Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Aureolin Peril of Fu Manchu

Free mask given away at showings of The Mask of Fu Manchu

Here's a post cautiously celebrating what William S. Burroughs called "the racist garbage of the insidious Sax Rohmer", which, while obviously a seething graveyard of fairly despicable stereotypes, was also a deliciously potent escape during my Nebraska childhood, inducing all manner of opium-hazed exotic reverie. Rohmer's accounts of the misdeeds of the unspeakably evil & miraculously resilient Dr. Fu Manchu & the elaborate deco orientalism of the Fu Manchu films, combined magic, drugs, torture & the monstrous Rube Goldberg devices that meted it, white slavery, rape, mind control, secret societies, disguises, the alleyways & secret customs of exotic ports, diabolism, hallucinations, madness...in short, the most unsavory delights imaginable to an impressionable young mind. Despite my enlightened adult attempts to throw off the spell of Fu Manchu, childhood pleasures are the most difficult to shake & I still find myself glassy-eyed & agog in the wee hours, subdued completely by a showing of Mask of Fu Manchu, The Mysterious Fu Manchu, or Daughter of the Dragon. And I emerge from the woozy thrall as I'd imagine one emerges from a Limehouse opium den...

John Richard Flanagan Fu Manchu illustration, Collier's 1930s

From the Fu Manchu syndicated comic strip, 1931

Mort Engle cover art for The Insidious Fu Manchu

Promotional button for The Shadow of Fu Manchu radio serial, 1939

Swedish Mask of Fu Manchu poster

Wu Fang, a Fu Manchu knock-off

More Wu Fang


Lois2037 said...

I enjoyed the hell out of these things, too, though until this post I had no idea there were so very many of them. I loved the adventure and outright silliness and improbability of it all.

charles lieurance said...

And this is really just the tip of the iceberg...I'm glad to meet another person who was seduced by Sax Rohmer's work!