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The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
The Mask of Fu Manchu The Mask of Fu Manchu The Mask of Fu Manchu
The Mask of Fu Manchu The Mask of Fu Manchu The Mask of Fu Manchu
The Mask of Fu Manchu The Mask of Fu Manchu The Mask of Fu Manchu
You have to get past the bad acting and even worse racism of this pre-code adventure movie to enjoy it, but there is some nice set design and its highlights are Boris Karloff's evil madman of the Orient, Fu Manchu, and his "ugly and insignificant daughter" Fah Lo See, who gets her kicks out of torturing men (played by the the beautiful and significant Myrna Loy). The movie is a good example of a lot of what could be shown in a movie before the Hayes Code censorship started a few years later - torture, kidnapping, forced drugging, opium dens, sadomasochistic sex kicks, homoeroticism, human sacrifice, interracial love, and incitement to kill and rape. It's the sort of stuff you can see on TV today, but it must have been shocking in 1932. The movie also shows White Imperialists plundering the treasures of another culture, but that never seemed to bother Hollywood or the Hayes Code fascists. The racism is unbelievably blatant. Karloff and Loy are both in yellowface makeup, and we see large shirtless black men as slaves. The Brits in the movie claim they will never understand "these Eastern races" and worry that Fu Manchu wants to take their "beautiful white girl." He does. When he's about to sacrifice her he asks the crowd, whose costumes seem to represent men from all over Asia, if they want a maiden like her for their wife, they all cheer their approval. Then he tells them to "Kill the white man and take his women!"

The plot is simple - a British scientist goes to the Gobi Desert to find the lost treasure of Atilla the Hun, including a mask and sword which, if they fall into the hands of diabolical madman Fu Machu, will allow him to empower all of Asia to rise up and conquer the world. Fu Manchu kidnaps the scientist before he goes to China and tortures him (under a large bell) but he refuses to talk. Meanwhile, his daughter Sheila, her boyfriend Terrence, and others, go and dig up the treasures, but most of them are then captured by Fu Manchu. One of the British agents sneaks around searching for Fu Manchu's lair and finds it when he falls through a trap door into an underground dirt chamber where gopher snakes are suspended from wires and other snakes crawl on the floor.

Meahwhile, Terrence is strapped to a table while Fu Manchu concocts a serum he describes as distilled from dragon's blood, the organs of different reptiles, and mixed with a magic brew of the sacred 7 herbs. Among the ingredients of the serum we see glass containers containing baby rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and a live Gila Monster that crawls out of the jar. Fu Manchu takes a tarantula out of a container holding other tarantulas, a Gila Monster, some some small snakes, and another lizard, maybe a Chuckwalla. He sticks a needle in it to add its venom to the serum. Then he picks up some tongs and pulls out a Burmese Python and makes it bite the arm one of his black slaves. (The man dies later from the bite.) Next he draws the slave's blood and adds it to the serum. The serum is used to make Terrence a slave to Fu Manchu's commands.

The rattlesnakes might be red diamond rattlesnakes or maybe western diamondbacks. I don't know what the smaller snakes are. The snakes in the underground chamber are live gopher snakes. One is tied to something to make it hang straight down, and the other is raised up on a wire to make it look more menacing, then it is lowered. A live Burmese Python is used in the serum scene.