Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932)

I've been in a classic horror mood of late, knocking out several I've never seen before including DEVIL DOLL and MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, both from director Tod Browning. Next up was Charles Brabin's THE MASK OF FU MANCHU starring Boris Karloff as the title villain.

The race to find the tomb of Genghis Khan is on between Egyptologist Lionel Barton (Lawrence Grant) and the diabolical Fu Manchu who plans to use the sword and mask found in the tomb to claim himself as the reincarnation of the vicious ruler and lead the people of Asia and the middle east into a war to exterminate and enslave the white race. Shortly after, Barton is captured by Fu Manchu's men, and a group, including Barton's daughter and her fiancee set out to rescue him. Fu Manchu will stop at nothing to get his hands on Khan's relics to gain his power and start his war.

This is a nice example of a classic horror/adventure movie and while it may not be as well known as the Universal movies of the period (this was MGM) it is only a step below... maybe not even a full step. There are some great set pieces, the acting is solid top to bottom, and there were some creepy sequences such as men dressed as mummies simultaneously emerging from coffins in a museum to commit the kidnapping. The real star of the show here is Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu. You know him better as Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy but he is just as good here. The man was capable of carrying on a conversation without saying a word. He does have plenty of lines here, and delivers them beautifully. He fully embodied the madman and you never thought of his other, more famous monsters.

THE MASK OF FU MANCHU pushed some boundaries for early film. There is an awful lot of racism going on, both in plot and dialogue. Stuff that would still have people in an uproar today. Whether its simply for the movie or a not so subtle undertone that the director and writers wanted is up for debate but it works well for the film. Unfortunately it was removed from the film for many years, so until fairly recently it wasn't easy to see the film in it's true form.

If you're looking for some classic horror that you may not have seen before this is a good one to check out.

A very solid 8/10

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