The Mask of Fu Manchu

Last updated

The Mask of Fu Manchu
Promotional release poster
Directed by Charles Brabin
Charles Vidor (uncredited)
Written byIrene Kuhn
Edgar Allan Woolf
John Willard
Based onThe Mask of Fu Manchu
(1932 novel)
by Sax Rohmer
Starring Boris Karloff
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Edited by Ben Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 5, 1932 (1932-11-05)
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$327,627 [1]

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) is an American pre-Code adventure film directed by Charles Brabin. Written by Irene Kuhn, Edgar Allan Woolf and John Willard, it was based on the 1932 novel of the same name by Sax Rohmer (the sixth in the series). Starring Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu, and featuring Myrna Loy as his depraved daughter, the film revolves around the "Devil Doctor" 's quest for the golden sword and mask of Genghis Khan. Lewis Stone plays his nemesis. Dr. Petrie is absent from this film.


According to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011), the film "remains the best-known, and most cherished, of the early Fu Manchu films, though it was long suppressed as racially offensive". [2]

Plot summary

Sir Denis Nayland Smith of the British Secret Service warns Egyptologist Sir Lionel Barton that he must beat Fu Manchu in the race to find the tomb of Genghis Khan. Fu Manchu intends to use the sword and mask to proclaim himself the reincarnation of the legendary conqueror and inflame the peoples of Asia and the Middle East into a war to wipe out the "white race". Sir Lionel is kidnapped soon afterward and taken to Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu tries bribing his captive, even offering his own daughter, Fah Lo See. When that fails, Barton suffers the "torture of the bell" (lying underneath a gigantic, constantly ringing bell) in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to reveal the location of the tomb.

Barton's daughter Sheila insists on taking her father's place on the expedition, as she knows where the tomb is. She finds the tomb and its treasures with the help of her fiancé Terrence "Terry" Granville, Von Berg, and McLeod. Nayland Smith joins them soon afterward.

McLeod is killed by one of Fu Manchu's men during a robbery attempt, after McLeod kills one of Fu Manchu's men. An emissary offers to trade Barton for the priceless artifacts. Despite Terry's misgivings, Sheila persuades him to take the relics to Fu Manchu without Smith's knowledge. However, when Fu Manchu tests the sword, he determines that it is a fake (Nayland had switched them). Terry is whipped under the supervision of Fah Lo See, who is attracted to him. Meanwhile, Fu Manchu has Barton's corpse delivered to Sheila. When Nayland tries to rescue Terry, he is taken captive as well.

Terry is injected with a serum that makes him temporarily obedient to Fu Manchu and released. He tells Sheila and Von Berg that Nayland Smith wants them to bring the sword and mask to him. Sheila senses something is wrong, but Von Berg digs up the real relics, and they follow Terry into a trap. Captured by Fu Manchu, the party is sentenced to death or enslavement, but not before Sheila manages to bring Terry back to his senses. Sheila is to become a human sacrifice, Nayland Smith is to be lowered into a crocodile pit, and Von Berg placed between two sets of metal spikes inching toward each other. Terry is prepared for another dose of the serum, which will make him a permanent slave of Fu Manchu's daughter. However, Nayland Smith manages to free himself, Terry, and Von Berg. Using one of Fu Manchu's own weapons—a death ray that shoots an electric current—the men incapacitate the archvillain as he raises the sword to execute Sheila. When Fu Manchu drops the sword, Terry picks it up and hacks him to death. While Terry frees Sheila and carries her away, Nayland Smith and Von Berg incinerate Fu Manchu's followers using the same weapon. Safely aboard a ship bound for England, Nayland Smith tosses the sword over the side so that the world will be safe from any future Fu Manchu.



During its initial release, The Mask of Fu Manchu was criticized by the Republic of China and the Chinese embassy in Washington launched a formal complaint against the film for its hostile depiction of the Chinese. The speech where Fu Manchu tells his followers to "Kill the white man and take his women!" was singled out for strong criticism. [3]

Some other critics also objected to the film's depictions of violence and sexuality. [4] The film's re-release in 1972 was met with protest from the Japanese American Citizens League, which stated that "the movie was offensive and demeaning to Asian-Americans". Consequently, several scenes were cut for the 1992 VHS release of the film. These included the most problematical material, such as the "Kill the white man" speech, and the scenes of Fah Lo See in an orgiastic frenzy while watching Terry being whipped. [4] The later DVD releases of the film have restored these scenes. [5]


The film was a financial success, making a profit of $62,000. [1]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also

Related Research Articles

Fu Manchu Fictional villain based on Asian stereotypes

Dr. Fu Manchu is a supervillain who was introduced in a series of novels by the English author Sax Rohmer beginning shortly before World War I and continuing for another forty years. The character featured in cinema, television, radio, comic strips and comic books for over 90 years, and he has also become an archetype of the evil criminal genius and mad scientist, while lending his name to the Fu Manchu moustache.

<i>The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu</i> 1980 film by Peter Sellers, Richard Quine

The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu is a 1980 comedy film. It was the final film featuring star Peter Sellers and David Tomlinson. Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer, the film stars Sellers in the dual role of Fu Manchu, a megalomaniacal Chinese evil genius, and English country gentleman detective Nayland Smith.

Denis Nayland Smith is a character who was introduced in the series of novels Dr. Fu Manchu by the English author Sax Rohmer. He is a rival to the villain Dr. Fu Manchu.

Lawrence Grant English actor

Percy Reginald Lawrence-Grant was an English actor known for supporting roles in films such as The Living Ghost, I'll Tell the World, Shanghai Express, The Mask of Fu Manchu and Son of Frankenstein. He was host of the 4th Academy Awards ceremonies in 1931.

