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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932)

Starring Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Karen Morley, Charles Starrett, Myrna Loy
Directed by Charles Brabin
(actor & director credits courtesy

The discovery of the tomb of Genghis Khan sets off a race between a British archaeologist and the nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu to claim its prizes, but the evil doctor has operatives everywhere.

Boris Karloff's performance is a highlight of this version of one of Sax Rohmer's stories of the famed master criminal, as the actor's mirthful expressions while torturing his victims make for a very memorable characterization.  Among the other cast, Myrna Loy as Fu Manchu's daughter, who has her own designs on Fu's male captives, is certainly striking, while Karen Morley is a bit grating as the archaeologist's daughter who routinely plunges into hysterics.  Although Wikipedia indicates the film was controversial upon its release for depicting the Chinese villains with broad strokes, it seems tame today, except for a few bits of dialogue.  However, the best reason to watch the film is for its absolutely stunning production design and art direction, delivering visuals which feature terrifying golden figures guarding Khan's burial chamber, intricately designed death traps within Fu Manchu's lair, and a destructive device which shoots out bolts of electricity that figures prominently in the climax.

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