The Movies of Fu Manchu:
Part Two: Boris Karloff

First played by Harry Agar Lyons in the 1920's, the sinister Chinese doctor was subsequently portrayed in the movies by Warner Oland, Boris Karloff,  Henry Brandon, Manuel Requena, Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers. John Carradine and Glen Gordon portrayed Fu Manchu on television. Rohmer's sinister female, Sumuru, had her movies as well.

Part One: Harry Agar Lyons and Warner Oland
bullet6.GIF (79 bytes)Part Two: Boris Karloff
Part Three: Henry Brandon and Manuel Requena
Part Four: Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers

1932: The Mask of Fu Manchu

Produced by: MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) [aka MGM-UA] . Directed by Charles Brabin, Charles Vidor (uncredited)

Original lobby card Karloff getting his unspeakable makeup Boris Karloff in full Fu Manchu makeup

Boris being made up as the "unspeakable" Fu Manchu.

A Boris Karloff interview during which he discusses the making of The Mask of Fu Manchu.

A portrait by Ray Santoleri

 The inscrutable daughter

Myrna Loy as Fah Lo See in Mask of Fu Manchu

Myrna without the hat

Cast (in credits order) probably complete: Boris Karloff as Dr. Fu Manchu, Lewis Stone as Nayland Smith, and Myrna Loy as Fah Lo See. Also: Charles Starrett, Karen Morley, Jean Hersholt, David Torrence, Lawrence Grant, C. Montague Shaw.

The rest of the cast listed alphabetically Herbert Bunston, Willie Fung, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Gertrude Michael. Written by Irene Kuhn, John Willard, Edgar Allan Woolf

After a British archeologist discovers the location of Genghis Khan's tomb, an expedition rushes to Mongolia to get the sword and mask of Genghis Khan before criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu can use the relics to proclaim himself the new Khan and lead the eastern races on a massive jihad west to kill whitey. This sounds like the beginning of a rip-roaring adventure story, even if it is encumbered with an unsavory and dated "yellow peril" attitude. ("We'll never understand the eastern races," Nayland Smith solemnly intones.) But, even though you have unopened tombs, chambers of unspeakable tortures, Van de Graaf generators, mental enslavement drugs, virgin sacrifice and a raygun, the story never takes off. Boris Karloff, as Fu Manchu, tries his hardest to get everyone else into the Sax Rohmer groove, but only Myrna Loy, as Fu Manchu's daughter (she likes her men tenderized) takes the bait. There are some interesting bits, but overall not much excitement.

View the scene where Charles Starrett gets whipped while Fah Lo See excitedly urges the Dacoits to whip "Faster! Faster!" FU.MOV (a LARGE file from the Berkeley Multimedia Research Center)

Good News! The Mask of Fu Manchu has been released on laserdisk with four minutes of footage restored.

"What Turner has done is put back about four minutes' worth of film carefully edited out for later reissues. You can tell what has been restored because the video jumps from almost perfect quality to a slightly less pristine condition every time 'new' material comes onscreen. Almost all of the previously excised footage involves situations or dialog where the impossibly evil Fu Manchu spouts anti-West threats."

"Because almost none of the Anglo characters' anti-Asian statements were censored, a wild guess might be that Fu Manchu's most excessive scenes were trimmed during World War II in an effort not to offend our Chinese allies. Whatever the reason, some of the cut material is mind-boggling in its (now) political incorrectness. Fu Manchu openly discusses his equally perverse daughter's sexual designs on the stalwart Anglo hero; besides the usual schemes and threats to the West, there is a line that has to be heard to be believed, where Karloff, revelling in his power, proclaims to his Pan-Asian allies that 'We will KILL the white man and TAKE his women!'" --from MGM Video Savant

"Republic actually had a second serial in mind, Fu Manchu Strikes Back, but the project was shelved in July, 1942, under pressure from the Chinese Government (there was a war on, remember?) and the U.S. State Department requested that the vehicle be 'temporarily postponed' which is bureaucratic jargon for 'Don't make our Allies look bad.' It goes a long way toward explaining why Fu Manchu managed to beat the rap instead of perishing in the fiery car crash that the original version of the script called for!" -- from the Cliffhanger Classics web site.

La Maison des Supplices (French title)

1938 Have You Got Any Castles

Released: 25 June 1938
Warner Brothers "Looney Tunes" cartoon
7 minutes

Director: Frank Tashlin
Story: Jack Miller
Animation: Ken Harris
Music: Carl W. Stalling


The cartoon is a  series of  musical numbers featuring numerous characters that children might be expected to recognize as well as many that adults would get.

The characters include The Thin Man,  Old King Cole. The Three Musketeers, the  Prisoner of Zenda, The Charge of the Light Brigade,  Rip Van Winkle, The Invisible Man, Topper, Bulldog Drummin, Whistler's Mother and, of course, Fu Manchu and his partners, Mr. Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein's monster.

 They emerge one by one from their respective books, act scary and break into dance.

These excellent frames were captured by Joel Schlosberg who observed "One thing I noticed on re-watching HYGAC is that both Fu Manchu and Frankenstein follow the conventions for the characters' appearance set by the film versions (Fu's mustache and Jack Pierce's character design for the 1931 Frankenstein), which is a bit inconsistent with the cartoon's conceit that they've come to life from the books.

I remember seeing a different Warner Bros. cartoon that also had a Fu reference -- I forget the title, but in it, Porky Pig (I think) was trying to go to sleep and was being prevented by somebody else who was constantly making noise.  Porky throws the book 'Fu Manchu' at the pest, but the book is promptly thrown back at him, now titled 'The Return of Fu Manchu'."


Movies - Part One  WB01343_.gif (599 bytes)    WB01345_.gif (616 bytes)  Movies - Part Three

Go to The Page of Fu Manchu

Copyright 1997, 1998 Lawrence Knapp. All rights reserved.