After a hiatus of 26 years the famed Japanese detective working for Interpol returns to the screens one year after the death of Peter Lorre who helped make the oriental sleuth a household name. This time out the role has been assumed by actor Henry Silva who was known mainly as a villain on film throughout his lengthy career.
This updating of the series turned out to be a one shot deal while Lorre appeared in eight Mr. Moto mysteries in the late thirties. This is strictly a feature for the lower half of double bills and was filmed in England at Shepperton Studios.
The somewhat messy plot concerns the rights to oil in the middle east and the assassination of a close friend of Moto’s where he is targeted as well. The hired killers are sloppy and it’s all strictly pedestrian as they clumsily go about trying to terminate stone faced Silva as Moto.
When it comes to Henry Silva, I’m a fan so it’s hard to rain down on him. Although it’s nice to see him in a lead role from this period it is rather unfortunate that it’s in as poor an effort as this turned out to be clocking in at 70 minutes under the direction of one, Ernest Morris. This was the final film of Mr. Morris’ directing career.
Silva has a face meant for the big screen but anyone who is familiar with it I am sure will be quick to agree that it’s much better suited to nastier roles in westerns or as hit men in films like Sharky’s Machine or European films from the likes of Fernando Di Leo. The man delivers!
His Moto however is rather stiff for the majority of the film then turns towards camp when he goes undercover with glasses, goatee and an accent. It shouldn’t fool anybody but seems to work. Our screenwriter Fred Eggers must have grown up watching George Reeves fooling everyone that Clark Kent and Superman were not one and the same each week on the latest episode of the popular television series.
It’s hard to recapture the magic of those early film series of Moto, Chan and the many others so it’s no surprise that the film doesn’t work here. It’s missing the charm that Peter Lorre brought to the role. Kind of like the spirit of Charlie Chan being embarrassed by the ill fated Peter Ustinov film of 1980.