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What a difference a decent transfer makes. For ages only viewable in muddy, heavily cut, nearly unwatchable prints, The Castle of Fu Manchu is now available, thanks to Blue Underground, in all of its colorful, zoom-laden glory. The last of producer Harry Alan Towers' five-film Fu Manchu series, and generally considered to be the worst, The Castle of Fu Manchu is actually a fun, trashy time waster, and far better than the previous film in the series, The Blood of Fu Manchu, which was burdened by a tedious bandito sub plot that dragged the film to a grinding halt. Directed with a certain pulpy vitality by the highly erratic but occasionally brilliant Jess Franco, Castle has a tacky comic book verve that is hard to resist, and that is certainly more entertaining than many of the expensive, highly touted bombs that Hollywood has been dropping lately. Contrary to what others have reported on this site, Christopher Lee is in excellent form, delivering his lines with distinctive aplomb and offering a stunning, iconographic series of facial expressions as he attempts to overact under the restrictive 'Oriental' make-up. The great Tsai Chin (soon to be seen as 'Auntie' in Memoirs of a Geisha), as Fu's devoted, sadistic daughter, Lin Tang, is terrific as always, and looks particularly fetching in her white Hejab. Best of all, Rosalba Neri shows up as a tough, Fez-topped lesbian, of whom Fu says "Keep her alive. She might be useful to us. She fights like a man." Peter Welbeck's screenplay may be incomprehensible rubbish, but they don't write lines like that anymore.
The film that was to be the final entry in the new Fu Manchu series from
international quickie film financier Harry Alan Towers made its belated
theatrical appearance four years after it was made. In the USA, it played
the bottom of the bill on the drive-in theater circuits. It crept into
theaters sheepishly, victim of the commercial and critical thrashing given
to its predecessor. The word in fan circles was that "Castle of Fu Manchu"
was a new low, even worse than what had come before. It would be years
before many of these same fans were able to see the film, which rapidly
disappeared into obscurity until resurrected from its public domain limbo by
the home video market. This film's non-performance at the world's box
offices effectively killed the series: the contracted sixth Fu manchu film
was never made.
On a technical level, "Castle" is a notch below even the low standards established by its predecessor. The shadows of the camera crew are visible in some scenes. Director Jess Franco's chronic zoom photography is more annoying and lazy here. Parts of the film are so technically shoddy, they barely achieve the level of the average home movie. The most professional scene in the film is a dolly shot of Maria Perschy crossing a Madrid street, and this was filmed by the second unit!
However, because its script is slightly better, this film can arguably be ranked above "Blood of Fu Manchu", although few fans would risk their credibility defending either film. At least "Castle" is concerned with Fu Manchu's current plot to conquer the world and does not pad out its running time with irrelevant subplots. What it does use for padding is stock footage. For its opening sequence, "Castle" lifts the entire climax of "Brides of Fu Manchu" and, incredibly, extends this sequence with footage of the Titanic from the 1958 film "A Night to Remember"! Using stock footage to supplement stock footage is either brashly clever or establishes a new standard of cheapness.
Perhaps the ultimate snub to the film came from the producer himself, who kept his wife Maria Rohm out of the cast.
It is 1969. Your on your way back to your car at the drive-inn, where
your fiancé is happily sleeping off her double shift at the diner and
you are about half-way through a film - Folterkammer des Dr. Fu Man
Chu, Die (or the Castle of Fu Manchu) - which has already put you
through two bags of popcorn and 3 cokes because the popcorn is just so
much more interesting, and the worst happens - you can't find your car.
Nightmares flash through your mind - maybe your fiancé was so annoyed
by the cruelty of your decision to force her into a late night
drive-inn triple feature full of Sax Rohmer films so she drove off, or
maybe the film got her so upset that she drove off the nearest bridge.
Trying to get a hold of yourself, you look up to the screen to verify
that you're at the right part of the drive in. No help, all you can see
is a smear of dark blue and dark red shadow across the lower part of
the screen. After a minute or so, the lighting crew finds the on-switch
and some out of focus people show up on the screen. They appear to be
three Shriners sneaking up on an Imam who has just begun his afternoon
prayer. Still no help. You resign yourself to the fate natural
selection has accorded you. You , after all, decided to see this film
with your intended reproductive partner, and that choice has probably
ruined your opportunity to allow your genetic material to be carried on
in the next generation of humans. So you decide to move to California
to buy that house on the side of hill overlooking the San Andreas fault
where you always wanted to live, and to pursue your dream to rekindle
the Fu Manchu series this film killed. More power to you.
To be fair, I did not see the touted Blue underground DVD version of the film. Supposedly, this pressing is so much better than what I saw that it is incomparable.
