Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

Stuffy British types mount an expedition to find the mask and sword of Genghis Khan before the nefarious Doctor Fu Manchu (Boris Karloff) does. They fear he will use it to rally his minions to rise up and wipe out the white race.

Before I go on, let me point out that The Mask of Fu Manchu was actually considered racist BY 1932 STANDARDS! In a strange way, that's kinda impressive. The Chinese embassy in Washington filed an official complaint. And not just the Chinese (or Yellow Beasts, as they prefer to be called) are maligned, but also Indians and Africans. Come to think of it, the English don't really come out looking all that smart. More on that later.

Old stuffy British type wants Asian artifact before Asians can get it because they're British, sends second old stuffy British type. But he's kidnapped BEFORE HE CAN EVEN LEAVE THE BUILDING, so hysterical daughter convinces first to all go on a rescue mission. While second is being tortured, our crew of heroes find the loot .. I mean historical artifacts. They hide in a fancy house because Fu Manchu spies are everywhere. Hysterical daughter convinces her beau to take the artifacts to Fu Manchu to bargain for papa's life, but that don't work out too well.

First old stuffy British type find out then decides to ALSO go into Fu Manchu's palace because that worked out so well the first time. First he goes to an opium den for reasons that escape me, then there's a fire, I don't know why. Beau returns, his mind controlled by spider blood and the love of Fu Manchu's hot hot daughter (Myrna Loy) and convinces the rest to ALSO enter the palace (because three times a charm). The decide to go EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH HIM! Deus ex machina and everyone lives happily ever after.

Sure, Asians are depicted as conniving and treacherous, and his palace is filled with Indian and Black "servants", all shirtless and buff. But the Brits come off as completely stupid! If they didn't posses the magic of random luck they wouldn't have stood a chance. Add to this the scenes of one hero being hung shirtless while large bare chested black men whip him, the group that comes out on top is the BDSM crowd.

Despite itself, there is a lot of fun in The Mask of Fu Manchu. The sets, action, and effects worked well, the story doesn't lull, and the cheesy parts are fun to laugh at. Karloff and Loy agreed the only way to intelligently play their rolls is tongue-in-cheek. Today I am overlooking the racism. Not everyone will. AMRU 3.
"Would you have maidens such as these for your wives? Then conquer and breed... kill the white man... and take his women!"

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