The mask of Fu-Manchu

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German title The mask of Fu-Manchu
Original title The Mask of Fu Manchu
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1932
length 68 minutes
Director Charles Brabin
script Irene Kuhn ,
Edgar Allan Woolf ,
John Willard
music William ax
camera Tony Gaudio
cut Ben Lewis

←  Predecessor
Daughter of the Dragon

The Mask of Fu-Manchu (Original title: The Mask of Fu Manchu ) is an American adventure and horror film from 1932 by Charles Brabin . The script is based on a story by British writer Sax Rohmer , who portrays the character of the evil scientist Dr. Invented Fu-Manchu . The film is one of the so-called pre-code films that were produced before the Hays Code , the censorship and production guidelines for US films. It premiered on November 5, 1932. In Germany, the film ran for the first time on August 8, 1987 in a television version shortened by three minutes in the first .


Nayland Smith asks his friend Sir Lionel Barton to look for the grave of Genghis Khan . He wants to prevent the Chinese scientist Dr. Fu-Manchu comes into possession of the grave supplements he needs for his dark machinations. Sir Lionel explains the planned expedition to his colleagues at the British Museum, and shortly afterwards he is kidnapped. His daughter Sheila is now planning her own expedition with Smith.

At his headquarters in the Far East, the doctor first tries flattery and bribery to elicit the secret of the grave from Sir Lionel. Fu-Manchu even offers him his daughter Fah Lo See, but Sir Lionel persistently refuses. He also endures torture without giving anything away. Meanwhile, Sheila's expedition finds the grave. Despite the warning of a curse, they open it. Smith joins the group and warns them of Fu-Manchu, who could strike at any moment. Because he wants to get possession of the sword and mask that were found by the expedition.

During the night, McLeod, a member of the expedition, is killed by a throwing dagger. Sheila's fiancé Terrence Granville finds a human hand wearing Sir Lionel's ring that morning, after which he is invited to a meeting by Manchu's staff. The skeptical Terrence accepts the invitation and takes his mask and sword to Manchu's headquarters. The sword turns out to be a fake. Fah Lo See, who has fallen in love with Terrence, then orders him to be punished with lashes. However, Manchu doesn't want his daughter to get together with Terrence, he has other plans for him.

Manchu's men carry Sir Lionel's body on the expedition. The grief-stricken Smith admits to having forged the relics he found in order to outsmart Manchu. He leaves the group and enters an opium den. There he sees a man with Manchu's identification mark, a tattoo on his shoulder. He follows the man and finds the secret entrance to Manchu's headquarters. However, Smith is caught. He demands the release of Terrence when Manchu is about to give him a serum that is supposed to bring him under his control.

Terrence treated with the serum goes to Sheila. When he asks about the real sword and mask, Sheila realizes that Terrence is under the influence of drugs. You and Von Berg are also captured by Manchu's men. In Manchu's hiding place, Sheila sees her fiancé with Fah Lo See and tries to disrupt the drug influence. Terrence actually wakes up from his trance, but now Sheila is to be taken away and serve as a human sacrifice.

When Sheila is ready to be sacrificed on an altar the next morning, Smith breaks out of his prison and free Terrence. Together they free Von Berg and manipulate an electrical machine belonging to the scientist. The machine sends electrical radiation to the sword, killing Manchu. Terrence frees Sheila while Smith and Von Berg use the machine to fight Manchu's men. They manage to save themselves on the expedition boat. On the way back to England, Smith throws the sword overboard.


Boris Karloff, who played the villain, had to put on the mask for two and a half hours every day of shooting. Karloff replaced Warner Oland as the actor of the Chinese scientist, who played the role in a serial four times. Prior to Oland, H. Agar Lyons starred in 23 silent films in a British film series. Karloff only made one Fu Manchu film. The best known actor is Christopher Lee , who between 1965 and 1969 made five films as Dr. Fu-Manchu shot for Harry Alan Towers .

The film had a budget of approximately $ 327,000 and grossed over $ 600,000 worldwide. Cedric Gibbons was responsible for the set design of the production, sound engineer Douglas Shearer worked as the production manager . The special effects were from Warren Newcombe . Charles Vidor originally directed, but after a few days he was withdrawn from production and replaced by Charles Brabin.

On the day the film premiered, Karen Morley and original director Charles Vidor tied the knot.


For the lexicon of international films , The Mask of Fu-Manchu was “an unusually sadistic horror film classic for the time it was made. [...] In the mixture of 'exotic' scary atmosphere and science fiction elements, Boris Karloff in the main role is particularly impressive. Interesting for those interested in film history and lovers of the genre. ” Variety stated that everyone was hindered by the story.

The New York Times found the film "unfortunately too long". The TimeOut film guide highlighted Karloff's ironic portrayal of the bad guy. Myrna Loy's cheerful portrayal of her daughter, Tony Gaudio's camera work and the surprisingly imaginative equipment were also praised. The conclusion of the German film magazine Cinema was positive: "The ultimate kick for Fu Manchu fans."

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Business on
  2. The Mask of Fu-Manchu. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed May 26, 2019 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  3. See The Mask of Fu Manchu . In: Variety , 1932.
  4. See A Chinese Inquisition . In: The New York Times , December 3, 1932.
  5. See
  6. See