Even my television objected to this film. It kept trying to turn itself off, switch channels, etc. It even unplugged the cable converter for a few minutes. Whoever it was that decided that Sax Rohmer's various B-grade stories ought to be made into movies, should be forced to watch all of them in a row - at least once. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. These films are a decidedly acquired taste. And this one is even more difficult to acquire a taste for than Sumuru... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061976/usercomments-8
Peruse the IMDb reviews - you will notice that most of the people who write positive reviews for this film do not describe the plot. There are two interrelated reasons for this - (1) there isn't one to be described and (2) they've never seen the film, and simply get a perverse pleasure believing that their opinions might be taken seriously enough to convince people to see the film (a poor assumption, at best).
Christopher Lee plays Fu Manchu - an inexplicably powerful meanie who wants something from all of the world's governments (we are never privileged with the knowledge of what in particular he wants, but I couldn't care less anyway), and is threatening to freeze the world's oceans to get it. The technology he is using has been developed by a dying scientist who he has kidnapped, and soon he finds himself having to kidnap a surgeon in order to arrange a heart transplant as well. There are various fight scenes which don't appear to be related to the film and may indeed have been found on a cutting room floor somewhere in the Middle East, or even reused from a previous Rohmer feature (I really expected Sumuru, some of her army of Amazon ninjas, or even Frankie Avalon to show up at one point). There are also a few scenes with Lee standing around looking ominous and using that great voice of his. I am not sure he knew what was going on in the rest of the film, and indeed with that voice it doesn't matter, but these scenes are, nonetheless, the ONLY remotely entertaining aspect of the film. And OH YES lest I forget, there are a few inept 007s who were likely rejected from the extras audition for Casino Royal making some roughly British sounding noises and taking all of this way too seriously.
I didn't think it was possible, but this film was even more difficult to get through than Manos: Hands of Fate, and quite possibly should replace it as the worst film of all time. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060666/usercomments-419
To state what, in particular is wrong with TCODFM is an easy task - EVERYTHING. The acting is mediocre, the plot is idiotic, the cinematography and editing are so bad that I don't believe TRYING to make a hideous mess of a film would net you anything worse. You'll either laugh hysterically or stare at your screen until you start drooling, unless you take my advice and avoid this.
Why did I watch it? I enjoy challenges.
It boggles the mind that anyone could possibly defend this movie as
some sort of lost classic or claim that people only say it's bad
because it was on "Mystery Science Theater". When *two* lengthy scenes
in a movie consist largely of footage borrowed from better movies, and
when both of those scenes could be removed without anyone noticing the
break, you know that the director's aim was to exert himself as little
as possible to get the required length of film in the can. Anyone here
with a burning zeal to uphold the reputation of THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU
against its boorish detractors is almost certainly exerting more effort
on the movie's behalf than Jess Franco ever did.
Nevertheless, the film is not among the all-time worst. Roger Ebert is correct when he says, "There's probably a level of competence beneath which bad directors cannot fall....they've got to come up with something that can at least be advertised as a motion picture, released and forgotten." It can be safely conjectured that this was just what Jess Franco wanted. The dialogue is passable, the acting (what little is needed) is serviceable, and occasionally the editing actually drums up something like tension.
So if no one aspect of THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU is really *that* bad, why is watching the whole film such a chore? A bad movie can be difficult to watch, but an *aggressively* mediocre one can be worse. When Roger Corman cranked out his listless, paint-by-numbers adventures and fantasy movies, at least he had the excuses of working with zero budget, a cast of third-stringers, and shooting schedules permitting him maybe a week's use of a sound stage. I'm guessing that Franco's budget was scarcely greater, but he had a decent cast and enough freedom for location shooting in more than one country. Yet he produced a movie as uninspired and perfunctory as Corman did at his worst. What was Franco thinking?
The plot seems almost to go out of its way to abandon consistency. Fu Manchu kidnaps Prof. Heracles and then his doctor because he needs help to make the magic freezing crystals in quantity (crystals, by the way, which also perform the totally unrelated duty of a knockout gas), but then even though we see Heracles at the end refuse to help Fu Manchu, his refusal doesn't even slow Fu Manchu down, who initiates his freezing plan without apparent need for Heracles's assistance. We *had* seen Fu Manchu demanding a ransom earlier one (without bothering to name terms) but any idea of actually collecting on the ransom never comes up. Fortunately for the world Nayland-Smith shows up to foil his plot to freeze the ocean, although Franco can't be bothered to show us how he foils it. We see him beating up some flunkies and trying to contact London by radio, then suddenly there's a loud report and soon Fu Manchu is watching helplessly as everything blows up around him. I'm used to villain's fortresses improbably blowing up because the hero fires one well-placed shot or smashes one control panel, but THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU gives us the only case of a villain's fortress exploding merely because the hero makes a long-distance phone call.
