Think Fast, Mr. Moto

Think Fast, Mr. Moto
Directed by Norman Foster
Produced by Sol M. Wurtzel
Screenplay by Norman Foster
Philip MacDonald
Based on Your Turn, Mr. Moto
1925 novel
by John P. Marquand
Starring Peter Lorre
Thomas Beck
Virginia Field
Sig Ruman
Music by R.H. Bassett
Samuel Kaylin
Cinematography Harry Jackson
Edited by Alex Troffey
Distributed by 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Release dates
  • October 14, 1938 (1938-10-14)
Running time
66 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Think Fast, Mr. Moto is a 1937 film featuring a mysterious Japanese detective named Mr. Moto. It is the first of eight films in the Mr. Moto series, all based on Mr. Moto novels written by John P. Marquand. The film stars Peter Lorre as the title character, Virginia Field, Thomas Beck and Sig Ruman. Mr. Moto works to stop a secret smuggling operation.


The film opens with Mr. Moto in disguise as a street salesmen and selling goods to passers-by. He sees a man leaving a shop with a tattoo of the British Flag on his arm. Moto enters the shop to sell a rare diamond to the owner. However, Moto sees a body stuffed into a wicker basket in the store, and using his mastery of judo takes down the shopkeeper. Later, he reserves a berth on a freighter headed for Shanghai. Also on the freighter is Bob Hitchings Jr., son of the owner of the freighter. Before leaving, Hitchings Sr. gives his son a confidential letter for the head of the Shanghai branch of the company. Hitchings and Moto become friends (Moto notices the letter), and Moto helps Hitchings cure a hangover. Hitchings complains to Moto that he has not met any beautiful women on board. After a stop in Honolulu, a beautiful woman named Gloria Danton boards the ship, and she and Hitchings fall in love. But Gloria is a spy for Nicolas Marloff, who runs a smuggling operation out of Shanghai. She periodically sends him notes and leaves without saying goodbye to Hitchings. Moto finds a steward looking for Hitchings’s letter, and confronts him, knowing he was the person who killed the man in the wicker basket, as he wears the tattoo. Moto throws the man overboard and takes the letter.

At Shanghai, Hitchings meets with Joseph B. Wilkie and gives him the letter, but later learns that it is a blank sheet of paper. He calls his father, who tells him the letter said to watch out for smugglers. Hitchings is adamant on finding Gloria, and he learns from an unknown person that she is at the “international club”. Both he and Wilkie go there, as well as Moto and his date, Lela Liu. Hitchings finds Gloria performing at the club and goes to her dressing room. However, the club owner Marloff, discovers them together, and, knowing that Hitchings knows too much, locks them both up. Moto tells Lela to call the police, and seeks out Marloff. Posing as a fellow smuggler, he tricks Marloff into leading him to Gloria and Hitchings. Lela is shot while contacting the police, but manages to tell them where she is. Wilkie finds Marloff, and demands that Gloria and Hitchings be released. Marloff finds out that Moto is not a smuggler, then Moto apprehends him. Moto tells Wilkie to get Marloff’s gun, the gun explodes as Wilkie tries to grab it, killing Marloff. Police storm the building, and Moto tells them the Wilkie headed the smuggling operation. Wilkie replaced the letter and shot Lela. Moto gave Wilkie the opportunity to kill Marloff, who knew he was in on the plot, and he did. Wilkie is arrested, and things go back to normal.


George Cooper, Sig Ruman and Peter Lorre in Think Fast, Mr. Moto


Think Fast, Mr. Moto was the third novel in the Moto series. Film rights to the novel were bought in July 1936.[1][2] Lorre was cast in the lead soon after; the actor had just signed with the studio and made two movies, Crack-Up and Nancy Steele Is Missing![3] He accepted the role because it gave him a rare chance to play a hero.[4]

Twentieth Century Fox had three other film series at the time and intended Mr Moto to be the fourth.[5]

Filming started 11 February 1937.[6]


Peter Lorre played the character of Mr. Moto in the eight Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation film productions;


The film was well received and Fox announced plans to make five more Moto movies. The studio said they did not want to make the mistake of the Jeeves films with Arthur Treacher and vowed to provide good production values "to make them first string entertainment."[3]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Home Video Release

This film, along with Thank You, Mr. Moto, Mr. Moto Takes a Chance and Mysterious Mr. Moto, was released on DVD in 2006 by 20th Century Fox as part of The Mr. Moto Collection, Volume One.


  1. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: ' Anthony Adverse' Due at Strand Aug. 26 New Film On Russian Gypsies at Cameo Tonight. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 July 1936: 23.
  2. Earl Carroll of "Vanities" Fame Will Produce for Twentieth Century-Fox: Elaborate Musical Placed on Schedule Lionel Barrymore Replaces Brother John in Garbo's "Camille;" Robert Donat Will Do Robin Hood Role; Star Air-Conditioned Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] July 25, 1936: 7.
  3. 1 2 HOLLYWOOD PICKET LINE: The Industry Watches the C. I. O.--Satisfaction--R. Halliburton Flynn By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] April 18, 1937: 169.
  4. Lorre Learns How to Emote From Rasslers: Film Player Gets Points From Groan-and-Grunt Bouts on Coast. By Frederick C. Othman.. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] November 29, 1937: 14.
  5. PETER LORRE WILL PLAY MR. MOTO, JAPANESE SLEUTH, IN SERIES: Studio Chooses Story to Star Fred Stone Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] February 11, 1937: 10
  6. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Universal Signs Leopold Stokowski for New Deanna Durbin Film--Phil Baker Joins 'Goldwyn Follies.' Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] February 10, 1937: 18.
  7. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
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