Created by author John P. Marquand as a replacement for Charlie Chan in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post after the death of author Earl Derr Biggers, Mr. Moto's screen incarnations have suffered a similar fate to that of his honorable predecessor, rarely revived on television because of worries over political correctness - though as with Chan, Moto is always way ahead of the white characters.
The third film in the series to be released but the fourth to be produced, Mr. Moto's Gamble stars Peter Lorre as Charlie Chan - well, more or less. Originally intended as a Charlie Chan film with only minimal rewrites to accommodate the change of main character, who loses almost all of his original characteristics and darker edges to become a benign and bemused figure rather than a mysterious and deadly one. It even teams him up with Chan's Number One son Keye Luke, who is given a comic sidekick of his own in Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom's punch-drunk kleptomaniac would-be detective. (Furthering the connections, Harold Huber returns as the same character he played in Charlie Chan On Broadway.) Warner Oland may have disliked it, walking out on the picture twice in its original incarnation due to his mounting personal problems, but it's a pretty good yarn revolving around a death in the boxing ring, poisoned gloves and dubious big bets on long shots that remains very much a Chan film: where in the earlier films, Moto disguised himself, here you get the impression that Moto himself is just a disguise for Chan. There's virtually no action, plenty of aphorisms and none of the atmosphere of mystery and moral uncertainty, let along the distinctive look that director Norman Foster established with the earlier films, with Chan director James Tinling delivering a blander kind of studio professionalism. Ward Bond and Lon Chaney Jr. turn up among the supporting players, as do not one but two Perry Whites for the price of one - John Hamilton from the 50s Superman TV series and Pierre Watkin from the Columbia movie serials.