Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 2)
Christopher Lee’s third Fu Manchu outting features colorful photography, no doubt aided by the vibrant Eastmancolor stock, with location shooting in Ireland and Hong Kong, with interior shots at both the Shaw Brothers and Ardmore Studios. The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) retains the talents of Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith) Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), and Howard Marion-Crawford (Dr. Petrie). Director Don Sharp moved on and this film was helmed by English director Jeremy Summers (The Saint TV Series, 1962-1969). Harry Alan Towers also produced and very loosely adapted the screenplay from the second to last Sax Rohmer novel Re-Enter Fu Manchu (1957).
I like the story in this one. Here we have Fu Manchu waging vengeance against old time advisary Nayland Smith and conjuring up a plan that involves creating surgically altered drones as replicants of heads-of-police in the nations of the world. Interpol is introduced and there is a bit of intrigue added with agents from Scotland Yard, the FBI and the Sûreté investigating Fu Manchu shenanigans. Unfortunately, the duplication concept was better executed by director Byron Haskin in a memorable Outer Limits Episode The Hundred Days of the Dragon (September 23, 1963). The main problem with this film is nothing really happens and seeing Fu Manchu blown up at the end (for the third time) has become tiresome. Why not have Fu Manchu escape in a balloon (or anything), or as Christopher Lee pointed out use the original Sax Rohmer stories [endings]?
An amazing pre-CGI accomplishment: This man becomes an Englishman in a seamless transformation.
Still, TVOFM is a lot of fun. The international cast helps. Horst Frank (seen in The Head, 1959) is a poor man’s Klaus Kinski, but he’s good as a criminal world representative and in this film he’s dressed like he should be in a Sergio Leone western. Lee and Chin are terrific together. Tsai Chin ((周采芹) (b. 1936) is a fascinating talent with contributions in acting, directing, teaching, music, stage and writing, with a career spanning five decades. She appeared in two Bond films (most recently Casino Royale, 2006), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), The Joy Luck Club (1993), in Michael Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), and recently in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014). Her recording the Ding Dong Song (1959) was also a No. 1 hit in Hong Kong.
Here, Fu Manchu reveals the undoing of Nayland Smith to Ronny Moss (Horst Frank).
TVOFM is worth a look especially if you have seen the first two films. I doubt the movie would stand on its own as it assumes you are familiar with the characters. My print came from a WB Archive Collection DVD. The print looks and sounds fine. Portions of this film may be dubbed or looped. I noticed in some scenes a bit of lip action not synched with the dialogue.
This is the one Fu Manchu film I am certain that I had never seen. I don’t think it got air play in the 70’s and 80’s and it may have been one stored away in the WB vaults. Up next I’ll take a look at the Jess Franco entries and the last two films in Lee’s Fu Manchu repertoire.