Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Thinking About 'Think Fast, Mr, Moto'
As part of my newfound obsession with all things Peter Lorre, I recently caught up with the 1937 film Think Fast, Mr. Moto. Lorre is one of the most watchable actors ever, and he is endlessly fascinating even in this otherwise humdrum outing, the first of the Mr. Moto series. Mr. Moto is the smartest person in every scene (he's a lot smarter than me, too, since he was able to figure out the convoluted plot), and Lorre constantly finds new ways to convey that slyness, with an endless array of little smiles. His hangover cure, with Worcestershire sauce, absinthe, and a raw egg, is not to be missed. Lorre also never falls into Asian stereotypes, while also, somehow, always coming across as Japanese.
The story takes Mr. Moto, some exporter-importers, and some smugglers on a ship from San Francisco to Shanghai. There's not much to look at here besides Lorre, except for some colorful scenes in San Francisco's Chinatown. Perhaps my favorite non-Lorre moment comes after one character says he's got to go to the International Club in Shanghai, and another says he wouldn't even go there in the daytime, much less at night; when we finally do get to the International Club, it's filled with Caucasian guys in white dinner jackets. Ooh, scary!