The movie The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) is a cinematic journey into the heart of darkness, where the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, played by Boris Karloff, embarks on a quest to obtain the legendary relics of Genghis Khan.
Sir Denis Nayland Smith, a British Secret Service agent, warns the esteemed Egyptologist Sir Lionel Barton of the impending danger and the urgency to outpace Fu Manchu in this deadly race.
The plot thickens as Barton is abducted and subjected to the harrowing ‘torture of the bell’ by Fu Manchu, who seeks the tomb’s secrets. Despite the offer of his daughter, Fah Lo See, as a bribe, Barton remains resolute, refusing to divulge the coveted information.
Sheila Barton, undeterred by her father’s plight, boldly steps into the fray, leading the expedition to the tomb’s hidden treasures. Alongside her fiancé, Terrence “Terry” Granville, and their trusted companions, they uncover the ancient riches, only to find themselves ensnared in a web of treachery and violence.
The narrative takes a dark turn as McLeod falls victim to Fu Manchu’s henchmen, setting off a chain of events that leads to a sinister exchange proposal. Sheila, driven by hope for her father’s return, convinces Terry to deliver the artifacts to Fu Manchu, unaware of Smith’s clever ruse involving a counterfeit sword.
Amidst the escalating tension, Terry endures the wrath of Fah Lo See, while Fu Manchu’s cruel machinations reach Sheila in the form of her father’s lifeless body. The situation grows dire as Smith’s rescue attempt results in his own capture, and Terry, now under the influence of a mind-controlling serum, lures Sheila and Von Berg into Fu Manchu’s clutches.
The captives face a grim fate: Sheila as a sacrificial offering, Smith at the mercy of crocodiles, and Von Berg trapped between closing spikes. As Terry teeters on the brink of permanent enslavement, a glimmer of hope emerges when Smith orchestrates a daring escape.
In a climactic showdown, the heroes turn Fu Manchu’s death ray against him, thwarting his execution of Sheila. The ensuing chaos culminates in Terry’s decisive strike, ending Fu Manchu’s reign of terror. The survivors, now aboard a vessel bound for England, ensure the world’s safety by casting the sword into the abyss, forever severing the ties to Fu Manchu’s malevolent legacy.
- Boris Karloff as Dr. Fu Manchu
- Lewis Stone as Nayland Smith
- Karen Morley as Sheila Barton
- Charles Starrett as Terrence Granville
- Myrna Loy as Fah Lo See
- Jean Hersholt as Von Berg
- Lawrence Grant as Sir Lionel Barton
- David Torrence as McLeod
- Everett Brown as Slave
- Steve Clemente as Knife Thrower
One intriguing piece of trivia about the movie The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) is that Boris Karloff’s costume included a Chinese woman’s wedding dress. 
The makeup process for transforming Karloff into the menacing Fu Manchu took a staggering 2.5 hours each morning. 
“There’s no doubting that The Mask of Fu Manchu is a beautifully appointed film. Cedric Gibbons‘ art direction, Adrian‘s lavish costumes and Tony Gaudio‘s atmospheric photography conspire to give the film an “A” movie sheen that rewarded producers MGM with a sizable box office hit. ” 
“The Mask of Fu Manchu is a lavish paranoid fantasy. Anyone who scoffs at yellow face or simply gets infuriated by racial politics should probably avoid this one, as should anyone impressionable to this sort of hokum. For anyone who can look past it and meet these ideas straight on, the movie offers itself as a bizarrely entertaining time capsule of a romp. It’s dated, but undeniably unique.”