Circus of Fear (1966)

Director: John Moxley
Starring: Christopher Lee, Margaret Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Maddern, Maurice Kaufmann
Screenplay: Peter Welbeck
Producer: Harry Alan Towers
Music: Johnny Douglas
AKA: Psycho Circus

What we have in Circus Of Fear is a British (rather than German) Edgar Wallace Krimi, albeit with a rather ‘International’ cast so it can travel over borders quite effectively. It also has a quite effective story line – I never knew where it was heading. Sure there are plenty of hints, and you can guess where each story thread may be leading, bot how do they all tie up together?

The film opens in London, and on a nice big widescreen closeup of Klaus Kinski’s head. Klaus is standing on a dock overlooking the Thames. But he isn’t the only suspicious character loitering around. There are quite a few suspicious characters – there’s two on a boat, there’s a few in a car, and another two men standing by a bridge with stockings over their heads. I realise this is swingin’ sixties London, baby, but I don’t think these guys are dressed like this because they’re swingers! It looks like some kind of heist is going down.

It doesn’t take long for the object of everyone’s attention to appear on the screen. It’s a small armoured van carrying a shit load of cash (er, for those confused by my terminology, a ‘shit load’ is an Australian collective noun… It can be used for almost anything, but most often to describe a large amount of money and when purchasing dim sims – but I digress). As the van and escort vehicle pull up at the bridge, the two gents in stockings make short work of the guards. This is because one of the guards, Mason, is in on the gig. However, unlike the other crooks, Mason isn’t a professional and he panics. He draws a pistol and shoots one of the other guards. The heist has now gone from being a simple robbery to now, MURDER!

Meanwhile Klaus has gone from loitering with intent, to completing a bit of nasty work himself. He sneaks up on the fellow in charge of raising and lowering The London Bridge and clocks him over the head. Now in charge, Klaus raises the bridge. The other cohorts are now on the bridge and are tying a rope to the railing and attaching the other end to a boat waiting on the river below. Attaching rings to the sacks of cash, they slide their ill gotten gain down to the boat. Then the criminals follow suit, crawling down to the boat. As the police flood into the area, the perpetrators make their getaway slowly cruising down the Thames.

Once in the clear they all assemble at a warehouse. Mason, after his indiscretion is given his share of the loot, and the unseen boss man’s loot too. Mason has to meet the boss outside the city in a place called ‘The Old Farm’ at Inglemere. The other cohorts load a van up with the remaining cash an drive off. Unfortunately for them, the police receive an anonymous tip off revealing the route they’ll be taking and the vehicle licence plate. This results in a car chase, with the perpetrators eventually being run off the road.

This leaves Mason as the only man with any of the cash, and he arrives at his destination at The Old Farm. For his trouble, he ends up with a knife in his back. Now this is where the films changes tone. Inglemere also happens to be the winter location for Barbarini’s Circus. Immediately we are introduced to a new set of disparate characters. Firstly there is Barbarini who runs the circus. Then there’s Gregor (Christopher Lee). Gregor, some years back had a horrible accident and now always wears a black hooded mask. Hi is also the custodian of his neice, Natasha (Suzy Kendall) Then we have Gina (Margaret Lee) who performs a knife act with her insanely jealous boyfriend Mario, who, as you’ve guessed is a knife thrower. Next you’ve got Karl (Heinz Drache), who is the ringmaster.

Now it’s pretty obvious that someone associated with the circus has had a part in the robbery, but of course that isn’t revealed. But it’s not before long and some of the stolen money starts to surface. All the banks in the area have been notified of the serial numbers of the stolen money, and when some turns up, passed by Barbarini, Police Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) is called in to investigate.

It’s not the purpose of this website to act as a shill for any particular video or DVD company, but if you are going to watch Circus Of Fear (or any of the other names this film has travelled under), then do yourself the favour and obtain the Blue Underground version – Previous versions have been severely truncated – in America the film was originally released at 61 minutes long and in black and white – needless to say, this will not do the film justice. Get the full version and enjoy the film for what it is – and that’s a hugely entertaining thriller with a great cast.

