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Danger Island
Mr. Moto in Danger Island / Mr. Moto on Danger Island / Mr. Moto in Trinidad / Mr. Moto in Puerto Rico / Mr. Moto und die geheimnisvolle Insel

USA 1939
produced by
John Stone for 20th Century Fox
directed by Herbert I.Leeds
starring Peter Lorre, Jean Hersholt, Amanda Duff, Warren Hymer, Richard Lane, Leon Ames, Douglass Dumbrille, Charles D. Brown, Paul Harvey, Robert Lowery, Eddie Marr, Harry Woods, Ward Bond, Willie Best
story by George Bricker, John Reinhardt, screenplay by Peter Milne, based on the novel Murder in Trinidad by John W. Vandercook and a character created by John P. Marquand, music by Samuel Kaylin

Mr. Moto

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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This time around, Japanese supersleuth Mr Moto (Peter Lorre) together with his new sidekick wrestler Twister McGurk (Warren Hymer) arrives in Puerto Rico to investigate a diamond smuggling ring, an investigation that has already cost his predecessor his life. The fact that the chief of police Captain Castle (Charles D.Brown) refuses to cooperate with him because he fears being sent into early retirement is not exactly encouraging, but it's more puzzling for Moto that apparently everybody has been informed about his arrival, not only the chief of police and the gouvernor (Paul Harvey), but also a wide array of corrupt politicians and shady businessmen - in other words, all of Moto's suspects. Then the gouvernor is murdered, and Captain Castle is immediately suspected by everyone - everyone but Moto that is, who has his own ideas. Then Captain Castle disappears together with his daughter (Amanda Duff), which is as good as a confession in everyone's eyes - only Moto disagrees. Then it's revealed that Moto isn't Moto but a criminal, and suddenly, Moto and McGurk find themselves on the run.

Moto is or course indeed Moto, but he had his associates send a cable to go underground undercover - he figures as a wanted man it would be much easier for him to get near the hideout of the smuggling ring. And indeed, the plan works like a charm, in no time he has tracked down the baddies in the swamp, using an old pirate hideout as their headquarters, and holding Captain Castle and daughter as hostages, planning to use them as scapegoats later on. Moto and McGurk don't really agree with the smugglers' boss Captain Dahlen (Eddie Marr) though, so he has them detained ... but they escape in no time, have their names cleared, and return with the police. Dahlen makes a daring escape by boat, but is shot ... but Moto has him rushed into a nearby hospital to save his life, because he figures Dahlen must have worked under someone's orders. He invites all those he suspects to an interrogation later on ... and wouldn't you know it, someone kills Dahlen before the interrogation can take place - but that was exactly the trap set by Moto: Dahlen was actually shot dead back when he tried to escape, but Moto decided to use his corpse as bait. And Moto is always one to get the fish, er, culprit, and as usual, it's the guy who looked the least suspicious (Jean Hersholt), one of the many businessmen populating the movie.

 

Slightly tired series mystery that replaces a well-structured mystery plot with an overpopulated mess, pulls a random culprit out of the hat eventually rather than having the events building up to it, and relying too much on a character (Hymer's McGurk) for comic relief that's not properly integrated into the story. That said, the film is not a total trainwreck, there are hundreds of series mysteries not much better than this one, it's just not something to get really excited about.

 

By the way, the film started life as a Charlie Chan film, to be called Charlie Chan in Trinidad, but Chan had to be replaced with Mr Moto due to the untimely death of Chan-actor Warner OIand. Interestingly though, the plot is based on the novel Murder in Trinidad by John W.Vandercook, which  features neither Chan nor Moto and which has been filmed another two times, in 1934 as Murder in Trinidad, and in 1945 as Caribbean Mystery, both times without the added attraction of an Oriental detective.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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directed by
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written by
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