Mask of Fu Manchu (11/5/32)

Mask of Fu Manchu (11/5/32) or madness takes its toll. There is much to roll your eyes at in this one. NOTE: I have a visceral reaction to actors being made up as other races. Saying Lugosi is Egyptian is one thing, adding a few pounds of makeup to Karloff is another. Nearly all non-white actors are relegated to set dressing or muscle and the only Asian with a speaking role is a stereotypical waiter in the last reel. If this film wasn’t such a train wreck on the racial front, it would be a point worth making, but to get to the good stuff in this film you really do have to swallow a lot of codswallop.

MGM was not to be left on the sideline in this horror movie money grab, adding their typical “if some is good, way too much is better” flair. At minute five a bunch of fellas in zip-up mummy suits kidnap Fu’s first victim and then we are off to the races, he gets tortured over the next five minutes, intercut with a visually familiar tomb excavation. Karloff and Loy swan around in some exceedingly nice dresses, spewing single entendres at everything, and the art director has a field day or perhaps a nervous breakdown. At the midpoint we have another torture scene, followed by some secret passages and snakes…a lot of snakes…and some tarantulas and alligators to make a change. In the last reel we have torture device overkill, do they get these things out of a catalog? Watch for Ken Strickfaden doubling for Karloff when Fu takes Ghengis Khan’s sword on a test drive through one of his Tesla coils..and the death ray makes another appearance. What the hell is up with everyone’s finger nails? what is up with all the men in diapers? what’s with the anything and everything? why am I asking you? It’s a fantasy nightmare suitable to entertain the inner deviant in us all.

It’s a good looking film, and it has been looted and pillaged over the years, with bits of itself showing up in much less offensive films. I don’t watch it often, or ever, I think it would be much improved by the addition of Tom Servo and Crow in the foreground.

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