Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Mr. Moto Takes a Chance

A while back, John Hocking suggested that I watch this movie, and I'm very glad he did. Somehow, I'd never seen any of the Mr. Moto movies, at least that I remember, and I've still never read any of the books by John P. Marquand. I might have to remedy that, too, although I have a hunch the books are considerably different from the movies.

Anyway, like THE MOLE PEOPLE last week, MR. MOTO TAKES A CHANCE is pure pulp adventure. You've got a plucky aviatrix played by Rochelle Hudson (Wotta babe!—although her jodhpurs could have been a little less baggy, if you know what I mean). You've got a couple of American newsreel cameramen, one stalwart and two-fisted (Robert Kent), the other reasonably tough but also serving as the comedy relief (Chick Chandler). You've got an ancient civilization ruled by a sleazy rajah in the jungles of Southeast Asia. You've got an evil high priest and the ruins of an old temple. You've got henchmen, revolutions, sword fights, hidden passages, disguises, double- and triple-crosses, and most important of all, to sort it all out you've got "archeologist" (really intelligence agent) Mr. Moto, played by Peter Lorre.

This one rambles along for a while, but once the action starts it's non-stop, culminating in a huge battle in and around the temple with machine guns. The photography is excellent, and there are quite a few shots that look like they could have been covers on issues of THRILLING ADVENTURES or SPICY ADVENTURES, including one of Hudson tied to a pillar in the temple with her shirt ripped off one shoulder. Hubba-hubba!

Despite what they may sound like, none of these comments are intended as ironic, post-modern snark. You know me. I'm absolutely sincere in my love of this stuff. Watching MR. MOTO TAKES A CHANCE made me feel like I was twelve years old again, sitting cross-legged on the floor in my parents' living room on a Saturday afternoon, watching the movie on Channel 11 on our old black-and-white TV, interspersed with commercials for the drag races at Green Valley Raceway and Monday night wrestling at the North Side Coliseum. I need to watch more Mr. Moto movies. I know I can't retreat completely into adolescence, but more and more, it's nice to visit.


Bill Crider said...

What? No quicksand?

R.T. (Tim) said...

The PC offenses in such a film are so numerous that we ought to celebrate the innocence of times past and lament the realities (PC absurdities) of the present.

Barry Traylor said...

I love the Mr. Moto films, they are just so darn much fun. I binge watched all the ones that Netflix had last Fall. There three that I have not seen as I suspect they are out of print. I have them in the Saved section at Netflix in case ever become available. Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation, Mr. Moto in Danger Island and Mr. Moto's Gamble are the three I have not seen.

Stephen Mertz said...

Retreat completely into adolescence? Man, I never left! I refer to the Inner Man, of course. My physical body continues to indicate the passage of years but I'll never stop loving these types of movies. As for "PC," it's hard to believe that otherwise intelligent folks are still peddling that crap. Anyway, great review, James. Gotta track this one down.

Richard R. said...

Looks like a kick. I'm with Tim on the PC stuff. I've never seen a Moto movie, time to start.

Anonymous said...

Well, as for the PC angle you do get some of the narrow attitudes of the era, and there's the inescapable fact that the heroic Asian protagonist is played by Peter Lorre.
But his portrayal of Mr. Moto may take some by surprise. His Moto is polite, compassionate, modest, just, wonderfully dangerous when threatened, and always the smartest guy in the room. This is not a character molded by modern tastes and awareness, but there is nothing disdainful or dismissive about the way Moto is presented.

While Mr Moto Takes a Chance is my favorite, the first one, Think Fast Mr. Moto, is excellent, and the second, Thank You, Mr. Moto is almost as pulpy.

John Hocking

Daniel Stumpf said...

The Moto books themselves remind me of Fox B-movies of the period, peopled with recognizable types (Stuffy official, sinister villain, earnest young man, plucky lass, likable gangster....) right out of Central Casting.