Suffice to say there's no warning anywhere in the movie.
We all love Peter Lorre. He played lots of creeps, but Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon” gave him permanent noir status, and you knew he’d always be interesting. Greasy, devious, sexless, sweaty, and desperate, but interesting.
This isn’t a bad movie, and it certainly has a great stable. Gosh, wonder if this fellow will turn out to be a villain:
The ever-suave George Sanders shows up in the opening scenes, which take place on a ship heading into Port Said. It’s a foreign port teeming with intrigue, like all foreign ports – nothing says “exotic” like a waiter with a fez, after all. Sanders is part of a Shadowy League of Criminals who want to strain relations between England and France, which might lead to war with . . . with . . . well, some unnamed country. It’ll come up eventually, no doubt.
Soon we meet Mr. Moto, Japanese detective, although Lorre seems to be playing him as a homely female German librarian:
He’s aided by another British agent inside the criminal gang; he’s donned a false beard and moustache with such skill no one can possibly doubt him:
He looks like one of those free-love fanatics who had a horrible case of BO.
Here’s the ringleader:
A ventriloquist. Yes, a criminal mastermind who travels the continent and foreign ports under the guise of Fabian. I loved this shot of the theater:
Yes, if you’re going to wow an audience with the miracle of talking while your lips hardly move, stay as far away from the edge of the stage as possible. I’m surprised he didn’t do the show from the alley behind the theater. Interesting story about the actor who played him: his name was Ricardo Cortez, but he wasn't Hispanic - he was set up to be the next Valentino, who wasn't Hispanic either, but details, details. His career petered out after this late film, and he went into Wall Street, where he did very well for himself.
Mr. Moto spends most of the movie undercover, which means he adopts a horrible pigeon-English me-so-solly voice. Or, God help us, he uses a disguise:
Worst Clown Ever. He looks like a blow-up toy. When Moto gets going, though, he’s grimly efficient, judo-chopping bad guys, or swimming in his suit to stop George Sanders from setting off the bombs that will shatter the Anglo-Franco alliance.
All ends happily; the alliance is maintained. But who was behind this nefarious plot?
Isn’t that interesting? I gather we’re supposed to infer.
One note: Here’s the bottom of the bill on which the ventriloquist appears.
The actor who played Charlie Chan died while they were making the Moto movie. This was their way of paying respect.