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The Laughing Academy
A Life of Noisy Desperation
“Rampant sadomasochism, galloping nymphomania” — who could ask for anything more? 
5th-Feb-2006 12:11 am
SlpH - Ichabod unholy
Film Forum opened its weeklong Boris Karloff series with a double bill of Frankenstein and The Mask of Fu Manchu, and while the former film remains a favorite, it’s the latter that I paid my $5 to see. A white-haired man who’d watched it before Frankenstein described it as “a very well-made bad film.” If by “bad” he meant chockful of purple, breathtakingly racist dialogue (“Yellow monster!” “White dog!”), I can’t argue, but by God, it is entertaining. It has everything: guys hiding in sarcophagi, hidden tombs, van der Graff generators, opium dens, trapdoors, hypnotic drugs, spiked walls that slooooowly close upon hapless victims, animal pits, and lackey-summoning gongs.

As usual, I rooted for the mad scientist/villain over his opponents, the typical stiff-upper-lippers, “amusingly” accented sidekicks, blonde daughter/sister/fiancée [delete as necessary] who is supposedly charming and strong-willed but really just whiny, and bland hero (at least this one looked good being hung up and whipped, chained to a table wearing nothing but a white breechclout, and getting his shirt torn off in the climactic fight scene). I was also cheering on the Doctor’s daughter, played by Myrna Loy, who bears the unfortunate name Fah Lo See but is otherwise entirely fabulous. She is even cooler than Anna May Wong as Fu Manchu’s vengeful child, Princess Ling Moy, in Daughter of the Dragon. The fact that Anna May really was Asian is outweighed by Ling Moy’s poor judgment in falling for her Big White Dope instead of just using him for sex. I only wish that Fah Lo See had answered the blonde ingenue’s defiant claim that she’d never win the hero’s heart by rolling her eyes and saying, “Oh, please, as if I were interested in his heart.”
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