Mr Moto in Danger Island 1939 USA
Directed by Herbert I. Leeds
20th Century Fox Region 1
Yeah, that’s right. Although the grammatically challenged title has been altered to something a little bit more palatable in the Internet Movie Database, the box, poster and finally the print transfered to the DVD definitely state that our intrepid hero Kentaro Moto, as played by Peter Lorre, is definitely in the said island and not on it. Rest assured though, regular Moto fans will not have to see their beloved character swallowed up by a raging lump of sand from the ocean in this one.
This is a pretty standard Moto film with most of the elements of Moto’s strong character on display although he doesn’t actually act as judge, jury and executioner on his lonesome as he did in some of his earlier adventures. I wonder if, by this point, the studio were attempting to soften the character down a little by paring back on the character’s vigilante brand of justice?
Certainly, though, the rough and tumble element is ever present. The film starts off in a cruise ship with Mr. Moto and a young lady watching a wrestling match on deck. One of the wrestlers, played by a young and uncredited Ward Bond, is distracted by Moto’s explanations of the art of wrestling to his lady friend and consequently loses the match. Of course this means it’s time to pull Moto into the ring so the wrestler can give Moto a chance to show off his judo throws to the paying public at the cinema. The wrestler's real opponent takes a shine to Moto’s technique and good nature and, from this opening sequence until the end of the movie, this second wrestler (named Twister McGurk) acts both as Moto’s right hand man for the duration of the adventure and also as the quite likable, fairly effective, comic relief character.
This is a pleasant enough film and Moto even repeats his trick of “going fugitive” in an attempt to gain the confidence of the criminal element in the film... although this doesn’t really work this time around and Moto and McGurk find themselves in a sticky situation. All's well in the end though and the movie climaxes on a boat chase before reverting to a sequence where Mr. Moto demonstrates his judo throws on McGurk one more time... he’s actually been doing this at McGurk’s request all throughout the movie but it really doesn’t get too irritating by this point... maybe just a little.
As usual the film is packed with regular character actors doing their thing, each one looking more suspicious than the last, but for the life of me I couldn’t actually identify any of them this time around. I knew all their faces though.
But perhaps the face that sticks out the most on this one is Moto himself... who seems to be wearing some ridiculous, dark complexion. Lorre’s make up looks really weird on this one and I hope that this is the one and only time that the studio tried this effect out. He certainly stands out form the crowd but certainly not in the best way.
All in all though, this is another cracking Mr. Moto adventure which packs diamond smuggling, swamp lurking, kidnapping and lots of randomly placed judo throwing demonstrations into its short running time. If you’re a fan of these kinds of movies then you surely won’t be disappointed in this one.