May 3, 2024

THE MASK OF FU MANCHU: Starring Danny Trejo's Doppelganger

1932 / 69 min
Available at
Review by Mr. Paws😼

Man, it seems like Danny Trejo has done it all…escaped a life of crime, mentored others to avoid the same fate, all while parlaying his tough guy image into a prolific movie career. He’s also appeared in video games, was a contestant on The Masked Singer and wrote a memoir that became a bestseller. 

Now we can add time travel to the man’s list of accomplishments, transporting himself all the way back to 1932 to play the evil Dr. Fu Manchu in…

…what? That’s Boris Karloff? I coulda sworn it was Danny Trejo.

At any rate, Karloff is unrecognizable under all that make-up, playing the titular villain in The Mask of Fu Manchu. He’s not the only white actor being passed-off as Asian, either. None other than Myrna Loy shows up as Fu Manchu’s temptress daughter. But hey…the film was made during different times, so let’s not hold that against it. But it also means we’ll need to overlook the frequent use of words like ‘Chinaman’ and one character admonishing Fu Manchu as a ‘hideous yellow monster.’

When the meds kick in.
Viewed in the context of when it was made, the film offers some goofy fun, featuring such pre-Code shenanigans as Loy appearing to be aroused by the whipping of another man. Elsewhere, there’s a scene where a character is lowered into an alligator pit, and it sure as hell looks like the actor is stepping & stumbling among real gators. And it’s hard to completely dismiss any movie climaxing with a death ray that kills hundreds of extras.

The basic plot is remarkably similar to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Dr. Fu Manchu is trying to find an ancient sword & mask belonging to Genghis Khan, which will give him power to destroy the white race. Hoping to grab it first are British Secret Service agents led by Nayland Smith (Lewis Stone). Tagging along is Sheila Barton (Karen Morley), the daughter of an agent who’s been kidnapped and tortured by Fu Manchu (rather sadistically, I might add). While obviously no Raiders, there’s plenty of action and death along the way.

Certainly a product of its time, The Mask of Fu Manchu is an interesting little curio…a pre-Code relic made back when caricaturing an entire group of people was a-okay. Though probably never mistaken for a great movie, it’s still kinda fun - sometimes at its own expense - with Karloff having a high ol’ time as Danny Trejo’s doppelganger. 


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AUDIO COMMENTARY - By historian Greg Mark.

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