In This Corner…Murder!

By Clarence George on January 18, 2015
In This Corner…Murder!
Warner Oland, plagued by alcoholism and ill health, was quickly replaced by Peter Lorre.

Leave it to Mr. Moto, who promises to reveal the killer’s identity the night of the championship bout…

“To reveal a snake, one must overturn a rock.”—Mr. Moto

A soaker of a Sunday, and I turned on Movies!, a channel that features old films, some of which you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. With a purr of contentment, I snuggled down to watch Mr. Moto’s Gamble.

Originally titled Charlie Chan at Ringside, Warner Oland walked off the set, plagued by alcoholism and ill health (he died soon thereafter), and was quickly replaced by Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto. Thus, a Swede portraying a Chinese detective had his shoes filled by a Hungarian portraying a Japanese one, and we’re off to the races. Or, in this case, the boxing ring.

Heavyweight contenders Bill Steele (Dick Baldwin) and Frank Stanton (Russ Clark) face off, the winner to get a crack at champ Biff Moran (Ward Bond). Gangster Nick Crowder (Douglas Fowley) bets big that Stanton won’t make it to the fifth. Sure enough, he collapses in the fourth, dying soon afterwards. Coincidence or…murder? Well, murder, otherwise there wouldn’t have been much point to the film.

Mr. Moto discovers that poison was placed on one of Steele’s gloves, poison that worked its way into a cut. But placed there by whom? And how? And why?

Crowder, who bet a “hunch”? The bookie, Clipper McCoy (Bernard Nedell), who lost a fortune on the bout? Not Charlie Chan’s Number One Son, Lee (Keye Luke), surely? Nor Wellington, a klepto light of heart and finger, portrayed by former Light Heavyweight Champion of the World Maxie Rosenbloom. “Slapsie Maxie” was still fighting at the time of the film’s release in April 1938, and went on to beat Odell Polee, Lou Nova, and Al Ettore, while drawing against Bob Pastor. But back to our suspects. What about Penny Kendall (Lynn Bari) who loves Bill, but wants him to quit the ring? Quit the ring at any cost, even if it means going to prison for a murder he didn’t commit? Or did he? The other woman, Linda Benton (Jayne Regan), who’s “got her nose so high in the air, she’d drown in a rainstorm”? She collected champs like they were swizzle sticks.

Leave it to Mr. Moto, who promises to reveal the killer’s identity the night of the championship bout.

Unless, that is, he himself is killed by a desperate murderer’s ingeniously concealed gun.

Dun dun duunn!

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1938 MR. MOTO'S GAMBLE TRAILER PETER LORRE



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  1. Clarence George 06:14am, 01/21/2015

    Mike Connors?  Really?  Didn’t recognize him.  Don’t even think I noticed him.

    You know, I never saw “Lords of Flatbush,” but “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (both book and film) is indeed excellent.  Not that I’m a fan of Burton.  Also, I dislike most of John le Carre’s work, and I was always pissed off by his elitist condemnation of Ian Fleming and James Bond.  Still, gotta give credit where it’s due.  I like Len Deighton much more, but I think he’s completely unread today.

  2. Bob 05:34am, 01/21/2015

    Touch Connors was the original screen name of Mike Connors, who later became Mannix.  I believe he was a standout ballplayer at UCLA before acting. I didn’t get to see him in the movie because I kept dozing off, but he was in the credits. He is probably the only cast member still alive from that film. This week The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is on.  Never saw it, but looking forward to it. The book was excellent. Also The Lords of Flatbush is on. Another good one. That Brooklyn does not exist anymore.

  3. Clarence George 10:00am, 01/20/2015

    I remember her well, Irish, particularly in “It Came from Beneath the Sea.”

  4. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:15am, 01/20/2015

    Perfect heart shape my friend…and just in time for St. Valentines Day!

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:11am, 01/20/2015

    Clarence George-Just got a gander of Faith Domergue in “This Island Earth” and here’s my review…..that Creole baby really had a shapely ass!

  6. Clarence George 04:01am, 01/20/2015

    “Sky,” not “Sun,” Bob—that’s a different movie.  I saw it recently, but didn’t recognize Touch Connors.  Who was he?  I also didn’t recognize Alfalfa, who’s apparently in it.

