Lost John Carradine Fu Manchu Screening at PulpFest

Jun 10, 2019 by

There are a number of Holy Grails that every collector seeks. It is said the quest is more important than the treasure. This is probably because few such treasures are ever discovered. For fans of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series, one of the most obscure relics is a 1952 pilot film shot for NBC for a FU MANCHU television series starring John Carradine as the Devil Doctor. The pilot was never broadcast. A still has never been published in books or magazines. Many fans dismissed the pilot as nothing more than a rumor — an idea that was never actually filmed.

They were wrong.

William Cameron Menzies, the legendary Hollywood production designer, directed the highly stylized pilot film. It is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the 1912 Sax Rohmer story that started it all — “The Zayat Kiss.” Cedric Hardwicke plays Nayland Smith, the driven British colonial official obsessed with capturing the elusive criminal mastermind, Dr. Fu Manchu. John Carradine — appropriately menacing as a silhouetted figure behind a screen intoning his commands in an educated hiss that is far removed from the province of yellowface performances — is the most faithful Fu Manchu ever to grace the big or small screen.

Born out of imperialist Britain’s fear of a Yellow Peril emerging from the East, Rohmer ingeniously imbued his fictional villain with greater intelligence and integrity than his Western protagonists.  Rohmer’s initial description of the character in “The Zayat Kiss” is unforgettable and one he would strive to re-create over the years without ever falling into direct imitation:

“Imagine a person, tall, lean, and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true-cat green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government — which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.”

Dr. Fu-Manchu does not even make a physical appearance in the story, yet his presence pervades the atmosphere and hysteria of “The Zayat Kiss.” Set in a mad world filled with conspiracy theories, bizarre assassinations, and death traps, there was no way Rohmer’s story could not have been a smashing success when it debuted in print in October 1912. All of the ingredients were there to build a winning formula.

Thursday night, August 15, PulpFest 2019 will offer the first of three public screenings of a complete and pristine print of Carradine’s legendary lost classic. Also featured will be such rarities as the silent FU MANCHU serials made by Stoll Productions in the 1920s. Alongside the lost NBC pilot, these silent chapters are the most faithful adaptations of Sax Rohmer’s works ever attempted. There will be two encore presentations of the lost pilot on Friday afternoon, August 16, and Saturday night, August 17. The silent rarities screened with it during the encore presentations will be unique to each screening. This will allow repeat attendees to maximize their enjoyment. For reasons of copyright control, no copies can be made, distributed, or sold at these free public exhibitions that are open to any attendee of PulpFest 2019.

Join the licensed continuation author of the Fu Manchu thrillers, William Patrick Maynard, for these three very special screenings at PulpFest 2019. You’ll see John Carradine as Fu Manchu for the first time in 67 years and then enjoy the equally rare treat of seeing Fu Manchu serial chapters made nearly a century ago. You’ll bask in shimmering location footage genuinely shot on the streets and alleyways of London — including Limehouse — as it looked in the years when the names of Sax Rohmer and Fu Manchu were on everyone’s breath.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering.

Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(THE MYSTERIOUS DR. FU MANCHU — directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Warner Oland in the title role — was released by Paramount Pictures in 1929. The first talking Fu Manchu movie, it was based on Sax Rohmer’s novel, THE MYSTERY OF DR. FU MANCHU. Set during the Boxer Rebellion in China, Dr. Fu Manchu’s wife and child are killed by foreigners. Enraged, he vows to take his revenge on the British army officers he holds responsible for the killings. The poster advertising the film — one of several — was created by an unknown artist.)