May 30, 2008
There is one word to describe Charley’s performance in this 1932 film, his 10th. That word is “chipper.” He’s chipper most all of the time. When they hear of the expedition to Genghis Kahn’s tomb, when they find the dig in a cave, when they prepare to guard their finds. He says stuff like “Age before beauty” and “Cheerio!”
He’s not that chipper, of course, when he’s suspended from a chain in Fu Manchu’s dungeon being whipped by two black giants as Myrna Loy shouts “faster, faster.”
His shirtless image here is probably the single most seen footage of Charley. It’s the only one I could find on YouTube. I’m sure fetish freaks the world over have drooled over the future Kid.
It’s odd to see Charley playing the hunk role. He’s strapped to a slab, naked except for a lion-cloth. Myrna Loy as Fu Manchu’s daughter likes to stroke him and says “He is not un-handsome, is he father?”
After all the torture and unpleasantness, Charley is injected with a serum that turns him into a mindless slave, and the chipper guy is back. He’s the life of the party, everything is just fine, smiling like an idiot, and chuckling along as Fu Manchu rants about “wiping out the whole white race!”
I wonder if Charley secreted away some of that serum to use when he had to laugh at one of Smiley’s “jokes”.