The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu is a 1929 American pre-Code drama film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Warner Oland as Dr. Fu Manchu. It was the first Fu Manchu film of the talkie era. Since this was during the transition period to sound, a silent version was also released in the United States.[1]

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu
Original film poster
Directed byRowland V. Lee
Produced byRowland V. Lee
Written byLloyd Corrigan
Florence Ryerson
George Marion, Jr. (uncredited)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (uncredited)
Based onThe Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu
by Sax Rohmer
StarringWarner Oland
Neil Hamilton
Jean Arthur
O. P. Heggie
Music byOscar Potoker
CinematographyHarry Fischbeck
Edited byGeorge Nichols Jr.
Paramount Pictures
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 10, 1929 (1929-08-10)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States


A young white girl, Lia Eltham, is left in Fu Manchu's care. A British regiment, chasing Boxer rebels, fires on Fu Manchu's home, killing his wife and child. When Lia Eltham grows up, he uses her as an instrument for revenge, killing all descendants of those who killed his wife. Opposing Fu Manchu are Police Inspector Nayland Smith and Dr. Jack Petrie.




The film was very loosely based on the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer.[1]


The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu incorporates several Yellow Peril stereotypes typical of that era in its portrayal of Fu Manchu, including his skillful use of poison, blow darts, and use of hypnosis to control a white woman throughout the film.[2]

Several of the actors portray the same roles in the 1930 sequel The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu.


  1. Progressive Silent Film List: The Mysterious Doctor Fu Manchu at
  2. Behnken, Brian D.; Smithers, Gregory D. (2015). Racism in American Popular Media: From Aunt Jemima to the Frito Bandito. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO LLC. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-1-4408-2977-2.

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