Tuesday, September 12, 2006

THE MR. MOTO COLLECTION VOL. 1

Hungarian actor Peter Lorre made quite a career for himself in sinister character roles, but probably his most offbeat characterization was that of Japanese detective/secret agent, Mr. Moto. In eight films for 20th Century Fox, Lorre played the devious, crime busting jiu-jitsu master and Fox Home Video has just released four of these classic B-movies in THE MR. MOTO COLLECTION VOL. 1.

The first film in the set, THINK FAST, MR. MOTO (1937), introduces the Japanese sleuth as a San Francisco importer/exporter who takes it upon himself to track down and break a diamond smuggling ring operating out of Shanghai. Atmospheric, moody, and filled with devious characters, it’s a strong start to the series.

The second disc, THANK YOU MR. MOTO (1937), finds our hero in China, searching for the tomb of the legendary Genghis Khan. Disc three, MR. MOTO TAKES A CHANCE (1938), finds the inscrutable secret agent deep in the jungles of Cambodia, posing as an archaeologist. In the final disc in this first set, THE MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO (1938), Lorre’s character heads for London, where he attempts to destroy an organization of professional assassins.

Each film is presented full frame with cleaned-up mono sound. Fox has done a marvelous job restoring these early thrillers (each disc has a restoration comparison), and has packaged them together in a smart box set. Each disc includes a featurette focusing on a different aspect of the series’ production – including profiles of Lorre and series director Norman Foster.

I love these old B&W mystery series, and Fox is to be complimented not only for releasing them on DVD, but putting the effort in to restore and present them properly. A great set, and well-worth buying if you’re a fan of classic Hollywood mysteries. I can’t wait for Volume Two.

BUY: Mr. Moto Collection, Vol. 1 (Mr. Moto Takes A Chance / Mysterious Mr. Moto / Thank You Mr. Moto / Think Fast Mr. Moto) (4DVD)