Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)

Genres - Action, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film  |   Release Date - Oct 14, 1938 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 66 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The first in a series of 8 films, Think Fast, Mr. Moto is an appealing little thriller. Be warned, of course, that many will be offended at both its portrayal of Asian and Asian-American characters and by the decision to have a Caucasian actor portray the title character. If the viewer can get past these obstacles, he will find Moto a fast-paced, well-crafted international mystery flick. Certainly, his native ethnicity is the only drawback in the casting of Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto, for Lorre brings a surprising complexity to a character with dime-store paperback novel origins. Shrewd and clever, Lorre's Mr. Moto is also not above taking justice into his own hands -- whether that justice is vengeful or merciful. And the actor's skill anchors the film, giving it a center that is vital to its success. Norman Foster directs with an eye on speed, which occasionally affects the coherence of the plot, but not fatally -- and it brings rewards in terms of impact. (The plot is a bit convoluted- but that's half the fun.) He handles his cast well, drawing especially effective performances from Virginia Field and Sig Rumann. He also makes the most of what is clearly a low budget, so that Moto ends up a small little treat.