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Drums of Fu Manchu (1940)

Approved | | Action, Adventure | 15 March 1940 (USA)
The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world. His nemesis, Dr. Nayland Smith, and ... See full summary »

Writers:

(book), (original screenplay) | 5 more credits »
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Directors: John English, William Witney
Stars: Henry Brandon, William Royle, Robert Kellard
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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Gloria Franklin ...
Olaf Hytten ...
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Lal Chand Mehra ...
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...
...
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Prof. Anderson [Ch.5]
Wheaton Chambers ...
Dr. Humphrey [Chs.2-3]
George Pembroke ...
C.W. Crawford
...
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Storyline

The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world. His nemesis, Dr. Nayland Smith, and his associates fight to keep the evil doctor from getting his hands on the keys. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

RUTHLESS DICTATORSHIP (original ad - all caps) See more »

Genres:

Action | Adventure

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

15 March 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fu Manchu  »

Box Office

Budget:

$166,312 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(15 chapters) | (recut)

Sound Mix:

(RCA High Fidelity Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Republic Pictures planned to make a second "Fu Manchu" serial with Henry Brandon reprising the title role. The project was scrapped for diplomatic reasons, after the U.S. allied with China when it entered World War II. Brandon never worked in the serial genre again. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening Credits: The Main Actors are depicted as coming from an incense burner. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Tiovivo c. 1950 (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Yellow Peril In Serial Style
18 October 2005 | by (Biloxi, Mississippi) – See all my reviews

Sax Rohmer (1883-1859) was among the most popular novelists of the early 20th Century. He was particularly well known for his creation of the character Fu Manchu--a truly diabolical Chinese scientist who, along with his equally evil daughter Fa Lo See, sought world domination through the most vicious means possible. In the process, Rohmer virtually created the idea of "the yellow peril" in the American and European mind, and his distinctly racist characterizations would color Western concepts of the far East for half a century.

Rohmer's Fu Manchu has reached the screen on several occasions, perhaps most notably in an unexpectedly sadistic 1932 THE MASK OF FU MANCHU, starring Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy. The 1940 serial was directed by Republic Studio's reliable team of John English and William Witney, and at the time it was felt to propel the genre to a new height; in hindsight, however, it seems fairly obvious that English and Witney's SPY SMASHER and THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL are really the high water mark of Republic serials. Whatever the case, the directing team does indeed give this tale considerable style and drive.

The story is very linear: Fu Manchu (Henry Brandon) is aided by lethal daughter Fah-Lo-Suee (Gloria Franklin) and a host of mind-controlled henchmen in an effort to secure the scepter of Ghengis Kahn--and thereby fulfill an ancient prophecy that will cause all of Asia to rise up under his leadership and get rid of those wretched Anglo-Saxon types for once and all. Needless to say, the Anglo-Saxons, both English and American, take an extremely dim view of the whole thing and set out to thwart his evil designs.

The serial starts out extremely well, with a host of imaginative visuals bolstered by a host of equally imaginative tortures. Unfortunately, Henry Brandon's Fu Manchu proves considerably more interesting than any of the good guys who oppose him, and in consequence the whole thing looses steam long about the fifth chapter and doesn't really regain it until the final third. But Brandon's memorable performance, the often remarkable visual designs, and the impressive fight choreography does make it entertaining throughout--even if you do wind up rooting for Fu Manchu instead of Sir Dennis Naylund Smith (William Royle) and his incredibly tiresome friend Allan Parker (Robert Kellard), who are supposed to be the heroes of the piece.

The whole thing, of course, is just as racist as it can be, and the final chapter is appallingly so. But even though it may cause you to roll your eyes it remains a fun sort of thing for hardcore serial fans, who will likely enjoy it quite a bit. As for the DVD--the film has been remastered, but the picture is rather fuzzy and the sound occasionally muddy as well. The package contains a brief but entertaining and enlightening documentary (described as a commentary) by Richard Valley and a handful of cast biographies for good measure.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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