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Adventures of Dr Fu Manchu, The

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (1956). Studio City Television Productions/Republic Productions, Inc. Directors included Franklin Andreon and William Witney. Writers included Richard H Landau, John K Butler, Ronald Davidson, Barry Shipman. Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer. Cast includes Carla Balenda, John George, Glen Gordon, Clark Howat, Laurette Luez and Lester Matthews. 13 30-minute episodes. Black and white.

Sir Dennis Nayland Smith (Matthews) and his friend and frequent assistant Dr John Petrie (Howat) work each week to foil one nefarious scheme after another concocted by the arch-Villain Dr Fu Manchu (Gordon). Nurse Betty Leonard (Balenda) provides aid when needed. Fu Manchu's servant Karamaneh (Luez) actually works to help his enemies escape various death traps, although the sinister Doctor never quite seems to realize she is intermittently a traitor to him. Kolb (George) is his most loyal henchman.

The sf elements were minor in this short-lived attempt to bring Rohmer's Oriental Supervillain to television, although resources employed by the Doctor include a flesh-eating fungus (which had featured in Rohmer's first book about Fu Manchu) and a form of television which requires no cameras (see Spy-Ray). Rather than being an independent Sherlock Holmes/Doctor Watson duo as in Rohmer, Nayland Smith is here a law enforcement official while Dr Petrie works for the office of the US Surgeon General. Rohmer was reportedly paid four million US dollars for the rights to the character, with 78 episodes planned, but continuing disagreements over these rights led to an early cancellation. While slightly less racist than earlier Fu Manchu films and serials, the series still reflected negatively on virtually all Oriental peoples (see Yellow Peril). It is little seen today. [GSt]


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