The Mask of Fu Manchu - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Mask of Fu Manchu Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2016
Hokey, campy, and highly entertaining. This movie is a bit more of a thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones than it is a horror film, but there are many cool touches packed into its 68 minutes. The race is on to get to the tomb of Genghis Khan, and we first see Boris Karloff in the role of Fu Manchu with his exaggerated facial features further distorted in a convex mirror, sporting absurdly long fingernails, and drinking a bubbly, steaming concoction. Later we'll see him torturing a captive with a giant gong, and presiding over an operating room which has lizards and snakes clamoring to get out of jars, a giant python, and a tarantula he extracts poison from. The sinister operation is presided over by the inscrutable Myrna Loy with her cat-like face, calming smoking what appears to be a hookah, as well as a bunch of bare-chested African-American guys on pedestals with arms crossed. Injections are needed for one of the captives to make him Loy's "more than willing slave, until of course she tires of him" - loved that. There are also a couple of death traps that will remind you of 007 films from 30 years later, including an alligator pit, and how can you not love a laser scene from 1932? It's all truly over the top, and the sets are fantastic.

Is the film racist? Well, yes, but I found it less disturbing than others from the time period. Despite the whitewashing of Hollywood - Karloff, Loy, and other Caucasians in Asian roles - I liked the strength of their characters, in direct contrast to the more common fawning, servile roles. Then again, Karloff bellows "Kill the white man, and take his women!" towards the end, in what likely directly stoked the "yellow fear" of the day. Still, I took more offense to the gap-tooth, goofy waiter ringing the dinner bell at the end, than I did to Karloff or Loy. You have to be able to forgive the filmmakers a bit, but if you can, I think you'll enjoy this one too.
February 22, 2016
The overtly racist portrayal of the East is only exacerbated by the simplistic characters and lack of character depth. I'm not even sure why this movie was critically acclaimed; all the characters are static and one-dimensional; Fu is the archetype of evil, Fu's daughter is the archetype of female oriental hypersexuality, and the white men are stereotypically masculine, interested in defending justice, your typical saving the world complex. There's no character development. No one changes due to the events that happen, and there's no nuance to any of the characters-- Fu and his daughter remain alien throughout in their inability to feel any remorse whatsoever, and the white protagonists are superhuman/inhuman in their utter inability to acknowledge anything more than the black-and-white, good v evil, east v west nature of the encounter. It's significant that Fu is cut down in his moment of triumph-- lifting the sword up, evil victorious-- immortalizing and freezing his character as one of pure evil, with no possibility of regret, remorse, repentance, or salvation. Salvation is not a possibility extended to the irreligious East in this film, and that is deeply problematic.
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2015
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.
November 20, 2015
KIarloff is the fuel that makes this one go
October 15, 2015
There's some dope moments early on, but it gets pretty tedious. Pretty surprisingly progressive though for the time, what with some black people whipping a white dude.
½ February 6, 2015
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.
½ October 19, 2013
Boris Karloff is the fiendish (and very politically incorrect) Fu Manchu, plotting an expedition for artifacts in the tomb of Genghis Khan. It's all quite ridiculous, but it's also a lot of campy fun. Myrna Loy pays her acting dues by playing Fu Manchu's evil daughter, but her performance is an absolute must see for Loy fans. This film was just two years before her huge breakout role of Nora Charles in "The Thin Man."
July 4, 2013
Apparently, critics don't like when non-white racism is portrayed. Who decided what was politically correct? I decide that this movie is good.

Karloff was outstanding. One of his best performances. Truly an underrated actor. He presents one of the better evil genius villains I've seen.
The Terry character was often so fricking annoying at times.

The plot, which is a good one, gets a little derailed on account of some preoccupation with sets (which were pretty good). It starts out promisingly. But the film suffers in that it didn't draw out the kind of emotional conviction needed to be fully engaged in the moribund subject matter. Rather, it was just enough. Good, but had the potential to be better.

