Dr. Fu Manchu, evil genius and possessor of seemingly unlimited financial resources, has pledged to bring about the downfall of western civilization to avenge unknown wrongs of the past. ... See full summary »
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Anna May Wong,
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Dr. Fu Manchu, evil genius and possessor of seemingly unlimited financial resources, has pledged to bring about the downfall of western civilization to avenge unknown wrongs of the past. Only Sir Dennis Nayland-Smith of the Yard is able to thwart his evil plans, ranging from assassination to germ attacks to sparking an all-out war. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
'The Adventures of Fu Manchu' is campy fun from the early days of American tv. As usual, Fu Manchu is played by a white actor with tape on his eyelids... in this case Glen Gordon, who resembles Christopher Lee but without Lee's acting ability. Gordon plays the role stiffly and impassively, which actually works well for this character. Fortunately, the scriptwriters avoid giving Gordon any stereotypical dialogue of the 'Ah, so! Me velly solly!' variety.
Throughout this series, there was a tendency to cast the Oriental roles with white actors whose facial structures looked vaguely Oriental, such as Leonard Strong (who gives a good performance in the opening episode as a subordinate Chinese villain, but whose Chinese make-up isn't very convincing). Weren't there any authentic Orientals available?
The plots of these episodes are painfully repetitious. Every week, fiendish Fu Manchu devises yet another scheme for taking over the world. He has some sort of super-powered television which lets him spy on anybody, anywhere, without the minor inconvenience of video cameras. Every week, Nayland-Smith and his Watson-like assistant Dr Petrie go forth to foil Fu Manchu's latest plot. Every week, Nayland-Smith and Petrie are captured and threatened with Fu Manchu's latest fiendish torture device (or hideous Oriental death). Every week, at the last possible moment, Fu Manchu's Eurasian serving-wench Karamaneh rescues the two Englishmen and helps them foil Fu's fancy finagling. Every week, Nayland-Smith and Petrie return to their bachelor quarters in time to receive a tv transmission from Fu Manchu, who always ends up saying something like this: 'I congratulate you for defeating me THIS time, Nayland-Smith. But I know that you could not have done it without help.' Every week, Fu Manchu makes it clear that he suspects someone in his employ of being disloyal to him. As he says this, Fu Manchu swivels his Sellotaped eyelids to glare suspiciously towards Karamaneh. Yet somehow, in next week's episode, Karamaneh is still on the Fu Manchu payroll, standing by to rescue Nayland-Smith and Petrie from the latest fiendish folderol of fearsome Fu Manchu. Whew!
This series is enjoyable, and less racist than the original Sax Rohmer 'Fu Manchu' novels ... which were always frothing over with frenzied warnings about the 'Yellow Peril'. But these tv episodes are more effective when viewed individually, rather than as a multi-episode marathon. When you view three or more of them in succession, the repetitive scripts become painfully obvious. Why hasn't Fu Manchu flung Karamaneh to his flesh-eating fungus?
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