Review By Paul Mount, 3 out of 5 DVD Review
THE FU MANCHU COLLECTION
THE FACE OF FU MANCHU
Directed by Don Sharp
Starring Christopher Lee, Nigel Greene, Tsai Chin, Karin Dor, Howard Marion-Crawford, James Robertson-Justice
THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU
Directed by Don Sharp
Starring Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Howard Marion-Crawford, Rupert Davies, Tsai Chin
THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU
Directed by Jeremy Summers
Starring Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Tsai Chin, Tony Ferrer, Howard Marion-Crawford, Noel Trevarthan, Maria Rohm
Reviewed by Paul Mount
Long, long before the dreaded word ?ranchise?slipped glibly off the tongue of every sharp-suited young movie executive, there were films and there were series of films. Back in the 1960s series of film were cheap and cheerful affairs, often adapted from half-forgotten works of pulp fiction. And trust me, fiction never came much pulpier than Sax Rohmer? tales of the inscrutable Oriental criminal mastermind Fu Manchu and his long-running battles with Scotland Yard? Sir Dennis Nayland-Smith and his pathologist sidekick Dr Petrie. Desperately derivative and blatantly ripping off Conan Doyle? Sherlock Holmes, the tales of Fu Manchu were briefly fashionable at the start of the twentieth-century. Back in the 1960s Christopher (??l do it!? Lee, already familiar to cinema audiences through his recurring role as Dracula (aaaiee!!) pulled back his eyelids, slapped on some makeup and threw himself with, it must be said, some gusto into the role of Fu Manchu in a series of corny, clich?adventure romps which looked as if they were filmed in an afternoon or two with a budget barely running into double figures. Some wise soul has decided these films deserve the DVD treatment although it? hard to see this box set collection appealing to many outside Lee? immediate family and maybe a close circle of friends.
But let? not be hasty. These are actually decent enough films in a rainy-Sunday-I-can?-be-bothered-watching-anything-intelligent sort of way. The first effort, THE FACE OF FU MANCHU is actually quite stylish by 1960s standards. Director Don Sharp makes good use of his low budget and some decent camerawork gives the sagging story about Fu? plans to unleash a deadly nerve gas a bit of a lift. The film even has one or two quite chilling ideas – the gassing of the entire population of an English village is quite nasty and well-realised with gas-masked wearing Police offices and sundry investigators strolling through corpse-littered streets. The sequel BRIDES is less accomplished; the titular Brides are just set-dressing and the familiar plot involves a death ray which, in a sequence attempting to emulate the gassing scene of the first, vaporises an ocean liner called the Windsor Castle, killing every man, woman and yes, child on board. VENGEANCE stretched the formula a bit too far as Fu is a bit cheesed off by Nayland-Smith? interference in his plans and makes it all a bit more personal.
Cheesy and charming in equal measure, the FU MANCHU films (the series continued with two more movies, rarely seen in the UK but available on DVD if you look hard enough) are fast and furious with lots of slappy fight sequences and some nice shots of 1960? London thrown in for us nostalgists. Douglas Wilmer is much better than Nigel Greene as Nayland-Smith and Lee is always good value, even in a role like Fu Manchu which would send today? PC Police screaming through the streets foaming at the mouth. Not exactly recommended but worth a look if you?e got too much money and far too much time.
THE DISCS: Bright, shiny transfers but there? only trailers as extras and not even any subtitles for those too lazy to listen to the dialogue. Shame.