139. “Take that, Mr. Moto!”

The episode:Women of the Prehistoric Planet,” ep. 104

The riff: Chortled by Tom Servo as an Asian-looking guy gets socked in the stomach.

The explanation: Mr. Moto was a character from a series of American novels in the 1930s-1950s, later made into a well-known series of films. He was a rather dapper Japanese man who played a role somewhere between international secret agent and detective. In eight different American movies churned out between 1937 and 1939, he was played by Slovakian-born Peter Lorre because hey, why not? It was these roles that really introduced American audiences to Lorre, who wasn’t as well known there as he was in Europe for German films like Fritz Lang’s “M.” Moto is very much a character made in the vein of the earlier Asian detective Charlie Chan.

Novelty factor: As you can probably tell reading that explanation, I knew this one. In my film studies in college I wrote one of my longer research papers on Peter Lorre, a guy I have always found endlessly entertaining. The Mr. Moto films were of course touched upon as some of his significant earlier work in America. Sadly, he is probably better remembered for Warner Brothers cartoon caricatures today than his actual roles.

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