TITLE: The Brides of Fu Manchu
YEAR RELEASED: 1966
DIRECTOR: Don Sharp
CAST: Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Tsai Chin, Marie Vesini, Rupert Davies
If master criminal Fu Manchu ever needs a business consultant to give him that extra edge to ensure he actually wins once in a while, I am prepared to give it a go.
Yes, there will be moral questions that I have to struggle with but putting that aside, how hard could it be to lift his business performance, when all you’ve got to tell him is find thugs who can actually fight and use guns rather than silk scarves to kill your enemies. And I could certainly improve his business model by telling him not putting all his eggs in one basket – ie. don’t try to take over the whole world in one shot without a backup plan.
I’ve just finished watching The Brides of Fu Manchu as part of my Fu Manchu-athon, six Fu Manchu films in a week, and I’m pretty happy with it. I don’t know what the other films have in store but this film – which is the second and last Fu Manchu film to be directed by Don Sharp – was a lot more interesting than The Face of Fu Manchu.
The plot, as in all the Fu Manchu films I seen so far, sees Christopher Lee donning the eye putty to return as the most evil and ruthless man in the world for more criminal shenanigans – this time using radio waves to blow stuff up! The Fu Meister could use the technology he has developed for goodness but where would the fun be in that?
Fu Manchu is kidnapping beautiful young women related to important scientists to force them to work on his evil project. The crime lord has these young damsels imprisoned in his North African fortress, hypnotised and willing to obey his every command. Nothing much seems to happen in the fortress mind you and despite his ruthlessness – Fu Manchu doesn’t do much to them. More’s the pity but this is not a Women in Prison film – even though the posters for the film refer to these chicks as his harem!
The Brides of Fu Manchu makes good use of its shooting locations around London with loads of great scenes of the Thames, its docks and back streets of the East End and surrounds. Any criticism of this film cannot be directed at the locations and sets – they are perfect and bring class to the film.
Most of the main cast members returned for the sequel, however, Douglas Wilmer replaced Nigel Green as Scotland Yard detective Nayland Smith and I actually preferred him. Wilmer seems more believable as a knock-about copper and the story gives him less sappy things to do and say. (These Fu Manchu flicks pretend to be a detective films at times, but it’s all pretty pathetic – we want Fu Manchu crime antics – not half-arsed Sherlock Holmes-wannabes!)
Legendary English actor Rupert Davies (Dracula has Risen from the Grave, Witchfinder General, etc) plays a Frenchman in this film – no doubt because of his popularity playing a French detective Jules Maigret on the telly during the 1960s. With such a diverse European cast, this international production could have easily slotted a French actor to play the role and used Davies better. But considering the lead is an Englishman playing a Chinese crime lord, that is the least of our worries.
Burt Kwouk, who went on to become famous for playing Cato in The Pink Panther movies, appears as one of Fu Manchu’s off-siders. He and Tsai Chin, who returns as Fu Manchu’s daughter Lin Tang, give us some idea how interesting and powerful the film could have been had it been cast with real Asians. I sometimes think that having Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu is a little distracting. Lee sure is menacing as the super villain but to me, he just looks like Dracula with makeup on his eyelids. Whereas an Asian actor could inhabit the role and remove some the perceived racism from the film.
That being said, I think the film is only really fun when Christopher Lee is on the screen. Despite being a Fu Manchu film, he really is only a background figure for Nayland Smith and Petrie to chase and defeat. I would love a Fu Manchu film where he is the central character throughout the film.
Next film in my Fu Manchu-athon is The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967). Bring it on!