It's not as though Franco didn't have enough screen time to fill these plot holes. It's just that he decided to fill that time with lengthy establishing shots, walking, and creeping around dark corridors and tunnels. He also directs his actors to speak as slowly as possible and pause whenever possible. They have excuses, I suppose. Fu Manchu is "inscrutable", being an offensive Oriental stereotype, and Omar Pasha is probably stoned out of his mind on opium half the time. The police chief in Istanbul simply doesn't care and spends a good deal of his screen time sulking and telling people not to bother him. And why should he bother doing his job? He's played by Jess Franco, after all.
With so little actually happening in THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU, we have to be content with watching the scenery. There are some beautiful background shots in the film, to be sure. Mostly, though, Franco traps us in Fu Manchu's lair. The quarter-hours slip by as the "action" takes us from one room or chamber to another and another, none of them very well lit, while Christopher Lee sits and looks smug, or stands up and looks smug, or even speaks while looking smug. Eventually a lot of people die and Fu Manchu disappears into the billowing fake smoke. Dry ice, Rosco fog, and blood, indeed.
I really feel very out of step with regards to this one because
scanning through the other IMDb reviews it became quite obvious that
everybody else hated it! I don't really understand the universal
dislike though, as this one really didn't seem to warrant this level of
abuse. Don't get me wrong, it has problems. The script being a pretty
obvious one. The story was very difficult to comprehend. It involved
the master criminal Fu Manchu devising a method of turning the oceans
into ice by using opium or something. And by way of this he would take
over the world. Okay, whatever you say! Yeah, so admittedly, the
narrative is a bit senseless.
But the thing is, I've seen a lot of Jess Franco movies and I thought this was quite coherent by his standards! In fact, it was from a period in Franco's career where he had more production value at his disposal, so again when people say this is ultra-cheap, I'm thinking it's quite big budget for Jess. I mean, he has even managed to hire Christopher Lee for the title role I thought he was pretty imposing and well suited to the character to be fair. We also have Rosalba Neri as a gangster chick and she is always worth watching, so again, this is a good thing. Even the blatant lifts from other movies were entertaining enough, such as the whole opening scene that utilises scenes taken wholesale from A Night to Remember. Maybe the pacing could have been better perhaps but this is a constant Franco fault and in here it's no worse than usual. But overall, the film, while being often senseless, did have enough action and Euro cult value to keep me watching. Ultimately, I am probably the idiot for liking this but I guess I'll just have to live with that.
Final outing in Fu Manchu-Christopher Lee series set in Turkey and
based on Sax Rohmer's characters . Christopher Lee returns in this
fifth chapter as the evil genius Fu Manchu who doesn't give up easily,
and is out to destroy world or bent on conquering it . This time has
designed a fantastic gadget to fleece water on oceans and he threatens
world leaders by forcing a ransom . The baddies are Jose Luis Martin a
Spanish actor usually playing the villain-role in Spaghetti Western and
Christopher Lee, as always acting as a magnificent evil-doer . Nayland
Smith-Richard Greene his perennial adversary and arch-nemesis takes the
center of attention when is assigned the dangerous mission . Howard
Marion Crawford of Britain's Home Office is the assistant of Nayland
Smith , a Watson-alike . And of course, the Fu Manchu's daughter ,
habitually played by T Sai Chin, acting perfectly as a nasty murderous.
At the film there are action, adventures, thrills, sadism and exotic outdoors filmed in Estudios Cinematográficos Balcázar (Spanish producers are Alfonso and Jaime Jesus Balcazar), Esplugues De Llobregat, Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain (studio), Istanbul, Turkey and Parque Güell, Parque De Ciutdadella , Barcelona , Cataluña , Spain.
Fifth in Christopher Lee's Manchu series several pegs below his predecessors ; it is a bizarre blending of adventures, thriller and action with low budget . This exciting picture is full of Chinese killers , British adventurers, and nasty drug dealers . Weak performance by Richard Greene working below capabilities as Nyland Smith who in former episodes was best interpreted by Nigel Green , and Douglas Wilmer . The villain T Sai Chin stand out as Fu Manchu's daughter named Li Tang and the smuggler Jose Luis Martin overacting as an ominous bandit , furthermore turns up Burt Kwouk, Pink Panther-Sellers series's usual , in a brief appearance . The beautiful girls are two Eurotrash Goddeses as Maria Perschy and Rosalba Neri . This is the second collaboration between Jesus Franco and the producer Harry Alan Towers ( producer of the Fu Manchu's five movies ) and to be continued in several films . Well photographed by Manuel Merino , being recently fine remastering , though previous versions were awfully photographed.
