The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Mask of Fu Manchu Photos

Movie Info

Boris Karloff stars as the villainous Dr. Fu Manchu in this wild and wooly -- and wildly racist -- adventure yarn, based on Sax Rohmer's fiction about the personification of the "yellow peril." Sir Nayland Smith (Lewis Stone) of the British Secret Service recruits Sir Lionel Barton (Lawrence Grant) to lead an expedition with Prof. Von Berg (Jean Hersholt) and McLeod (David Torrence) to the Gobi Desert, to find the tomb of Genghis Khan and retrieve the scimitar and golden mask held within. To Barton, these are mere archeological trophies, but Smith has learned that Dr. Fu Manchu also has his designs on them; and if he gets hold of these artifacts, he will use them to cause a rising in the East, and foment a war for the destruction of the white race. The action is fast and furious, resembling a Saturday-morning serial, as Barton is kidnapped and brought to Fu Manchu, who proceeds to torture him to find the location of the tomb. Barton's daughter, Sheila (Karen Morley), replaces her father to guide the expedition, accompanied by her fiancé, Terry Granville (Charles Starrett). They find the tomb and retrieve the sword and mask, and find themselves in the company of Nayland Smith as they try to return to England, and surrounded by enemies on all sides. One man is dead and soon Terry is in the hands of Fu and his sadistic daughter Fah Lo See (Myrna Loy), who proceeds to torture him; Nayland Smith is slowly being lowered into a pit of crocodiles, Von Berg is trapped between moving spiked walls, and Sheila Barton is about to be sacrificed as part of the ritual in which Fu will declare himself the reincarnation of Genghis Khan.
Action & Adventure , Drama , Horror , Mystery & Suspense , Science Fiction & Fantasy
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Boris Karloff
as Dr. Fu Manchu
Myrna Loy
as Fah Lo See
Karen Morley
as Sheila Barton
Charles Starrett
as Terrence Granville
Lewis Stone
as Commissioner Sir Nayland Smith
Jean Hersholt
as Prof. Von Berg
Lawrence Grant
as Sir Lionel Barton
Ferdinand Gottschalk
as Museum Official
Willie Fung
as Ship's Steward
C. Montague Shaw
as Dr. Fairgyle
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Mask of Fu Manchu

All Critics (7)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | August 7, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

This is a creaky but entertaining relic from the early sound era. Basically an adventure edges into the horror category thanks to the fiendish torture devices used by the Oriental criminal mastermind - and his sadistic daughter.

Full Review… | May 12, 2009

An entertaining but politically incorrect hokum escapist adventure story.

Full Review… | June 4, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Mask of Fu Manchu

If you can put aside the wild racism of the time this is an okay pre-code adventure with the male lead being sexually objectify for a change. This was during the misguided period when Myrna Loy was being cast as an Oriental baddie.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

The film, inspired by the book The Insidious Fu Manchu, has a much lower concentration of offensive language than the book does. But what it lacks in language and description it can make up with visual imagery. The scene when the audience finally gets to meet Dr. Fu Manchu they are met with a crazed and creepy smile, the stereotypical mustache and long nails, not the mentions the sound gongs ringing in the background in way that was probably meant to be ominous. Those who read the book might find it easy to dismiss the words that were thrown about to describe the Doctor, but words have a different influence than images do. The movie converts the book's descriptions of Dr. Fu Manchu into something that seems ridiculous now, but was probably quite scary when it was released. From a purely plot-centric standpoint, the reliance on Dr. Fu Manchu's "Eastern-ness" to make him a convincing villain is unimpressive. Others might argue that it was the Doctor's cunning or intention to take over the world that made him a great villain, but that argument fails once you put the movie in the historical context that it's defender love to put it in. At this time the British had a very extensive empire. They had, for all intents and purposes, taken over the world themselves. The movie is not as clear as the book in making the audience aware of a British empire, but that makes it no less of a reality. The British were scared of someone else, someone who did not look like them, having control over what they had. The film seeks to justify that fear as much as it plans to entertain, although it certainly did one better than the other.

Hera Syed
Hera Syed

well i have to say this was really fun but also quite racist. karloff is having a blast here, the costumes and sets are high camp, myrna loy as an oriental princess and assorted bizarre torture devices. what else could u possibly want?

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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