Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Appearances Can Be Detective

He'll pretend that he's chicken, a klutz
But our friend is more trickster than putz
Gets his foes to relax
'Cause he knows the third acts
Always end with him kicking their butts.

Peter Lorre stars in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937). Title by David Cairns, who can be perceptive.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fast, But Not Least

These Bs may be slight but they're breezy
They'll please and delight if you're easy
And Lorre, bizarre
and adorable star,
at least acts a mite Japanesey.

Most of the eight Mr. Moto films starring Peter Lorre are just over an hour. The longest is 74 minutes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Kick the Chan

Down goes Oland, bod bloated from gin
Dig a hole and then notify kin
With a void there'd be losses
Which annoyed all the bosses
And behold, Lorre's Moto steps in.

Apparently Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938) was taking on a whodunit script originally written for Charlie Chan. But the failing health of star Warner Oland stopped production on Charlie Chan at the Ringside, the Oland footage was scrapped, and the script rewritten for Peter Lorre's Mr. Moto series.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Good Will Stunting

Although it's apparent at once
That Moto had "help" on his stunts,
Each bully he downed
Caused hope to rebound
In all of us nearsighted runts.

Donald B. Benson

Peter Lorre and stunt double Harvey Parry perform in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937).

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Weak That Wasn't

This detective seems slight in physique
But his record in fights is unique
Ev'ry bout with a foe
Is a rout and K.O. 
And their necks don't feel right for a week.

Peter Lorre stars as the Japanese super sleuth in Think Fast, Mr. Moto Norman Foster; 1939).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Below the Black Belt

When pursued by a villain seditious,
Or if wooed by a filly suspicious,
Kentaro escapes
Unmarred from the scrapes
Using Judo both brilliant and vicious.

Peter Lorre stars as Kentaro Moto in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937). With (possibly) George Cooper (left), Sig Ruman (right);Thomas Beck and Virginia Field (hogtied in background).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Untrue Detective


Moto's meek, an inveterate wimp
Just a weak and non-threatening shrimp
But the sleuth plays pretend
And in truth his foes end
With a shriek and regrettable limp.

Peter Lorre plays the dummy in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (Norman Foster; 1939), hiding his deadly expertise in martial arts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Punch and Judo

Moto's pecs aren't rock hard, or ripped
But with extras he's stocked and equipped
With Jiu-Jitsu and Judo
The sleuth's fitness ain't pseudo
One expects to be blocked, socked and flipped.

 Peter Lorre's Mr. Moto was serious about martial arts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Plan Overboard!

On a voyage, first class, Moto goes
Where an oily assassin there stows
Cover blown, he will fail
When he's thrown o'er the rail
And, Ahoy! Thar the passenger blows!

Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre's double) tosses an attacker overboard in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937). Doubling for Lorre was stuntman Harvey Parry, an underrated genius in cinema history who did stunts for everyone from Douglas Fairbanks Sr. to Harold Lloyd, and from James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart to Shirley Temple.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Bantam Menace

Though his stature is lacking, not tall
He's a cat when his back's to the wall
While you best him in size
If he's messed with, surprise!
You'll be flat on your back in a sprawl.

Peter Lorre looks up to (I believe) Herbert Evans in Mysterious Mr. Moto (Norman foster; 1938).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Black Cat-atastrophe

Today is a date deemed unlucky
They say what awaits could be sucky
So take care on the street,
And beware what you eat:
That fillet on your plate might be yucky.

From Wikipedia: Friday the 13th, also known as Black Friday, is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday. The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, the night before His death on Good Friday. Other scholars claim that there is no written evidence for a "Friday the 13th" superstition before the 19th century, and the superstition only gained widespread distribution in the 20th century. The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: "triskaidekaphobia"; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen").

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ocean Bruise

Moto's ruthless when killers come calling
Knocks 'em toothless, with skill sends 'em falling
Moto-san has them floored
Then it's "Man overboard!"
With this sleuth you'll need gills if you're brawling.