    Great channel, I agree.  I think they also show old TV shows like “Run for Your Life,” which my father and I were addicted to.  I got to know Ben Gazzara a few years before his death.

    Huge hatred for Red Buttons.  Rossano Brazzi is another one.  But I love Don Rickles.

  7. Bob 03:49am, 01/20/2015

    I’m surprised by your disgust of Red Buttons. I saw him at a decaying Borscht Belt place in the late 1970s, early 1980s, on a boxing weekend and found him very funny and amiable after meeting him. I have a warm spot for him, just like Don Rickles.

  8. Bob 03:45am, 01/20/2015

    Clarence:
    Last night I watched “Island in the Sun” with John Wayne. A small part was played by Touch Connors. Do you know who he late became?  I enjoyed “The Greatest Show on Earth” and am not a James Caan fan at all, but “The Gambler” is a very good film and I think worthy of a try.  I saw “Hatari” in a drive-in as a kid and remember not liking it, but might give it a look. I love this station. They don’t kill you with the commercials, although I;m sure that will change ce they catch on and have a loyal audience.

  9. Clarence George 03:17am, 01/20/2015

    Ha!  I actually squirm thinking about it, Glenn.  Imagine, a movie that can’t be saved by John Wayne!  In addition to the egregious Buttons, there’s also another hated actor, Hardy Kruger, and the worst actress known to man, Elsa Martinelli.  I could go on, but suffice it to say that there’s only one film I hate more:  “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”  Just the thought of it, and at this time of the morning…

    Come to think of it, “Guess” was my former fiancée’s favorite movie, which goes a long way toward explaining “former.”  Praise the Lord!

  10. GlennR 02:10am, 01/20/2015

    C’mon Clarence, whats not to like about Hatari?
    John Wayne, Africa, catching wild animals, romance, comedy…...

    Yeh,on second thought, you maybe right

  11. Clarence George 08:23pm, 01/19/2015

    Glad you liked it, Bob.  I’m sure they’ll repeat the Moto film.  They air “The Greatest Show on Earth” all the time, though I find it unwatchable.  As for “The Gambler,” I’ll have to take NYI’s assurance that it’s a good movie, because I avoid James Caan like the plague.  Another film they show ad nauseam is one of the worst ever made:  “Hatari!”  Any number of reasons for its awfulness, but the presence of Red Buttons is sufficient in and of itself.  I can’t find words to express how much I detest him.  Overall, however, it’s among the best channels available.

  12. NYIrish 07:30pm, 01/19/2015

    The Gambler. James Caan version is a great flick.

  13. Bob 06:06pm, 01/19/2015

    Thanks for the great review. I discovered that network by accident on Soaker Sunday and watched “The Greatest Show on Earth” and “The Gambler.”  Had I discovered it a few hours earlier I would have loved to see Mr. Moto and made it a trifecta.

  14. Eric 07:36am, 01/19/2015

    NYIrish…After the rearend Al $harpton gets through with those racist bastiches in Hollyweird, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, & Samuel L. Jackoffson, will suffer from overexposure and multiple Oscars. Samuel L. Jackoffson, not happy with his role as Nick Fury, is rumored to be the next actor to portray, Captain America.

  15. Clarence George 06:35am, 01/19/2015

    You may be right, NYI.  Think of the 1962 Presley remake of the 1937 classic, “Kid Galahad.”  They changed the name of the original version to “The Battling Bellhop” in order to avoid confusion.  I still remember the great story of Buster Douglas outraged at being offered the remake by his local video establishment.

  16. Clarence George 06:25am, 01/19/2015

    Thank you, Irish.  The irony is that Lynn Bari usually played the other woman.  “I go from one set to the other shooting people and stealing husbands,” she said.  And you’re right about the name Biff…but not in this instance.

  17. NYIrish 06:24am, 01/19/2015

    Hollywierds’ next remake? Denzel in the lead? Next years Oscars?
    (See what you started?)

  18. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:07am, 01/19/2015

    Great review…“Biff” and “Penny”....you saw those monikers on the marquee and you just knew Biff was the lovable lug and Penny was the girl next door!

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