered Serpent' which takes place in an Aztec jungle setting. In that one, Roland Winters portrays Chan, and scurries around the steamy wilderness in the trademark white suit, tie and top hat. At least Moto looked more comfortable in a safari suit. Oh, and lest I forget, let me get my vote in now for Rochelle Hudson, the actress with the sexiest shoulder of the 1930's! Love this man. Love this film series. I know you will also, if you don't already! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.