Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday's Favorite OTR

Mr. Moto: "The Crooked Log" 10/7/51

A woman who lost her husband at sea three years ago spots a painting of her husband--dated the day he supposedly died. She goes to the Maritime Commission, who send her to Mr. Moto.

In this version of the character, Moto is a counter-espionage agent who works for an unspecified government agency. Normally, he deals with Communist spies, so I'm not sure why he's expected to take a look at what turns out to be an insurance scam. I guess that unnamed agency he works for has a pretty wide-ranging set of responsibilities.

But the story itself is a good one, involving interesting characters set amidst an interesting plot. I especially like the Dutch owner of an antique shop who has his store broken into--only to have the burglar leave him a painting rather than steal something. His rather uncertain command of the English language as he excitedly expresses himself is just plain fun to listen to.

That painting proves to be important, as does a piece of old driftwood. It all involves trying to find a log book that would prove a sunken ship didn't sink by accident. In the end, it appears that the bad guys have the upper hand on Mr. Moto. But Moto is a man who always has at least one more trick up his sleeve.

Moto's career as a fictional character is an interesting one. In the excellent pre-war novels by John Marquand, he was an agent for the Japanese Imperial government and not usually the protagonist. In the equally excellent B-movies of the late 1930s that starred Peter Lorre, he was an indepenent agent for the "International Police," often looking after Western political interests.

By the time he came to radio in 1951, he'd changed from being a Japanese citizen to an American of Japanese descent, now working directly for the U.S. government. But all three versions of the character are pretty cool, presenting us with a quietly polite but extremely capable man who employs an often ruthless intelligence to get his job done.

This episode can be downloaded HERE.

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