Grisly strangulations in London alert Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard to the possibility of the fiendish Fu Manchu may not be dead after all, even though Smith witnessed his execution. A ...
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Betta St. John,
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John Llewellyn Moxey
Grisly strangulations in London alert Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard to the possibility of the fiendish Fu Manchu may not be dead after all, even though Smith witnessed his execution. A killer spray made from Tibetan berries seems to be involved and clues keep leading back to the Thames. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
As the two soldiers stop for a cup of tea, one leans his rifle against the table behind them. It then slowly falls over, totally ignored by the two men as they discuss the weather. See more »
[broadcasting by radio]
Attention! Attention! This is Fu Manchu. Stand by for an important message. I repeat, this is Fu Manchu. You know now that I must be obeyed, that I am all-powerful. In two more days I shall give my commands. They will be carried out at once... or ten thousand shall die. Ten thousand. And one particular man. That is all.
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In the light of its considerable reputation, this is a big disappointment. It's the old tale of Fu Manchu, the Yellow Peril, trying to take over the world. The racism of this is so self-evident it's probably not worth mentioning, although the blazing red whenever the Chinese are around, and the worker-like garb of Manchu's henchmen, suggest some sort of allegory of Communism - or is this story of a megalomaniacal, world-domination-lusting, Chinaman a parody of such portentousness?
I really wanted to like this film, but there's so much wrong with it. It's been called a spoof, but if so, the joke's on me. The 1920s setting is somewhat rudimentary - a few contemporary cars and hats in what looks like a very 1960s London (although the reviewer below suggests it is in fact Dublin). Far from camp, the plot is played so straight as to be unenjoyable. Every absurdity and implausibility, rather than hurtling us into the giddy realms of fantasy, rather lumbers us in a plot of cliched hackery.
The acting is abysmal - I've never gotten the point of Christopher Lee (he never had Peter Cushing's middle-aged anguish), although his plummy English tones in the supposed role of a fiendish Chinaman, offers some amusement, as does his daft moustache; worst of all is Nigel Green as the oaklike hero, Nayland Smith - a man so unexpressive and graceless should be funny, but here is dull, slowing down the film at every turn. Only FU Manchu's very sexy daughter, Tsai Chin, enthralls, her subservience to her father suggesting perverse depths of sado-masochism.
This is all the more frustrating in that the film has merit in abundance. The colour schemes, costumes, set-designs and compositions are frequently gorgeous, if sometimes let down by leaden direction; the afoementioned incestuous undertones in the relationship between Fu and daughter; a splendid ironising, despite the racism, of the noble West - Nayland Smith is quite clearly insane, and with his Chinese ladyservant, and death mask ornaments, seems more of a mirror image than a foil for Fu Manchu (there is also something wrong with chemists that research into a concoction that can wipe out whole peoples - there is a RIVER KWAI-like frisson in the plight of the Professor who ironically, and enthusiastically, aids his captor); there is a splendidly directed and designed car chase, reminiscent, as Tom Milne notes, of silent serials.
Best of all is the setting of this grotesque potboiler in placid England. This discrepancy gives the film an AVENGERS-like chill on occasion, especially the amazing scene where Fu Manchu first exercises his power, and wipes out an entire village - spinetingling, chilling, and much more frightening than a similar scene in GOLDFINGER.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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