*Apparently, alligators roar like lions.
April 25, 2013
A pretty wild film., almost comparable to the Universal horrors, that has Boris Karloff as Manchu wanting to get his hands on a mask and sword supposedly owned by Genghis Khan. A trio of British explorers try mightily to keep it away from them, but Manchu and his plethora of traps are too much for them. This has a great serial feel, wondering how are heroes are going to get out of this mess, and has an edge of nastiness to it. The ending is somewhat lame, but oh well, still worth watching.
rubystevens
Super Reviewer
½ March 17, 2013
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?
December 13, 2012
I know what you're thinking: Boris Karloff is just furthering the stereotype that all Asians are doctors.
½ December 3, 2012
Despite inborn racism regarding the portrayal of a highly "Americanized" 1930's Orient, Fu Manchu is wonderfully executed in its artistic morbidity; costumes, Karloff's shady nuances, and surreal stage sets, push this flick from mere Adventure talkie to horror.
½ August 12, 2012
Master Karloff in his most diabolical role--A lusty oriental mix!!
May 30, 2011
A strange mixture of horror, sci-fi, and xenophobia, and at some points as painful to a modern audience as a minstrel show. However, Karloff is, as always, fabulous and Myrna Loy is a delight as his sadistic nymphomaniac of a daughter. There are some imaginative scenes of torture, and it is campy fun to watch one hero escape by running across a pit of alligators!
March 16, 2011
ludicrous, fun adventure.
March 2, 2011
Enjoyable, but boy is this racist (and sexist). But enough for it to be withdrawn from release? Come on people this is 1932 talking. Anyways Karloff gives a masterly performance, but Lewis Stone was not a likable protagonist, in my opinion.
½ October 1, 2010
Racist, sadistic and outrageously funny movie. Karloff as the perfectly evil Dr. Fu manchu is a stroke of genius.
July 16, 2010
Racist, sexist and completely campy, this film is worth a watch mostly to see Karloff's amusingly bizarro turn as Fu Manchu and Myrna Loy as his opium-smoking nymphomaniac daughter. The story about follows suit; the tomb of Ghengis Khan is discovered, and a few British explorers must find it before the evil Fu Manchu- who plans to use it to wipe out the entire white race. There isn't a lick of sense to any of the story, but the film acts now as a showcase of some of MGM's strangest mainstream horror genre ploys.
Horror Movie Project
Super Reviewer
February 12, 2010
So I have a list that I am going off of and this was on there as a Horror Movie. Its not really scary, but Boris Karloff turns in a pretty chilling performance as the evil and sadistic Dr. Fu Manchu. The movie is known for the torture scenes in which Fu Manchu puts his victims through, the bell one in this is one of my favorites. I really enjoyed this and thought that it would be a pretty decent thriller.

Boris Karloff is one of the greats, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Lon Chaney Jr. are all some of the greatest early film actors of all time. What we have here is a group of scientists searching out the mask and sword of Genghis Khan. Dr. Fu Manchu wants to get his hands on the items so that he can summon Genghis Khan to come and destroy the Western World. More importantly kill all of the white men.

There are some amazing electricity effects that Boris Karloff does himself with, what looks like, a Tesla Coil. The effects are enough for you to really sit through it. On the scary scale though this has to rake in a easy 6 of 10. Though it is not scary what-so-ever.

Kill the white man - Dr. Fu Manchu

Sid
½ January 1, 2010
"Kill the white man and steal his women!"- Fu Manchu

The original 'torture porn' horror film is replete with racist 'yellow peril', out-of-this-world tortures, and a menacing performance by Karloff as the Sax Rohmer character.

Lewis Stone is unflappable as the definitive Nayland Smith. The hysterically bi-polar performance by Karen Morley almost overcomes the scenes she is in and only really comes into its own when she suspects Terry, culminating in her cries in a raging rainstorm "He's possessed, possessed!"

The testing of the sword in Fu Manchu's lab is an atmospheric example of pulp fantasy with its wild display of electrics conducted by Karloff. The alligator death trap Smith is tied to is a setpiece that puts even the 007 movies to shame. But its the operation scene that is one of the bizarre sequences put on film. Manchu's operating lab is stocked with giant boa constrictors, spiders, and nearly naked muscled black men who's job it seems is only to stand on pedestals with their arms crossed. The cuts between the operation to Fu Manchu's daughter calmly smoking away are creepy indeed.

The finale with the armies of the East gathered together and a laser blasting away are quite spectacular for its time.
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