THE MYSTERIOUS DR. FU MANCHU (1929)
Article #1072 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-20-2004
Posting Date: 7-19-2004
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Featuring Warner Oland, Neil Hamilton, Jean Arthur
Dr. Fu Manchu swears revenge on the British regiment that fired upon his home during the Boxer rebellion and killed his wife and child.
This was the first of a series of Fu Manchu movies with Warner (Charlie Chan) Oland playing the evil genius. I’ve seen several Fu Manchu movies over the years, but this is the first one I’ve seen that gives us some of the backstory of Fu Manchu’s life, and explains why he wishes revenge. As you might expect from the year of release, this is an early talkie, and consequently fairly creaky with bad sound, but it’s well written, and fairly engaging throughout. Jean Arthur plays a white woman who was left under Fu Manchu’s care as a child, and which he uses as an instrument of his revenge. Nayland Smith is played by O.P. Heggie, who is best known for playing the blind hermit in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Noble Johnson is also on hand playing a Chinaman; I, for one, would love to see a list of all the various nationalities this man played during his long career. The comic relief is provided by William Austin, whose prissy, effeminate butler is definitely a matter of taste, though I will have to admit at giggling a little at his plaintive pondering as to whether he would live long enough to taste tomorrow’s marmalade.