Circus of Fear (1966)

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

Country: United Kingdon / West Germany
Director: Don Sharp
Starring: Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Tsai Chin, Heinz Drache, Howard Marion-Crawford, Roger Hanin, Rupert Davies, Kenneth Fortescue, Joseph Furst, Burt Kwouk, Eric Young
Music: Bruce Montgomery
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

Following on from yesterday’s Circus of Fear, The Brides of Fu Manchu is another Harry Alan Towers written and produced film project. It also features Christopher Lee and Heinz Drache who had appeared in Circus of Fear.

The Brides of Fu Manchu is the second in Towers pulp period adventure series featuring Christopher Lee as Sax Rohmer’s indestructible Asian supervillain, Fu Manchu.

Here’s a description of Fu Manchu from the back of the Corgi Crime Paperback, The Mask of Fu Manchu (1967) – apologies for the racist tone:

Imagine a person, tall, lean, and feline; high-shouldered with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan: a close shaven skull and long magnetic eyes of the true cat green.

Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant interllect. With all the resources of science, past and present; with all the resources of a wealthy government – which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence.

Imagine that malevolent being, and you have a mental picture of the yellow peril incarnate in one man – FU MANCHU.

The film opens with a trio of Fu Manchu’s black clothed minions leading French Professor Merlin (Rupert Davies), who is blindfolded, through a series of caves and then into a large underground chamber. Once inside, his blindfold is removed. He appears to be some Egyptian temple decorated with deities and Hieroglyphs. Down each side of the temple run rows of massive stone pillars, and chained to each of these pillars is a beautiful girl. As Merlin is lead through the temple towards an alter at the front, he recognises one of the captive girls as his own daughter Michelle.

At that moment, Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) and his Daughter, Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) enter the chamber. It is revealed that Professor Merlin is an expert in radio transmission, and Fu Manchu demands that the Professor works on a special project for him. Merlin’s response is simple and to the point: ‘Go to Hell!’

Then Lin Tang has Michelle freed from her shackles and brought before her. It appears that over the duration of her captivity, Michelle has been brainwashed. Lin Tan gives her a knife. First she is told to hold it at her Father’s throat, which she does. Realising that Fu Manchu needs his expertise, Merlin calls Fu Manchu’s bluff and suggests that he cannot be killed. Fu Manchu agrees and adopts another strategy to coerce the Professor. One of the other captive women is unchained from a pillar and brought to a giant stone tablet. To two metal rings embedded in the tablet the girl is tied by her hair. Then, a sliding stone trapdoor is released under the tablet and beneath is a pit of venomous snakes.

Fu Manchu then gives Michelle the order — not to kill the girl — but simply to cut her ‘free’. Michelle obeys and the other girl falls to her death in the pit of snakes.

Professor Merlin is told that unless he co-operates, Michelle will be brought out of her hypnotic trance and made to face the consequences of her murderous act.

Meanwhile in London, Dennis Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer) is trying to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of the wives and daughters of many of the world’s leading industrialists and scientists. So far eleven women have been abducted in the last eighteen months – and from ten different countries.

Strolling casually along the Thames is Research Chemist Hans Baumer (Heinz Drache) with his lovely companion Marie Lentz (Marie Versini). Suddenly, a team of Fu Manchu’s Dacoits attack, attempting to kidnap Baumer. However Baumer is pretty good with his fists and fights off the attack.

As the information on the attack is relayed to Nayland Smith, later, do they realise that the Dacoits weren’t after Baumer at all, but after Marie, who is the daughter of Hydro-electric specialist Otto Lenz. Marie works in a hospital, and a second team of Dacoits arrive to kidnap her while she is on duty. Thankfully, Nayland Smith arrives just in the nick of time to fight of the kidnappers.

