Franco Friday #50: The Castle of Fu Manchu
Wow? There are now reviews for fifty Jess Franco films on this blog. Hot damn! This is just plain crazy. I only have 5 more to go before I end this series. Don't worry, they aren't all as dull as these lame-o Fu Manchu movies, I promise. Okay, I can't really promise you that.
The Castle of Fu Manchu
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Christopher Lee, Richard Greene, Howard Marion-Crawford, Gunther Stoll, Rosalba Neri, Maria Perschy
Fu Manchu (played by Christopher Lee) and his crazy daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) are back to take over the world. This time they are using a machine that can control the temperature of water anywhere on the planet. They manage to sink a huge ship sailing in the Caribbean by generating an iceberg in its path. He contacts the leaders of the world and threatens them with obliteration unless they bow down to him. Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) is once again called in to deal with this situation.
Lin Tang makes a deal with some drug dealers, led by Omar Pashu (Jose Manuel Martin) and his deadly cross-dresser named Lisa (played by Rosalba Neri), to help her steal a huge supply of opium. They break into the castle of the governor of Anatolia where there is enough opium to control half the world’s supply. Once they take control of the castle, Fu Manchu shows up, double crosses Omar, and kidnaps Lisa. He takes the castle as his hideout and all that delicious opium for himself. Then Fu Manchu gets high, so high. I mean like totally wasted.
Next, Fu Manchu captures Dr. Curt Kessler (played by Gunther Stoll) and fellow physician, Dr. Ingrid Kauff (Maria Perschy), in order to force them to save the life of Professor Heracles (Gustavo Re) with an experimental heart transplant procedure because they need him to make crystals or whatever. In order to show the doctors that he means business, Fu Manchu destroys a dam and causes a great flood. They agree to the operation to save Heracles and it is booooooring. Nayland Smith finally shows up to stop Fu Manchu’s broadly evil and insidiously vague plan.
The cast and the skill of the filmmakers save this mess of a film. I love the lighting; there are purples, reds, and greens all over the place. The always reliable Manuel Merino did the cinematography. It’s good to see Gunther Stoll from What Have You Done to Solange? and The Bloodstained Butterfly again. The guy had an incredible screen presence. He's almost completely wasted here. Jess Franco himself is on hand as a fez-wearing inspector who provides Nayland Smith with some important information. Maria Perschy of The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll and Hunchback of the Morgue is here too. Yay!
What can I say, the first few minutes of The Castle of Fu Manchu are just... explosively bad. By using footage from other films, Franco manages to just embarrass himself and make the viewer feel stupid. Fu Manchu sank the Titanic? Really? Give me a fucking break, duder. Well, if you can get past the opening 6 minutes or so (and I doubt many people have), what's left? A very unusual film, that's what. Castle becomes a ponderous travelogue mixed with tepid intrigue but I mean that as a compliment. There is also so much pseudoscience and mechanical mumbo jumbo thrown at you from the script that it's just baffling.
The Castle of Fu Manchu wasn't as bad as I’d read from other reviewers but that’s not saying much. If it weren’t for the uneven pacing, I could give this film a recommendation with lots of conditions. Unfortunately, this just feels like a bunch of leftover bullshit padded with stock footage and bland dialog. I won’t say the film is a complete waste of time (NO NUDITY!) but yeah, this is definitely non-essential Franco viewing. Eh, where else can you see Rosalba Neri wearing a fez or mowing down pajama-wearing motherfuckers with a Tommy gun?
“A gentleman never takes his clothes off in public!”
“Send a warning to the phosphorus!”
After threatening to do this episode for 2 years, Brad and I finally get down with Rob Zombie's Halloween. And oh yeah, there will be butt or blood or butt-blood. Whatever! Check it out.
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Franco Friday #49: The Blood of Fu Manchu
I was gonna review Mansion of the Living Dead but you know what? I don’t need to see Lina Romay burying her face in a woman’s -you know- gothic cavern. So fuck it, I’m gonna review a Fu Manchu movie even though I don't think I'm going to like it. Hey, it’s October. Happy Francoween or whatever. Aren’t you glad you read my blog? Well, I’m glad you do.
The Blood of Fu Manchu
Directed by Jess Franco
Christopher Lee, Richard Greene, Howard Marion-Crawford, Gotz George, Maria Rohm
Holy racial stereotypes, this plot is complicated! The evil Fu Manchu (played by Christopher Lee) has kidnapped a group of lovely ladies in order to carry out his plan. What is his plan? To master the world, of course! Fu Manchu and his daughter, Lin Tang (Tsai Chin), use the bodies of these fine ass bitches to be vessels for a terrible poison, delivered upon his enemies with their kisses.
Meanwhile, an archeologist named Carl Jansen (Gotz George) is determined to find the lost city of Whateverthefuck where Fu Manchu now calls his secret hideout. He and fellow archeologist Dr. Wagner are attacked by Fu Manchu’s minions and the doctor is killed. When Jansen attempts to meet up with Ursula Wagner (Maria Rohm), the niece of the dead doc, he gets arrested for his partner’s murder.
Double meanwhile, in London, Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) is one of Fu Manchu’s intended victims. One of his women, Celeste (Loni von Friedl), kisses poor Nayland but he doesn’t immediately drop dead as intended, he just goes blind. Knowing he only has a short time left before the poison kills him, Nayland intends to find Fu Manchu and stop his evil plan.
Making things even more difficult for poor old Fu Manchu is a bandit named Sancho Lopez (Ricardo Palacios) who likes to steal his supplies. One of Fu Manchu’s ladies shows up to the town where Lopez is raping and pillaging. She begins to dance in a "sensuous manner". Her target is Lopez but before she can deliver the death kiss, the bandito psycho shoots her. Since that plan was a magnificent failure, Lin Tang and a small gang of Fu’s soldiers raid the town and kill everyone except Lopez. Wha? They torture Lopez until he agrees to work for Fu Manchu.
Because he’s such a good chess player, the charges against Jansen are dropped. He meets up with Urusula and tells her about her uncle. They decide to travel back to where they were ambushed and they meet up with Nayland on the road. Now it’s a race against time or something because when the moon is full, Nayland will die and Fu Manchu’s plan will be complete. You see, he intends to kill millions with an airborne version of the poison if the world does not bow to him. Holy shit, I still have half an hour of movie left.
Did the world really need more Fu Manchu in 1968? Did Maria Rohm really have to dress like a dang Boy Scout? I have absolutely zero interest in the Fu Manchu character but I thought I’d give this flick a go. Christopher Lee’s voice (as usual) is amazing. Every line he speaks is friggin’ quote worthy: “The moon is full, the moon of life, let her taste the kiss… of death.” The only person in the cast who even comes close to stealing his fire is Tsai Chin. She is awesomely evil and I’m actually more afraid of her than Fu. It’s because she’s a woman and women are scary!
The cinematography and editing are both great plus there some decent action (let me emphasize the word “decent”), half-naked beautiful women in chains, and gong-banging! The plot definitely starts to meander after the first hour. The writers just keep throwing more and more confusing shit at the viewer but they eventually run out of steam. The film has a decent score from Daniel White, there's lots of Jess Franco-isms that you might dig, and the rest of the cast is pretty fun. In the end, The Blood of Fu Manchu is kind of drab but pretty okay and I am sort of glad I watched it.
“They tell me you can dance. Tonight, you will dance for the last time.”