How a Swede, a Japanese and an Englishman gave me the willies

(Canscene) — Of all the villains who haunted my early youth none was more insidious than Dr. Fu Manchu.

“Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, … one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present… Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man. –The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu”.

Fu Manchu was the creation of Arthur Henry Ward, an Irishman who preferred the mysterious-sounding Sax Rohmer as a pseudonym. He created many villainous characters, but none so unforgettable as the Devil Doctor.

karloffOf all the portrayals in major feature films, Warner Oland, born in Sweden, was a shade too roly-poly to fill Rohmer’s criteria, but played well. Sojin, a Japanese character actor of undeniably sinister mien may have played Fu Mahchu, but I’m not sure, and Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu most closely approximated the Rohmer description. Sir  Christopher Lee, the English actor of Anglo-Italian parentage continues to play the role.

It’s interesting to note that both Oland and Sojin went on the play the Chinese Hawaiian private detective Charlie Chan. Sojin’s last role was in the Seven Samurai, the blind musician at age 100, the year of his death.

My boyhood fears of Chinese men with long knives vanished as the world observed the Japanese atrocities against China.

And then came my discovery of Chinese restaurants in London: Lee- on’s on Wardour Street and Maxim’s in Piccadilly.

2 Responses to “How a Swede, a Japanese and an Englishman gave me the willies”

  1. John Robert Colombo Says:

    Ben: Nothing is more calculated to please me than an evocation of “the insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu” (his name was hyphenated for the first five books) and an appreciation of Arthur Sarsfield Ward (aka Sax Rohmer). I have been a “fan” of Rohmer’s writings since my early teens; in fact, he is the sole author whose works I continue to collect. I have all the books. Plans are in the offing — as we Rohmerians might say — to compiled all the Sumuru novels (those five novels written in the postwar which feature “a female Fu Manchu.” Anyway … here’s to you, Rohmer, and nostalgia!

    John Robert

  2. ben viccari Says:

    Thanks John, for keeping the Rohmer legends alive,