Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)
On July 7, 1939, Twentieth Century-Fox Films released the final Mr. Moto “B” film starring Peter Lorre as Inspector Kentaro Moto. Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939) finds Mr. Moto accompanying the Queen of Sheba’s Crown from its discovery in an Egyptian archaeological site to a San Francisco museum. Mr. Moto suspects the arch criminal Metaxess, who authorities believed was dead, intends to steal the artifact.
Mr. Moto knows a member of the museum staff is Metaxess or his confederate. Mr. Moto must discover Metaxess before the crown is stolen.
While this film is rather formulaic, Director Norman Foster did a good job of hiding Metaxess’ identity during the film. Foster is assisted in his task with a better than average cast of Joseph Schildkraut, Virginia Field and Lionel Atwill.
Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation has a little less Ju-Jitsu than previous films. As usual, some of the racial stereotypes in these films are offensive.
Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation ended this entertaining series. Unlike several of the more cerebral Asian detectives of the 1930s, Mr. Moto performed many physical feats in his films. Mr. Moto actually killed several criminals during the film series.
However, the series had probably run its course after 8 films. Film historians often cite World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor as the reason the series ended. The critics surmised American audiences would not accept a Japan hero after the attack.
Timing throws doubt on this theory. All the movies were completed before 1939. Creativity and commercial success probably brought the series to an end.
Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation only runs 62 minutes. If you liked the other Mr. Moto films, I would recommend it.