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PHOTOGRAPHY

MR. MOTO Collection Volume 1

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 66 minutes/ 67 min/ 63 min/ 63 min (4 disc set), five featurettes, two theatrical trailers

STUDIO: 20th Century FOX

RELEASE DATE: 8-1-2006

MR. MOTO isn't as well know as Charlie Chan, but Peter Lorre made the character his own. Even though he only did eight films before moving on to the roles that would make him famous in the films he did with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre gave the role of Mr. Moto his all. Mr. Moto is sometimes cold blooded in the means he goes to stop the bad guys, but that is one of many things I like about the character. Mr. Moto's various disguises gave Peter Lorre the chance to play a very multi-layered character despite Lorre's drug and health problems. They had to write out some of the action material because Lorre couldn't do them and yet they managed to insert a Judo bit in each movie. However, it looked like the drugs and health problems were taking a toll on Lorre in the last four Mr. Moto films by watching the clips from those films in the featurettes in this collection. I don't put much notice to the fact that a Hungarian born actor (a part of Hungary now part of Slovakia) was playing a Japanese character. A few may view it as politically incorrect, but again the PC crowd always seem to try and ruin the fun many will have from watching the Mr. Moto films. Peter Lorre was underappreciated as he was only paid $10,000 per film for the eight films where he played Mr. Moto (he complained that Oland was getting $40,000 per Charlie Chan film).

Director Norman Foster directed six of the Moto films and he even co-wrote them to add realism to the scripts due to his travels in the Orient when he was young (and he thought the first Moto script was a mess).  The Mr. Moto films want me to check out the novels written by John Phillips Marquand, the creator of Moto.

THINK FAST, MR. MOTO introduces Moto as he tracks down diamond smugglers (to Shanghai) that have been using his import/ export business and the ship line of a powerful family. The series is off to a great stuff and the 66 minutes pass by fast as I also learn about White Russians and Lotus (a character that would return to help Moto in MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO).

THANK YOU, MR. MOTO has Moto in China again as he tries to stop a group of thieves from gaining the last of seven scrolls that would reveal the location Genghis Khan's tombs that contains lots of treasure. He goes to extremes to get the bad guys and will exact revenge if one of his friends is killed. The look in Lorre's eyes in a late scene goes to show that Moto isn't a clean hero. Moto isn't about bringing the bad guys to justice. He just wants to stop them.

MR. MOTO TAKES A CHANCE sees Mto now as a spy in a fictional Asian country of Tang Moi. The crash of a famous woman (on a trip to fly around the world) and two filmmakers add to a plot of a planned military coup by the most evil of men. The climax isn't all neat as Moto finds out he must blow up the hidden arsenal no matter what. This film features one of Moto's most interesting disguises that Lorre pulls off the character of a traveling holy man that highlights how great Lorre was as an actor.

MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO has Moto breaking out a criminal out of Devil's Island to reveal the leader of a league of assassins with business in London. It is one of my favorite films of the series. Moto puts together the plot and the identity of the leader as he is at the top of his game. This time, Mr. Moto is an international police agent.

I'm glad that 20th Century FOX took hundreds of hours to restore the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan films (they spent $2 million on the restoration effort). One of the films in this collection had 140 hours spent on it in an attempt to restore it to it's original condition.

VIDEO: 1.33:1 (Full Frame)

The restoration work is impressive. The Mr. Moto films look even better than the Charlie Chan films (from the CHARLIE CHAN Collection Volume One).

AUDIO: English 2.0 Stereo, English Mono

Subtitles: English, Spanish

I liked the stereo tracks better and dialogue is very clear. The audio sounds nice on these DVDs.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The theatrical trailers for the first two Mr. Moto films (THINK FAST, MR. MOTO and THANK YOU, MR. MOTO) are included on all four discs in addition to a short restoration featurette. Four other featurettes (in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen) are spread between the discs. They are worth a check out for the wealth of information they give about four of the people involved in the Mr. Moto series. Clips from all eight Mr. Moto films are shown in the featurettes.

THINK FAST, MR. MOTO:

THE DEAN OF HOLLYWOOD- A CONVERSATION WITH HARVEY PARRY-

A talk with Peter Lorre's stuntman. He shares a little insight on Mr. Lorre and also mentions he had to wear padding in Peter's later years when peter gained weight.

THANK YOU, MR. MOTO:

SOL WURTZEL: THE FORGOTTEN MOGUL- A look at the guy who helped run 20th Century Fox which was once known as Fox Film Corporation. He ended up running the B unit in the 1930s responsible for the lower budgeted pictures that included the Mr. Moto films.

MR. MOTO TAKES A CHANCE:

THE MYSTERIOUS MR. LORRE- A nice featurette that talks about Lorre's acting career through an interview with Stephen D. Youngkin, author of The Lost One: A Life Of Peter Lorre. He hated Hitler and left Germany for many reasons including being typecast as the serial killer in Fritz Lang's classic, M. After a while, he came to the USA and moved from studio to studio (from Columbia to Fox to finally Warner Brothers). He was tired of Mr. Moto after doing 8 films and not getting the roles Fox promised him. He had to deal with health problems, three wives, and drug addiction during his life. He even directed his own film in Germany during the 1950s, but he only found happiness in the films he made with his great friend, Humphrey Bogart.

MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO:

DIRECTED BY NORMAN FOSTER- Norman Foster started as an actor and eventually came to direct six of the Mr. Moto films (which he helped write due to the poor state the first film's script was in) and some of the Chrlie Chan films. From there, he directed for Orson Welles and directed many TV shows like Davey Crockett, Elfego Baca, Zorro, and Batman. He ended up being an actor again near the end of his life. A fantastic featurette with interviews with his daughter, Robert Loggia, and Fess parker among others.

I hope the two films (STOPOVER TOKYO and THE RETURN OF MR. MOTO) made years later after the first eight Motos will be included in volume two as extras.

Also included with the set is an eight page booklet that gives a little trivia about the Mr. Moto series.

PACKAGE ART and DESIGN: The artwork is nice, but I wish FOX would have included the films in four slim cases instead of four regular DVD cases.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The MR. MOTO Collection Volume One proved Peter Lorre was a major talent before he went on to do the films with Bogart that most know him for. 20th Century FOX has done a great job on restoring the films and the featurettes are worth a watch too. I can't wait for the second collection.

RELATED DVD REVIEWS:

Charlie Chan Collection Volume One- 

http://enterline2.tripod.com/charliechan_vol1.html

this review is (c)7-29-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com