David Cairns

Thomas Beck and Peter Lorre in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Purple Ruse of Joel Cairo

He's a charming, eccentric, film Jap
Seems a harmless, defenseless, young chap
But these "facts" are an act
To relax and distract
And disarmed, you're beat senseless, you sap!

Mr. Moto was created by author John. P. Marquand, and appeared in six novels by Marquand published between 1935 and 1957. From Wikipedia: "Mr. Moto, though capable of ruthlessness and deadly violence, appears to be a harmless eccentric. The main characters in these novels are Westerners who encounter Mr. Moto in the course of their own adventures in exotic lands and gradually come to realize what a formidable character he is."  Image: Peter Lorre in the first in the
Moto film series, Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mr. Puniverse

At such throws Mr. Moto is aces
Many foes as by rote he erases
Though not hefty in muscle
He's quite deft in a tussle
And he'll close many notable cases.

Peter Lorre (and his double) demonstrate the martial arts in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937). Title by Mr. Punitive, David Cairns.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mongolian Garb-ecue

He'll devise a disguise and then snoop 
Many spies he'll surprisingly dupe
These nogoodniks all blew it
But they should have seen through it:
He has eyes the same size as Ms. Boop.

Thank You, Mr Moto (1937): Peter Lorre as the title Japanese sleuth, in disguise as a Mongolian merchant.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Moto, in Toto

Moto in Toto

by Donald B. Benson

“Think Fast, Mr. Moto’s” about
A man who the law seems to flout.
But Moto, by end
Is shown to be friend –
He’s top billed, so was there a doubt?

In “Thank You” he lines up his ducks
As Mongol and man in a tux.
A treasure is lost,
But count not the cost,
For Moto’s not in it for bucks.

In “Gamble” a boxer had slipped
And traded the ring for the crypt.
“So how was it done?”
Asks Number One Son
(They salvaged a Charlie Chan script).

“Takes a Chance” makes him a spy, and
Assigns him to jungles of Thailand.
Here the material
Plays like a serial
Filtered through “Gilligan’s Island.”

“Mysterious” Moto’s no loony.
He plays it a little cartoony.
As murderer’s butler,
He comes off much subtler
Than “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Rooney.

“Last Warning” was in ’39,
A fact that we must underline.
The good guys rely
On Japanese spy –
Back then it seemed perfectly fine.

Puerto Rico did not mean a rest.
“Danger Island” was smugglers’ nest.
The scriptwriters threw
A murder in too.
Mister Moto was up to the test.

And now “Moto Takes a Vacation”
Presumably for the duration.
Said Lorre, “I’m done;
To Warners I’ll run
For all things in (pause) moto-ration.”

There's simply no stopping Donald B. Benson, who writes. " I felt a need to at least take a shot at the whole series." His shot hit the target. Image: Harold Huber, Edward Earle and Peter Lorre in Mr. Moto's Gamble (James Tinling; 1938).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Table Menace

Mr. Wong, when he stayed in Hong Kong,
Would go wrong when he played some Mahjong
Charlie Chan drew a joker
In a hand of strip poker
Serving strong, Moto slayed at Ping Pong.

Peter Lorre plays table tennis with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, who apparently don't understand the finer points of the game. Ah, those were the days of studio publicity.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


As he dons one more batty disguise,
Mr. Moto does battle with spies
Without doubt, in intrigue,
They're all out of their league
When he starts in to batting those eyes.

Leon Ames and Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto, the latter working undercover in Mysterious Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1938)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oscar the Slouch

Although Lorre would often act bored,
From each pore acting talent just poured
But his character range,
Straight from "scary" to "strange,"
They'd ignore when they gave an award.

Image: Peter Lorre in All Through The Night (Vincent Sherman; 1941). A natural born thespian, Lorre was never nominated for an Academy Award.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Toothy in Disguise with Dialects

We know from so many reports
That Moto's a genius of sorts.
Although, one surmises,
He got his disguises
For Christmas from FAO Schwartz.

Donald B. Benson

Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) dons a disguise in the first film in the series, Think Fast, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster; 1937).