"Good evening Miss Joyce. Do not be alarmed. I'm only attempting to break in to the safe." -- Moto to Eleanor
This second film starring Peter Lorre as J.P. Marquand's popular Japanese detective, Mr. Moto, is a handsomely mounted and atmospheric entry boasting a good story and nice cast, making it one of the best in the series. The diminutive but dangerous Moto was much more hands-on than Earl Derr Biggers' Charlie Chan, perhaps a reflection of two very different cultures. Moto was smart as well, but capable of menace, and even brutal violence, when necessary. Lorre captures this aspect of Mr. Moto perfectly, especially in this entry, in which he dispatches of more than one adversary by lethal means.
Gorgeously shot by Virgil Miller, and directed by Norman Foster, who also co-scripted with Willis Cooper from a Marquand story, the film benefits mightily from the presence of Thomas Beck and Jayne Regan as the romantic second leads. Beck was excellent in several Charlie Chan features and naturally found himself at home in this series, his good looks and easy manner perfect as the romantic hero. Regan proves quite lovely here, and appeared in Mr. Moto's Gamble later in the series. Though billed second to Beck, Pauline Frederick, a name familiar to silent film fans, doesn't have near the screen time as Regan, but acquits herself nicely as Madame Chung. She had been a big star on stage before becoming one in silents. Madame X is perhaps her best known role from the silent era. John Carradine is splendid, and nearly unrecognizable, in his colorful role as a shady antiquities dealer.
Things get underway quickly with a caravan in the Gobi Desert settling down for the night. Someone sneaks into Moto's tent to dispatch him and gets himself dispatched instead. Moto has the seventh scroll everyone is looking for, including the police in Peiping. Escaping capture in nifty fashion, the Japanese detective cleans up to attend a dinner party. It is observed by Tom, also in attendance at the soiree, that when Moto shows up, something always happens. His observations prove true when Moto shows his dangerous side, covering up a death by his own hand to save the life of young Prince Chung. In the process he turns Eleanor into his somewhat unwilling accomplice.
A nice romance between Eleanor and Tom Nelson gets underway while Moto finds his task to discover if the six scrolls owned by Madame Chung will lead to Genghis Khan's treasure more difficult, and dangerous, than he had anticipated. After thwarting one attempt on his life, Moto gets sapped, leading to Eleanor being kidnapped. Tom and the Japanese sleuth must race to save everyone in an exciting finish. A bit of romance, and a promise kept by the honorable Mr. Moto provides a lot of fun on an entertainment level. Thank You, Mr. Moto is also part of a boxed set from Fox. While it doesn't have the charm of the Charlie Chan franchise, it is quite fun in its own way. Coming in at just over an hour, this is a real winner for fans of the genre.