Film (1965). Anglo-Amalgamated. Directed by Don Sharp. Written by Harry Alan Towers, based on the characters created by Sax Rohmer. Cast includes Tsai Chin, Nigel Green, James Robertson Justice, Christopher Lee and Howard Marion-Crawford. 96 minutes. Colour.
The first of a series of films produced by Harry Alan Towers in which Christopher Lee (1922-2015) portrayed the oriental master-fiend, Tsai Chin played Fu's insidious daughter (renamed Lin Tang from Rohmer's Fah Lo Suee) and a succession of square-jawed heroes – Nigel Green, Douglas Wilmer, Richard Greene – played Sir Denis Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard. This first entry is by far the best of the batch, shot imaginatively on Irish locations which stand in for England and Tibet in the 1920s, and with devices reminiscent of the old movie serials, such as a Poison gas which kills an entire village and a super-explosive, both deployed in Fu's scheme to control the world. Sharp's direction is fast-paced, with full rein given to the mild sadomasochism of the originals as victims are whipped or confined to cabinets which slowly fill with Thames water. This is a richly entertaining pastiche of the old style, although less delirious than The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), in which Fu was played by Boris Karloff. Sharp stayed with the series for The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), which was almost up to standard, but after the inferior The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967), directed by Jeremy Summers, the series was turned over to international hack Jesus Franco for the disastrous The Castle of Fu Manchu (1968) and The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968; vt Kiss and Kill; several other vts). [KN]
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