<i>The Castle of Fu Manchu</i> 1969 film

The Castle of Fu Manchu is a 1969 film and the fifth and final Dr. Fu Manchu film with Christopher Lee portraying the title character.

<i>The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu</i> 1929 film

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu is a 1929 American pre-Code drama film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Warner Oland as Dr. Fu Manchu. It was the first Fu Manchu film of the talkie era. Since this was during the transition period to sound, a silent version was also released in the United States, although only the sound version exists today. The film's copyright was renewed.

Douglas Wilmer British actor (1920 – 2016)

Douglas Wilmer was an English actor, best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in the 1965 TV series Sherlock Holmes.

<i>The Face of Fu Manchu</i> 1965 British film

The Face of Fu Manchu is a 1965 thriller film directed by Don Sharp and based on the characters created by Sax Rohmer. It stars Christopher Lee as the eponymous villain, a Chinese criminal mastermind, and Nigel Green as his pursuing rival Nayland Smith, a Scotland Yard detective.

Reflecting the changing political climate, the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in comic books have also evolved over time. This article is intended to document and discuss historical and contemporary racial and ethnic stereotypes in the medium of mainstream comics.

<i>The Brides of Fu Manchu</i> 1966 British film

The Brides of Fu Manchu is a 1966 British/West German Constantin Film co-production adventure crime film based on the fictional Chinese villain Dr. Fu Manchu, created by Sax Rohmer. It was the second film in a series, and was preceded by The Face of Fu Manchu. The Vengeance of Fu Manchu followed in 1967, The Blood of Fu Manchu in 1968, and The Castle of Fu Manchu in 1969. It was produced by Harry Alan Towers for Hallam Productions. Like the first film, it was directed by Don Sharp, and starred Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu. Nigel Green was replaced by Douglas Wilmer as Scotland Yard detective Nayland Smith.

<i>Drums of Fu Manchu</i> 1940 film by John English, William Witney

Drums of Fu Manchu (1940) is a 15-chapter Republic serial film based on the character created by Sax Rohmer. Though using the title of the ninth novel in the series, it actually is based on numerous elements from throughout the series to that point, cherry-picked by the writers. It starred Henry Brandon, William Royle and Robert Kellard. It was directed by the legendary serial team of William Witney and John English and is often considered one of the best serial films ever made.

"Black" Jack Tarr is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He is Sir Denis Nayland Smith's aide-de-camp, and a powerful gruff giant.

<i>The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu</i> 1913 novel by Sax Rohmer

The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1913) is the first novel in the Dr. Fu Manchu series by Sax Rohmer. It collates various short stories that were published the preceding year. The novel was also published in the U.S. under the title The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu and was adapted into the film The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu.

<i>The Walking Dead</i> (1936 film) 1936 film by Michael Curtiz

The Walking Dead is a 1936 American horror film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Boris Karloff, who plays a wrongly executed man who is restored to life by a scientist. The supporting cast features Ricardo Cortez, Marguerite Churchill and Barton MacLane. The film was distributed by Warner Bros.

Fah Lo Suee Fictional character from Sax Rohmer novels

Fah Lo Suee is a character who was introduced in the series of novels Dr. Fu Manchu by the English author Sax Rohmer (1883-1959). She is the daughter of Dr. Fu Manchu and an unnamed Russian woman, sometimes shown as an ally, sometimes shown as a rival. The character featured in cinema and comic strips and comic books alongside his father, sometimes using another names, and she has also become an archetype of the Dragon Lady.

The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu is a syndicated American television series that aired in 1956. The show was produced by Hollywood Television Service, a subsidiary of Republic Pictures.

<i>The Blood of Fu Manchu</i> 1968 film

The Blood of Fu Manchu, also known as Fu Manchu and the Kiss of Death, Kiss of Death, Kiss and Kill and Against All Odds, is a 1968 British adventure crime film directed by Jesús Franco, based on the fictional Asian villain Dr. Fu Manchu created by Sax Rohmer. It was the fourth film in a series, and was preceded by The Vengeance of Fu Manchu. The Castle of Fu Manchu followed in 1969.

Zheng Zu Marvel Comics supervillain

Zheng Zu (Chinese:鄭祖) is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Based on the Sax Rohmer character of the same name, he is the leader of the Five Weapons Society criminal organization and the father and arch-enemy of Shang-Chi.

Zheng Bao Yu, is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. She is the daughter of Zheng Zu and the older half-sister of Shang-Chi.

The Five Weapons Society is a fictional organization appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The Five Weapons Society was an organization created by the brothers Zheng Yi and Zheng Zu to defend China during the Qing Dynasty, after Yi's death, the society became a criminal organization, using names such as the Celestial Order of the Si-Fan and the Celestial Order of the Hai- Dai.


  1. 1 2 Jacobs, Stephen (2011). Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster. Sheffield, England: Tomahawk Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN   978-0955767043.
  2. Entry, "Fu Manchu", The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011)
  3. Frayling, Christopher (1996). "Fu Manchu". In Newman, Kim (ed.). The BFI Companion to Horror. London, England: Cassell. pp. 131–32. ISBN   0-304-33216-X.
  4. 1 2 Mank, Gregory William (2001). Hollywood Cauldron: 13 Horror Films from the Genres's Golden Age. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 53–89. ISBN   0-7864-1112-0.
  5. Jackson, Glenn. "Unmasking FU MANCHU". DVD Savant. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  6. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 6, 2016.