The Devil Brides Out
The Brides Of Fu Manchu
UK/West Germany 1966
Directed by Don Sharp
Indicator Blu Ray Zone B
The second of the Harry Alan Towers produced Fu Manchu films, as put out in a beautiful new boxed edition from the Indicator label, The Fu Manchu Cycle 1965 - 1969, is The Brides Of Fu Manchu. Although, it has to be said, that the brides in question, who suddenly lose their free will in the presence of Lin Tang (the movie name of the daughter of Fu Manchu here), are somewhat ineffective in their use and employment and are really there merely to be hostages to get the various brides’ ‘science expert fathers’ to cooperate with the diabolical doctor.
Once again Lin Tang is played by Tsai Chin with Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu himself. The only other ‘regular’ back in this one is Howard Marion-Crawford as Nayland Smith’s faithful assistant Dr. Petrie. Alas, Nigel Green chose not to reprise his role of Smith in this one and instead Douglas Wilmer, who was known for his lead role in one of many Sherlock Holmes television shows, took over for both this film and the next one. Alas, although he’s a solid British authority figure, he doesn’t have the brutal, no nonsense charm that Green had brought to the role and his absence is sorely missed here. Green seemed to ooze gravitas where Wilmer seems just a little light weight in comparison.
Rounding out the main cast are Marie Versini as one of the scientist's daughters and Heinz Drache as her boyfriend (who is young enough to get into more fist fights). They both do a fine job although, it has to be said, even though Marie is actually French, her accent in this seems to be more of an exaggerated French accent than anything authentic... I’m wondering now if she was re-dubbed to sound more like a stereotype of UK and American expectations of such. Guess I won’t know anytime soon.
Don Sharp also returned to direct this installment and it’s therefore a quality looking production, considering the stunted budgets these things had. Once again he uses a lot of interesting angles, such as looking down onto a fight scene to give you a sense of what’s going on before cutting back to the standard shots of people hitting each other. He also seems to really favour vertical sections in this film. The first shot of the movie, after the tacked on American prologue which replays highlights from the final scenes of the last film (if you so choose that option on this new disc), is a scene where actor Rupert Davies is being taken through a tunnel by dacoits and the sides of the shot are in darkness, making a mobile phone sized shape of the corridor on-screen and framed vertically by black. When the shot changes, as he is pushed through a door and everything opens up, the columns inside the latest ‘lair of Fu Manchu’ continues to push the idea of verticals.
Indeed, the various prison cells housing the brides in this are also used by the director to emphasis the verticality of this crazy world and there’s a lovely shot where we see one character through the bars in front of the screen talking to another in a cell which dovetails onto her own on the left... so you have the background character talking from behind one set of bars to the foreground character behind her own set of bars framing all that. It all helps give the shot a huge amount of depth and perspective.
Another thing he does to push the contrast of the depth, like he did in the previous movie, is to pitch foreground objects such as the back of one actor, knocking out one part of the screen, against the rest of the shot where the real action or focus is. It’s nice stuff and really gives the films a certain look to them.
The plot is extremely similar to the previous movie, with Fu Manchu this time developing a radio transmitter than can destroy a whole city if he so wishes... although it needs to be perfected somewhat by the various scientists he kidnaps. Once again though, Fu Manchu’s biggest enemies are his propensity to announce to the world what he intends to do days before he actually does it (thus given his opponents time to prepare a way to combat it) and, also, to work to a deadline which is not doing any favours to his servants who are trying to perfect and improve the range and power of his machine. One of whom is actor Burt Kwouk, seen in countless James Bond and Inspector Clouseau movies ("Kato, you fool!"), who actually disobeys Fu Manchu at the end of this one, getting a bullet in the back from his master for his trouble which, alas for the main antagonist, accidentally brings about the demise of his somewhat vague scheme even quicker.
Like the previous movie it’s quite fast paced and, at just over an hour and a half in length, doesn’t quite get to overstay its welcome. The music is, perhaps, a bit less interesting than the last film. This time it’s the contribution of a composer I don’t know, Bruce Montgomery, who did a fair number of the ‘Doctor’ and ‘Carry On’ films in his time. It’s not exactly subtle but, I guess that wasn’t in the brief. I notice, though, that it’s conducted here by Philip Martell, who was heading up the music department for Hammer films.
And... it’s a fine entertaining film with not much innovation in it, although I did enjoy that a minor plot point was, well, in the words of one of the characters... “For that we need the co-operation of the British Broadcasting Company.” I wonder if Nayland Smith and Petrie had to be pay them a licence fee in order for them to assist in jamming the frequency of Fu Manchu’s death machine this time around. The Brides Of Fu Manchu is all a bit of nonsense and a good, fun film. As usual for the Indicator label, the disc is loaded with extras including another nice introduction to author Sax Rohmer, this time around by that stalwart of British film criticism and horror fiction Kim Newman, who I always enjoy in these kinds of documentary extras. And that, as they say, is that. Once again, Fu Manchu heralds his own return from death as a 'voice over' message to Smith at the end of the movie. And so, like Fu Manchu, I will simply say, the world has not heard the last of NUTS4R2’s Fu Manchu reviews.
The Harry Alan Towers Fu Manchu Cycle at NUTS4R2The Castle Of Fu Manchu