Tuesday, 16 March 2021

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu

The Manchu Candidate

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu
UK/West Germany 1967
Directed by Jeremy Summers
Indicator Blu Ray Zone B

The Vengeance of Fu Manchu is the third of the five Fu Manchu films produced by Harry Alan Towers, starring Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu, Tsai Chin as his daughter Lin Chan and Howard Marion-Crawford as Dr. Petrie... and it can be found in the new Blu Ray restorations presented in Indicator’s recent, wonderfully put together boxed set. Along with these three regular actors of the series, this was also Douglas Wilmer’s second and final go around as Fu Manchu’s nemesis Sir Dennis Nayland Smith. Other notable cast members are popular actor Tony Ferrer, Maria Rohm, Horst Frank and Peter Carsten (who I spotted straight away from his roles in The Quiller Memorandum, reviewed here and Dark Of The Sun).

Also hopping aboard this one is director Jeremy Summers and this may or may not be the reason why, out of the ones I’ve rewatched in my first revisit to these since the early 1970s, this one seems the most tedious of these films to me, so far... although I can’t imagine the next two, directed by the great Jess Franco, can be anything other than interesting, no matter how bad they might have turned out. I’ll know soon enough, I guess.

This one has a plot which, in this case, centres more against the lead protagonist figure of Nayland Smith. Fu Manchu comes up with a plan to replace reputable police commissioners and important, law abiding types with surgically altered doubles who will be compelled through the powers of the mind to commit murder and die in their place, thus publically cementing his reputation as the new super criminal of the world. However, this does seem to be his secondary motivation and though he does successfully replace Nayland Smith, discredits him and sees his double publically trialled and executed for murder, you get the impression that it’s just Smith who Fu Manchu is interested in... the rest of the scheme is just icing on the cake.

Ironically, Wilmer, who was so wooden in the previous film, actually plays the character more naturally in this one, making him a more interesting screen presence this time around (although still no great substitute for Nigel Green in the first movie, The Face Of Fu Manchu, reviewed here). Perhaps this is a quite deliberate choice because, when he is taking the role of his trance-like, unspeaking, hypnotised double, he really is quite wooden and stoic but... that’s because he’s supposed to be and it, of course, further pushes the contrast between the two iterations of the man behind the face, so to speak.

Of course, to get the plastic surgery done right, Fu Manchu needs to once again kidnap an expert in the field and threaten his daughter with torture to acquire said scientist’s cooperation so, yeah, the template for this movie doesn’t really deviate that much from the last two. Which, in a way, doesn’t do it any favours because the previous two, directed by Don Sharp, were much more creative with the shot designs and also a heck of a lot more pacier. There are the requisite amount of fisticuffs in this one but they don’t do much to soften the dullness here, to be honest.

That being said, there are some nice little details to watch out for like the fact that Smith is, at one point, on his way to set up the organisation ‘Interpol’ and, when the plastic surgeon who can somehow alter the skin pigment as well as the face of his subject (seriously folks, this film is ridiculous) is kidnapped from his practice... you get a nice look at a standing Shaw Brothers set. And there are, to be sure, the odd touches of creativity thrown into the mix here and there...

Such as the transition from a close up shot of a detail in a burning village to a shot of a fiery brazier. Or, when the good doctor is performing surgery on the face of the stocky Chinese lad who will unbelievably be transformed into Douglas Wilmer, focusing on the various, blood stained instruments being put into a container of water to aid the mind into imagining the gory details which have been deliberately left off screen.

There’s also a nice, if more traditional score to this installment by Malcolm Lockyer, who provided the music for the movie adaptation Dr. Who And The Daleks, which fits the action quite well. That being said, I would have liked Indicator, who are a very thorough company, to have had the option of putting the German print on here too, which had a replacement score by Gert Wilden... that’s got to be worth hearing (I think I may have one cue from this by him on a compilation CD of his scores from Krimi Films somewhere).

And there’s not a heck of a lot more I have to say about this one. Once again this film gives us no clue as to how Fu Manchu and Lin Chan escaped death at the end of the previous movie and, once again, the film shows them dying in a big explosion for the third time, followed by Christopher Lee’s face superimposed on the background proclaiming his usual line of, “The world has not seen the last of Fu Manchu”. Actually, the one other thing I could say is that, as you expect from this wonderful boutique label, the extras on here a pretty good and there’s a brilliant, informative talk on here about Christopher Lee’s career path leading up to and during the production of these films, which is supplied by film historian Jonathan Rigby who, frankly, is always worth listening to... and his books are definitely worth picking up too. So, yeah, The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu is certainly not the best of these films and I wouldn’t really recommend it but, I am looking forward to re-discovering just what Jess Franco did for the next two. Once again... the world has not seen the last of my Fu Manchu blog reviews!

The Harry Alan Towers Fu Manchu Cycle at NUTS4R2

 The Face Of Fu  Manchu

The Brides Of Fu Manchu

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu

The Blood Of Fu Manchu

The Castle Of Fu Manchu 


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