The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969)


Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Christopher Lee, Tsai Chin, Maria Perschy, Howard Marion-Crawford, Gunther Stoll, Rosalba Neri, Jose Manuel Martin, Richard Green
Music: Charles Camilleri
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

A bit more mayhem from the ‘most evil man on earth’. The Castle Of Fu Manchu is the fifth, final and weakest of the Harry Alan Towers series of Fu Manchu films. Like the previous film, The Blood Of Fu Manchu, this film is directed by the inimatable Jess Franco. Even with Franco’s skewed imput, this film is thin, and the budgetary restraints are obvious. The film starts with borrowed footage from A Night To Remember, and then recycles footage from The Brides Of Fu Manchu. This results in the sinking of the Titanic again, and the destruction of Fu Manchu’s secret lair once again. But this cobbled together intro is in fact, Fu Manchu’s demonstration of his newest weapon. Here he shows the world he can control the oceans of the world. In fact, it is not meant to be the Titanic. It is another cruise liner sailing the tropical seas of the Carribean. Fu Manchu has created icebergs in the Carribean, and of course, the ship hits the iceberg and sinks. But you guessed that, didn’t you!

Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard (Richard Green) and his old pal Doctor Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) are holidaying in scotland while Fu Manchu’s evil scheme is played out. But their holiday is cut short when a message from the Home Office orders them back to London at once.

Back in London, Homeland Security have been receiving reoccuring radio messages from Fu Manchu. He says, ‘In the Carribean I gave a demonstration of the new and destructive weapon I possess!’ Fu Manchu threatens to strike again in fourteen days unless the heads of the major powers agree to his demands. In his transmission, Fu doesn’t actually say what his demands are; only that the leaders are to agree to them. But as Fu Manchu has proven himself to have a megalomaniacal streak in the past four films, it’s fair enough to assume his price tag would be steep.

The intro sequence to this film also showed the destruction of Fu Manchu’s secret lair, so he needs a new one. And for his weapon to work he needs two things – large amounts of water – and the other is large quantities of opium. Apparently the opium is somehow transformed into ice crystals and this creates the icebergs, or some other such mumbo-jumbo. To be honest, the ‘science’ in this film is pretty flakey. So ‘water’ and ‘opium’ are Fu’s requirements, and it just so happens that these items are in plentiful supply in Anatolia in Turkey. To make this a reality, Fu Manchu’s evil daughter, Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) meets with a local Turkish ganglord and opium dealer, Omar Pasher. Together thay form an alliance and plot to storm the Govenor of Anatolia’s castle.

The incursion works like clockwork. Pasher’s men kill the guards at the main gates to the castle, and then Fu Manchu’s army of evil minions do the rest. Fu Manchu has a new base of operations, but he needs one man to bring his reign of terror to fruition. He is Professor Herades. Fu Manchu has Herades already held prisoner, but Herades has a terminal heart condition which limits his usefulness.

Meanwhile, back in England, Nayland Smith and petrie begin to nut together the piece’s of Fu Manchu’s scheme and deduce that he must be hiding out in Turkey.

Richard Green is Nayland Smith once again, and thanfully he gets a litle more to do in this film than he did in The Blood Of Fu Manchu. But the Franco films concentrate far more on Fu Manchu than any one of the good guys. Christopher Lee phones through another acceptable performance, but he isn’t really stretching himself. Rosalba Neri has a flashy role as Omar Pasher’s number one minion. In the film, she gets to wear some unusal striped suits and hats.

At the start of the review, I mentioned that this film was directed by Jess Franco. Most fans of B-grade or cult cinema will be familiar with his work. But The Castle Of Fu Manchu, while having a few small Franco touches isn’t really indicative of his work.

This film is pretty bad. Franco tries hard to do what he can to cobble together a decent story but there is way too much padding. There is one sequence which is almost laughable in it’s attempt to create tension with no budget. Fu Manchu and an assortment of characters stare at a room full of bubbling test tubes and beakers ans shout out warnings. But the test tubes look the same from one scene to the next. It doesn’t look like things are heating up. But the scene is well edited – there simply wasn’t an adequate budget to provide some convincing scientific equipment or sets.

The film is really is the nadir of the series. It’s hard to go down further when you’re already beyond the bottom of the barrel. It’s not surprising that no further films were made in the series.

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