Nayland Smith suspects Fu Manchu is behind the abduction and attempts to find a lead. Unfortunately, his only lead is Marie, and finally Fu Manchu’s minions manage to kidnap her on their third attempt. But Baumer has a plan. If Fu Manchu has been using these girls to coerce the scientists and industrialists to do Fu Manchu’s work, that it would follow
suit, that Marie’s kidnapping would work in the same way. So Baumer impersonates, Otto Lentz so he can infiltrate Fu Manchu’s organisation.

Also working on the case is a French inspector, Pierre Grimaldi played by Roger Hanin who helps Nayland Smith put together the pieces of Fu Manchu’s scheme which uses radio waves as a method of carrying large amounts of energy, which can be used for destructive purposes. And that is just what Fu Manchu has in mind. His plan starts with the destruction of the Windsor Castle and ends with total world domination.

Fu Manchu’s radio transmitter tower, in the way it looks and operates bears more than a passing resemblance to the solar dish in The Man With the Golden Gun, which also starred Christopher Lee although made eight years later.

This is not the only bit of amusing co-incidental casting in the film. Douglas Wilmer is something of a mystery to me. Apart from his two stints as Nayland Smith (in this, and the next film, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu), I cannot recall seeing him in any other production. However, I have seen numerous stills of him as Sherlock Holmes from the BBC television production from the 1960s – prior to Peter Cushing taking over the role. Juxtaposed next to that, in this film as Nayland Smith’s offsider, Dr. Petrie, we have actor Howard Marion-Crawford who at one time played Dr. Watson in Sheldon Reynold’s Sherlock Holmes television series. So in Brides of Fu Manchu, we have Holmes and Watson after the villainous Fu Manchu. Now I am not trying to link the Sherlock Holmes stories to the Fu Manchu stories — although I am sure that if copyrights permit, then some well-read and enterprising intertextual author has already married to two characters in a novel — but I find the parallels in the careers of many English actors and the characters they play to be very fascinating in the way they over lap. Don’t get me started on Christopher Lee’s connections with Sherlock Holmes or this review will go on forever!

The Fu Manchu films are perfect examples of the law of diminishing returns. I found the first film, The Face of Fu Manchu to be quite a good little adventure. This film is a small step down from the earlier outing but is still very entertaining, but each instalment is weaker than the previous outing, and after the third film, the piss-poor plots and shoe-string budgets were below acceptable standard and the films have little to recommend them beyond the presence of Christopher Lee.

SPY CONNECTIONS:

Christopher Lee – played Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun
Tsai Chin
– appeared in the pretitle sequence in You Only Live Twice
Burt Kwouk
– appeared in Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, and Bullet to Beijing
Roger Hanin
– appeared in many Eurospy productions
Harry Alan Towers
– produced Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St Petersberg
Joseph Furst
– played Dr. Metz in Diamonds Are Forever
Eric Young
– appeared in The Chairman

More evil tales featuring the Devil Doctor:
The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965)
The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967)
The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969)

Or the similarly themed (although without Fu Manchu), Hammer’s Terror Of The Tongs (1961)

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

Sherlock Holmes & The Deadly Necklace (1962)

Original title: Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes
Country: Germany
Directors: Terence Fisher, Frank Winterstein
Starring: Christopher Lee, Senta Berger, Hans Sohnkerand, Thorley Walters, Hans Nielson
Music: Martin Slavin
Based on the novel, ‘The Valley Of Fear’, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace is a pretty good addition to the Holmes films. It is a bit different though. This German film could be classified as a ‘Krimi’. It has that quintessential sixties German cinema style, and the distinctive jazzy soundtrack (this time provided by Martin Slavin). But Holmes’ stories are perfect fodder for this type of film, and for most of the running time, this one doesn’t let us down. However, the last ten minutes slow to a crawl, and I was wondering if there was more to the story I had missed.

