Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Jesus Franco's "The Castle of Fu Manchu"
This last film in the series, starring Christopher Lee as the evil Fu Manchu, is a nightmarish blend of stock footage and sleep walking cast members.
Fu, or is it Manchu? (Christopher Lee), has a new dastardly plan brewing. He has somehow found a process that uses opium crystals to turn water of any temperature into ice. He demonstrates his discovery with some blue tinted footage from an old Titanic flick, as a ship runs into an iceberg in the Caribbean, and then delivers a vague worldwide ultimatum.
Fu Manchu and his evil daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) are in Istanbul, using opium dealer Omar's (Jose Manuel Martin) henchmen to take over a castle to be used as evil headquarters. Fu Manchu has kidnapped the professor responsible for the outlandish ice/opium scheme, then kidnaps the professor's physician (Gunther Stoll) to perform a heart transplant to keep the professor vertical. Omar is looking for his captive henchwoman Lisa (Rosalla Neri), as Fu Manchu keeps working on those meaningless threats.
For those of you who are thinking, "there just are not enough secondary characters for me," we also have our hero, Scotland Yard detective Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) and his version of Dr. Watson, Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion Crawford). Soon, there are more jail breaks than "The Great Escape," and the viewer wishes someone would pour ice water down the front of their pants to wake them up.
Directed by the infamous Jess Franco, "The Castle of Fu Manchu" is a snoozefest. Lee is alright as the evil villain, but watching the middle aged Greene beating up teams of martial arts experts like some kind of James Bond wannabe is laughable. The entire cast looks stunned, as if they were smacked in the backs of their heads by a two by four. Franco relies on too many obvious special effects shots from other films, and none of his trademark exploitation elements are here- no nudity and some very fake looking blood.
The sound design also stinks, with some of the worst post-production of the 1960's. Characters deliver sentences of dialogue without moving their lips. The ending of the film seems to come about when the production ran out of money, instead of the story wrapping up loose ends.
With the rampant political correctness of today, I doubt we will see another restart of Sax Rohmer's famous yellow peril films. The only yellow peril in "The Castle of Fu Manchu" is the possibility you might wet your pants laughing at it. (*) out of five stars.