Action, Adventure

The Blood of Fu Manchu / The Castle of Fu Manchu, Double Feature (1968, 1969)

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Blu-ray Distributed By: Blue Underground

Initial Release: 1968, 1969

Blu-ray Release: May 30, 2017

Director: Jess Franco

Rating: UnRated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything starring Christopher Lee…including this Fu Manchu Double Feature.

People reading this will most likely fall into two camps: Those of you who are fans of Fu Manchu, and those who aren’t. Consider me part of the second group that only considers “Fu Manchu” to be a kind of facial hair style. I’m only partially joking. I’m aware that the character, created by Sax Rohmer, has been explored in most major media, beginning in the 1913 novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu.

The character has been celebrated in at least fourteen films (my count could be off by a film or two) but not without also being harshly criticized as figure of anti-Asian racism. Blue Underground has packaged two of these films in a nice double-bill starring the legendary Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings, The Wicker Man) as the title villain, and both directed by Jess Franco.

The Blood of Fu Manchu Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Unrated European Version! 
From his secret lair deep within the South American jungle, international super-villain Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee of COUNT DRACULA) and his sadistic daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) reveal their latest diabolical plot for world domination: ten beautiful women are infected with an ancient poison so deadly that one kiss from their lips will bring instant death and lead to a global plague. Now the Asian madman’s nemesis, Nayland Smith (Richard Greene of TALES FROM THE CRYPT), must desperately hunt an antidote in a savage land where rape and torture reign and the ultimate evil lies in THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU. 

Maria Rohm (VENUS IN FURS) and Shirley Eaton (GOLDFINGER) co-star in this wild Fu Manchu feature written and produced by Harry Alan Towers (EUGENIE) and directed by the one and only Jess Franco (VAMPYROS LESBOS). Also known as KISS AND KILL, AGAINST ALL ODDS, and KISS OF DEATH, Blue Underground presents THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU in High Definition, complete with additional scenes of nudity and violence!

The Castle of Fu Manchu Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Legendary Asian Crime Lord Is Back… And International Evil Has A Chilling New Home! 
Christopher Lee (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) returns as the diabolical super-villain who, along with his sadistic daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin of CASINO ROYALE), creates a fiendish new chemical weapon that will turn the seas into a giant block of ice. But when his archenemy Nayland Smith (Richard Greene of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD) tracks the madman’s trail of kidnapping, murder and massive global destruction, he himself becomes trapped in Fu Manchu’s impenetrable lair of cruelty. Can any of the world’s top secret agents (including a wild performance by Jess Franco) now stop the cold-blooded terror that lives in THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU? 

Maria Perschy (THE GHOST GALLEON) and Rosalba Neri (99 WOMEN) co-star in this notorious sequel directed by Jess Franco (THE BLOODY JUDGE) that marked Christopher Lee’s final performance as the infamous Chinese madman. Now Blue Underground presents THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU in High Definition, packed with Extras for a disc full of Fu Manchu mayhem!

BIG PICTURE THOUGHTS

The biggest challenge with this release is for people discovering these films for the first time. Blood and Castle represent parts 4 & 5 in a five film series starring Christopher Lee. In order to be completely caught up in the series, it really helps to see The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), and The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) prior to beginning Blood. At the time of writing this review, I still have not seen the previous entries and the challenge that ensued created an inability to understand the primary opposition between Fu Manchu and his adversary, protagonist Nayland Smith.

Blood begins with Fu Manchu concocting a plot to send poisonous vixens to all of his worldly enemies. Why does he have so many enemies? You don’t know unless you’ve seen the previous movies and Franco gets right down to business showing us a torture chamber with scantily clad and naked women in chains. Shortly thereafter, the women are dispatched around the globe and one of them is delivered to the house of Nayland Smith. Fu Manchu’s plan works perfectly as the beautiful woman succeeds in kissing Mr. Smith and passing on the deadly venom. Smith instantly goes blind and the race begins to find a cure.

That sets up the central problem with The Blood of Fu Manchu. If Nayland Smith is the “James Bond” of this series, he is immediately incapacitated and film plays more like a Bond film without James Bond. Other characters are introduced to help carry the weight of the film’s narrative, including an Indiana Jones type adventurer named Carl Jansen (Gotz George), and rogue criminal Sancho Lopez (Ricardo Palacios), but these characters only further confuse the non-initiated and leave us wondering who we’re ultimately supposed to be rooting on.

I won’t mince words as I find Jess Franco to be a lazy filmmaker. I said as much in my review of the blu-ray release of Daughter of Dracula. But under the producing control of Harry Alan Towers, Franco seems to be a bit more on his game. He’s a smart guy and certainly has talent, but he still makes movies on the fast and cheap. One primary example of this is in Blood’s depiction of the poisonous transfusion between the venomous vixens and the bite from the South American snakes. Franco zooms the camera in on the snake at the moment the serpent is to bite the female breast. Only the snake looks incredibly passive and turns away from the actress as she shrieks in agony and despair. Now that’s acting!

The Castle of Fu Manchu fairs a little bit better. Fu Manchu has some incredible freezing device and once again sets forth to take over the world. The plot is a bit more structured and the battle lines a bit more defined. However, Franco seems to be restrained this time as his excesses in female nudity and violence are nonexistent. The fifth and final film in the franchise plays more straight forward and mainstream but this proves to be both it’s best asset and failure.

THE DISC

Extras Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’ve avoided the topic of racism in this review because I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time on a college level dissertation. However, such a topic would be incredibly fascinating to explore and is only slightly touched upon in the supplements. Although that is disappointing, what is offered is brief but highly entertaining and informative.

THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU Extras:

  • The Rise of Fu Manchu – Interviews with Director Jess Franco, Producer Harry Alan Towers, and Stars Christopher Lee, Tsai Chin, & Shirley Eaton
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Poster & Still Gallery 

THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU Extras:

  • The Fall of Fu Manchu – Interviews with Director Jess Franco, Producer Harry Alan Towers, and Stars Christopher Lee & Tsai Chin
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Poster & Still Gallery

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

It’s middle of the road, drive-in schlock, but you do get Christopher Lee playing an over-the-top “Dr. Evil” type villain and wearing eye prosthetic makeup that gives him “squinty” Asian eyes. Yes, that is incredibly racist, and if that’s the kind of thing that bothers you, then you don’t have to buy this blu-ray. But if you can watch a film and realistically acknowledge that the artistic choices made with the character and casting are considered offensive by today’s standards, you might be able to enjoy the film on merits beyond the surface problems. That doesn’t mean you support racism. It just means you’re willing to experience films as they are and draw your own conclusions. Personally, I’m hoping Blue Underground acquires the first three films in the series and releases a complete box set that explores all sides of the character and his legacy.

I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in the Fu Manchu series to watch them in order, starting with The Face of Fu Manchu and work your way up to this decent and recommended release by Blue Underground.

Author

- who has written 67 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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