THE MASK OF FU MANCHU. Cosmopolitan Pictures, 1932. Boris Karloff (Dr. Fu Manchu), Lewis Stone (Nayland Smith), Karen Morley, Charles Starrett, Myrna Loy, Jean Hersholt, Lawrence Grant, David Torrence. Based on the novel by Sax Rohmer. Director: Charles Brabin, with Charles Vidor (uncredited).

   If you’re looking for some over the top pre-code horror, trust me when I say that The Mask of Fu Manchu doesn’t disappoint. Featuring Boris Karloff as the title villain, this movie has kidnapping, a torture chamber featuring metal spikes, diabolical mind control via reptile, and its fair share of decidedly politically incorrect (by today’s standards) “yellow peril” racial paranoia.

   After all, Fu Manchu isn’t just a ruthless criminal; he’s also determined to defeat the “white race.” But with Karloff portraying Sax Rohmer’s best-known fictional character, it’s more camp than menace, making this a rather spicy horror adventure. It’s pure pulp, and it’s great.

   In The Mask of Fu Manchu, considered by some to the best cinematic adaptation of the Sax Rohmer’s works, our infamous Chinese villain seeks out the sword originally belonging to Genghis Khan. That sword, along with the Mongolian warlord’s mask, will allow Fu Manchu to become Genghis Khan’s mystical reincarnation here on earth. Fu Manchu wants to use that power to defeat his collective archenemy; namely, the white race!

   It’s up to good Englishmen to stop him. Sir Denis Nyland Smith (Lewis Stone), along with archeologist Terry Granville (Charles Starrett) and his fiancée, Sheila (Karen Morley) are on scene to save the day. But Fu Manchu isn’t going to be defeated so easily. Especially when he has his sadistic daughter, Fah Lo See (a decidedly out of place Myrna Loy) by his side.

   At a running time just shy of 70 minutes, The Mask of Fu Manchu manages to pack in a lot of action and exotic adventure. All of it appears to be in the spirit of escapist entertainment, rather than in the service of a broader artistic agenda. Indeed, as a horror film that doesn’t aim to address any deep philosophical questions about human nature, this one does everything that it’s supposed to and then some. Recommended.