Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 766 - Mask of Fu Manchu

The Mask of Fu Manchu

I read a lot as a kid.  And because King Kong was my favorite move, even back then, I read a lot on monster movies.  And, while Mask of Fu Manchu isn't technically a monster movie, it does star Boris Karloff as the title character, and for many books, that was good enough.  It was also on of those films that I never got around to watching... until now.

I'm actually really disappointed it took me this long to see it, since I think that if I saw this when I was a kid, it would have been one of those movies that stuck with me forever and left an impact on me (like any Ray Harryhausen movie).  There are scenes of torture, mind control, and man-eating crocodiles.  Even now, I watched the movie and thought it was pretty awesome.

The story is basically a race between the British and Dr. Fu Manchu over who can find the tomb of Genghis Khan first, and take possession of his death mask and sword.  The British want them for their museums and Fu Manchu wants them so he can lead the oriental nations under one rule (his), and take over the world.  Fu Manchu kidnaps Sir Lionel Barton, who knows the location of Genghis Khan's tomb and tortures him for its location.  Barton's daughter, along with her fiance, and Nayland Smith find the tomb, get the goods, and try and save Sir Lionel.

The movie moves along at a breakneck pace, is fraught with danger, and is anchored by a strong performance by Boris Karloff.  However... the film is incredibly racist.  Karloff is obviously not asain, and neither is Myna Loy, who plays his daughter.  The slurs and innuendos fly back and forth between races.  Fu Manchu's henchman, well, I guess there's a reason he's a villain.

But, in spite of all that, the film lived up to my expectations.  I can see a real obvious influence on Indiana Jones in here.  Karloff gives an inspired performance (just look at his reactions when Sir Lionel won't give in after being tortured).  Myrna Loy appears to be having a ball.  And the final battle sequence is just insane for how audacious it is.  Pulp fiction at its finest.  ***1/2

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