Most critics felt this outing was one of the weakest entries along with ¨The blood of Fu Manchu¨ also directed by Jess Frank with similar casting , plenty of stock-shots , zooms and a Z-series style . The best installments were ¨Face of Fu Manchu(1965, Don Sharp)¨, and ¨Brides of Fu Manch( 1966, Don Sharp)¨ and the inferior ¨Vengeance of Fu Manchu(1967) . Only for completist , the outcome is one of the worst Fu Manchu movie ever made . Rating : Bottom of barrel , below average .
Handsome but utterly incoherent nonsense. Nice locations and sets and Lee looks really impressive in those Mandarin robes, but cripes, it's got about 30 extraneous characters, a vague and torturous plot, and a nonexistent ending. Bad in a way cheaper movies can't be; you can't help thinking it *must* have a plot because it *looks* well-made, so you end up blaming yourself for not getting it and you feel wretched and vaguely ill...agh. Took a grave toll on the Satellite of Love's morale and it will on yours.
I've never been a fan of the Fu Manchu franchise both with the original books and with the various films that have been made from the books, namely because they smack of racism (the so-called "yellow peril", to be exact.) So I had some prejudice when I sat down to watch "The Castle of Fu Manchu". After watching it, I'm pretty sure that even fans of Fu Manchu would consider this film to be the pits. It's not only notorious schlock producer Harry Alan Towers at his worse, he got the notorious Jesús Franco to direct, a director who didn't make many good (or even merely okay) movies during his prolific career. There are many things wrong with the end results. It's really cheap, from the tacky sets to blatant use of stock footage. The actors (including even Christopher Lee) seemed bored and demoralized to be there. It's frequently poorly photographed and lit. But the biggest problem with the movie is that it's unbelievably boring. There's almost no action, and the character of Fu Manchu not only doesn't show up very often, he doesn't do that much that's interesting. The movie is a pretty painful slog to sit through, and long before the end you'll be thankful that Fu Manchu was retired from the big screen for the next eleven years before he returned one more time in the 1980 comedy "The Fiendish Plot Of Dr. Fu Manchu" - which was almost as bad as this movie.
The last of the 5 Fu Manchu movies with Christopher Lee begins with almost 3 minutes of footage taken from Brides of Fu Manchu" - telling us openly that they were running out of ideas. The sinking vessel and the dam burst are taken from other movies as well, obviously. The story makes only 2 potentially interesting attempts at human conflicts: when Omar is tempted to sell Smith to Fu Manchu in exchange for his girl, and then the "heart transplant by murder" scene. To my chagrin, both chances to score were wasted for a much too quick solution! The first 60 minutes are lazy, sloppy, disappointing, but during the last 20 minutes, Franco suddenly speeds up everything. The caverns below the Castle of Fu Manchu are full of psychedelic lights (green, red, purple), smoke and water are pumped into them, while the heroes must runs for their lives - it turns out to be quite some compensation. Nevertheless, the other Fu Manchu film by Jess Franco ("The Blood of Fu Manchu" aka "Kiss of Death") is clearly the better one. Voted 7/8/5/7/4 for the five movies.
Castle of FuManchu, The (1968)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
The fifth and final film in Christopher Lee's FuManchu series is considered by many to be the worst but I personally found it so bad that I was able to have a little fun with it. The film has FuManchu (Lee) once again trying to take over the world and by now you might be asking when the guy is just going to give up and go home. Anyway, this time he plans on freezing all the oceans in the world so he kidnaps a doctor to perform an operation on the one man who knows how to do such a thing. THE CASTLE OF FUMANCHU isn't a good movie so you shouldn't go into the film expecting anything other that pure silliness. There's no question this is a bad movie but thankfully it's bad enough to be mildly entertaining but I'm sure most people will be smart enough to hit the eject button by the thirty-minute mark. Once again Lee appears to have only enough energy to cash a paycheck as he's obviously not too thrilled about doing this picture. As in the previous film, Lee pretty much just sleepwalks through the film and offers up very little energy. The supporting cast includes Gunther Stoll playing the doctor, Jose Manuel Martin as an opium dealer and cult favorite Rosalba Neri playing an assassin. These supporting players are certainly one of the few good things in the film. The film has a bigger budget than most Franco pictures but that's not saying too much because we still get all sorts of cheapness including some stock footage from the Titanic picture A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, which certainly doesn't mix well with any of the new footage. The film does have some decent cinematography but there's just not enough here to make it worth viewing. Fans of Lee, Franco or FuManchu are bound to be disappointed with this film, which turned out to be the last in the series.
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