Vengeance of Fu Manchu

Starring: Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer and Maria Rohm
Momentum Pictures
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: PG
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Our dastardly Chinese master criminal returns to the seat of his ancestors (and a very comfy seat it is too) in a province two days from Shanghai. He fakes an earthquake to seal off access to outsiders, before kidnapping a missionary doctor and his daughter, bringing them in across the mountains. Threatening the daughter, he persuades the doctor to surgically change a person to look like his enemy Assistant Commissioner Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard. Miraculously, 48 hours later the facial paint by numbers is completed, and Fu Manchu arranges a switch whilst Smith is holidaying in Ireland. The real Smith is transported as a prisoner to the Chinese province; meanwhile the impostor returns to London, commits murder and is promptly sentenced to death. The Chinaman intends to do the same to prominent law enforcement officers around the world as a demonstration of his power to the underworld. In this manner he will group all the world's main criminal organisations together under his leadership. But has the Fu Man bitten off more than he can chu? (sorry, I couldn't resist that one)...

Here we have another film based on Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories. All of the main characters return (Douglas Wilmer as the bogus Smith spending half the movie looking like a corpse freshly pulled from the grave), and the format is pretty much the same. Although this is set around the same period as the Sherlock Holmes tales, there is an element of overacting amidst the formal properness of the educated professional characters which reminded me of The Green Hornet with Bruce Lee and particularly the camp sixties Batman series, but without the fun. The many fight sequences are comical without intending to be so. Large curved blades look to be cut from tin and have painted on bloodstains. Each fighter waits until his opponent is ready before attacking, and Fu Manchu's assassin henchmen go down like a ton of bricks under a good old British bunch-of-fives.

Surely this was money for old rope for our very own master of horror, Christopher Lee. He has very little to do, the main requirements for the part apparently being to look evil and occasionally tweak his moustache. Granted, his villainous part is a thinker rather than a doer, but it seems an incredible waste for such an accomplished actor. I'm sorry to say that the best thing about this film is the scenery which at times is stunning. With no extras apart from the trailer, these films do not appear an attractive purchase. Perhaps two films packaged together as a single release might have been worth a tenner of somebody's money.

According to the conclusion of this film, "The World will hear again from Fu Manchu." I feel another review coming on.

Ty Power

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