The Peter Lorre Films of
Mr. Moto

Mr. Moto was a mild-mannered, Japanese detective that was the basis for a series of eight films (1937-39) by Twentieth Century-Fox from the stories of novelist John P. Marquand. Peter Lorre portrays Kentaro Moto (I.A. Moto in Marquand's novels), who was very much unlike Charlie Chan in that he was the master of disguises and physically more active, often using ju-jistsu.

It is seldom clear for whom Moto really works. Perhaps it is the International Police. In the first two films, he refers to himself an importer. When asked if he is a detective in the film Think Fast, Mr. Moto, he replies that it done only as a hobby. On other occasions, Moto claims to be a confidential investigator for the International Association of Importers, a member of the International Police, a college lecturer in criminology, and a managing director of the Dai Nippon Trading Company, which probably serves as a front for his activities with the International Police. However, in The Return of Mr. Moto, it is clear that Moto works for Interpol. In the novels, he is a Japanese agent in the service of the Emperor.

Many of the actors and crew members who were associated with the Charlie Chan series at Twentieth Century-Fox were also involved with the Mr. Moto films. Most notable of the actors and actresses were Thomas Beck, Harold Huber, Erik Rhodes, Virginia Field, Murray Kinnell, and Lionel Atwill. Even Keye Luke, who had already appeared as Number One son Lee Chan in eight films with Warner Oland, reprised his role as Lee Chan in Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938), much of which was salvaged from Charlie Chan at the Ringside, a 1938 movie project that never was completed.

The following are the eight Mr. Moto films with Peter Lorre:

  • Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)
  • Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937)
  • Mr. Moto's Gamble (1937)
  • Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938)
  • Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)
  • Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)
  • Danger Island (1939)
  • Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)
A ninth movie, "The Return of Mr. Moto," was produced in 1965, starring Henry Silva.




   {short description of image} The Complete Mr. Moto Film Phile: A Casebook by Howard M. Berlin

At long last, The Complete Mr. Moto Film Phile: A Casebook (ISBN: 0809511290) is now available (paperback, 240 pages with appendicies and references; list: $19.95 + S/H) for ordering from any of the following (prices may vary):

This is the only book devoted solely to the the Mr. Moto film series. The table of contents and the abridged preface can be viewed by clicking here.

 
   {short description of image} The Mr. Moto Collection, Volume 1
At long last, 20th Century Fox has seen the light and rewarded Peter Lorre and Mr. Moto fans with releasing its restored Mr. Moto films staring Peter Lorre on DVD. The release date was August 1, 2006 for the first four films:
  • Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1938)
  • Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937)
  • Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938)
  • Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)
This first volume skips Mr. Moto's Gamble–the third film in the series–which features Keye Luke (Charlie Chan's Number 1 son). Originally this film started out as Charlie Chan at the Ringside but Warner Oland died during its production and the film was rewritten as a Mr. Moto picture.

There are several original behind-the-scenes documentaries:
  • Profiles of Lorre
  • "Mr. Moto" director Norman Foster
  • producer Sol Wurtzel
  • stuntman Harvey Parry

Orders and information can be currently found at the following links:

  {short description of image} The Mr. Moto Collection, Volume 2
The remaining four films, which were released as a boxset on February 13, 2007, are:
  • Mr. Moto's Gamble (1937)
  • Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)
  • Danger Island (1939)
  • Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)
Like the the first volume, there are a number of original documentaries:
  • Meet Mr. Moto – I appear in this one!
  • Mr. Moto Meets Mr. Chan – the Making of Mr. Moto’s Gamble (I appear here also!)
  • Mr. Moto’s Creator – the late John P. Marquand
  • Mr. Moto is Missing
  • Mr. Moto trailers
In addition, the 1965 film, The Return of Mr. Moto starring Henry Silva is also included.

Orders and information can be currently found at the following links:

FYI: Visit my Charlie Chan page for information about my two Charlie Chan books.

If you have any comments, questions, or complaints, e-mail me at:

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© 1999-2008, Howard M. Berlin. Updated: December 21, 2008.