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Fu Manchu is hidden with his evil daughter Lin Tang in a lost city he has found in the jungles of South America. He discovers a poison deadly for men through kiss and he abducts ten women to infect them with the poison to destroy his enemies. Then he sends one woman to London to kiss his greatest enemy, the Scotland Yard agent Nayland Smith. Nayland is blinded by the poison and his friend Dr. Petrie travels with him to the jungles in South America to seek out Fu Manchu expecting to find an antidote. They team up with agent Carl Jansen and soon they learn the scheme of Fu Manchu for world domination. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The list of things wrong with this film could fill a book in itself.
The fourth film in the revived Fu Manchu series from hit-and-run international film producer Harry Alan Towers is the first one directed by Jesus (Jess) Franco, a cult icon best known for the staggering quantity of his films, as well as their usually appalling quality. In hindsight, Towers and Franco were destined for each other. Both were specialists in speedy international productions and each usually juggled more than one project at a time.
"Fu Manchu's Kiss of Death" (the shooting title) was filmed back-to-back (or perhaps simultaneously) with the next film in the series "The Castle of Fu Manchu" and shows evidence of having been written on the fly. The script is loosely constructed and constantly sidetracks itself with multiple subplots and far too many characters. The most intrusive involves the a South American bandit chief, whose protracted exploits take up so much screen time that viewers just walking in would think they were in the wrong theater. Probably designed to show off the Brazilian exteriors, it is tempting to say that these sequences look like rejected scenes from "The Wild Bunch", but that would be giving Franco's footage too much credit.
As evidence that Towers was not above ripping off himself, the film opens with a sequence that is a remake of the opening of "Brides of Fu Manchu", with women chained to pillars in an underground hideaway. As in "Brides", one is led to a snake pit but, instead of being lowered in, she is gingerly bitten in the throat by one, thereby becoming the carrier of the title's kiss of death. The contrast between the lighting, staging and sets in these two sequences gives ample testimony of how low the series had fallen in just two years.
The ever-present Maria Rohm (AKA Mrs. Harry Alan Towers) shows up as a jungle missionary wearing a gaucho hat and red leotards. She gets involved in yet another subplot about a proto-Indiana Jones leading a medical expedition. Apparently, this plotline exists only to provide the hero, afflicted with the death kiss, with a miraculous cure at the last minute.
While the rest of the cast was having fun in the Brazilian jungles, stars Christopher Lee and Richard Greene never leave the studio in Madrid, Spain that was home to all the film's interiors. Guest star Shirley Eaton appears in one brief scene that appears to be an outtake from one of the two Su-Muru films she was making for Towers at the time. (The second was also directed by Franco.)
It's hard to believe that this film (retitled "Kiss and Kill") got major USA playdates in 1968 as a solo feature.
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