The story concerns Holmes’ (Christopher Lee) ongoing battle with Professor James Moriarty (Hans Sohnkerand). In this version, Moriarty is a Professor of archaeology, and a model citizen, and the police refuse to believe he is a criminal mastermind. In fact, Moriarty is in line to be knighted. Holmes on the other hand is derided for his obsession in bringing Moriarty to justice. This time, the blundering Scotland Yard detective, who refuses to accept Holmes theories is Inspector Cooper (Hans Nielsen), who is Lestrade in every aspect but name.

The Deadly Necklace of the title is a valuable treasure that once belonged to Cleopatra. Naturally, Moriarty wants to get his hands on it, and has hired a few thugs to do it for him. The necklace is in the possession of Peter Blackburn (Wolfgang Lukschy – for fans of Spaghetti Westerns, you may remember Lukschy as John Baxter in A Fistful Of Dollars). Blackburn was one of the men who worked with Moriarty in Egypt, when the tomb of Cleopatra was found. Blackburn is a paranoid wreck, who believes that men are trying to kill him for the necklace. No one believes him; not the local police or his young wife, Ellen (Senta Berger, who is wasted in this movie). It is not before long, that Blackburn’s paranoid suspicions are confirmed when he is attacked by two of Moriarty’s men in his own home. It is once again up to Sherlock Holmes, to unravel all the pieces and put the case together, but as usual, it almost seems as if he knows the answers, from reading The Times newspaper in the morning. The rest of us, are playing ‘catchup’.

Thorley Walters plays Doctor Watson, as a clumsy buffoon. It’s a likeable performance, and great to watch, but surely Watson’s constant clumsiness must aggravate Holmes. Watson, as a character, can be bewildered by Holmes methods and intellect, but shouldn’t interfere with the investigation through acts of thoughtlessness.

One of the co-directors, Terence Fisher was one of men behind the success of Hammer films. He had directed The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (or the The Horror Of Dracula for American readers) (1958), and one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies, the 1959 adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles.

And Fisher isn’t the only one to have a previous link with Holmes. In the same Hammer version of Baskervilles, Christopher Lee played Sir Henry Baskerville. Lee would also continue his association with the Holmes stories with performances in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), where he played Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock Holmes older brother), and in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991), and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992), both of which he played Sherlock once again.

As I mentioned at the top, this isn’t a bad Sherlock Holmes movie, but it is a German production and has been dubbed into English. Even Christopher Lee has been dubbed by another actor, which can be a bit off-putting, as Lee has a very distinctive voice. But if you are a Holmes fan, this is a small quibble and you will enjoy the movie. If you aren’t a fan of the Holmes movies, I doubt that this will enthrall you.

The illustration of Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes at the top is from Pat Art.

Sherlock Holmes & The Deadly Necklace (1962)

Circus Of Fear (1966)

Film GenericWhat we have in Circus Of Fear is a British Edgar Wallace Krimi, albeit with a rather ‘International’ cast so it can travel over borders quite effectively. Also quite effective is the story line which I never guessed where it was heading. Sure there are plenty of hints, and you can guess where each story thread may be leading, but how do they all tie up together?

The film opens in London, and on a nice big widescreen closeup of Klaus Kinski’s head. Klaus is standing on a dock overlooking the Thames. But he isn’t the only suspicious character loitering around. There are quite a few suspicious characters – there’s two on a boat, there’s a few in a car, and another two men standing by a bridge with stockings over their heads. I realise this is swingin’ sixties London, baby, but I don’t think these guys are dressed like this because they’re swingers! It looks like some kind of heist is going down.

It doesn’t take long for the object of everyone’s attention to appear on the screen. It’s a small armoured van carrying a shit load of cash (er, for those confused by my terminology, a ‘shit load’ is an Australian collective noun… It can be used for almost anything, but most often to describe a large amount of money and when purchasing dim sims – but I digress). As the van and escort vehicle pull up at the bridge, the two gents in stockings make short work of the guards. This is because one of the guards, Mason, is in on the gig. However, unlike the other crooks, Mason isn’t a professional and he panics. He draws a pistol and shoots one of the other guards. The heist has now gone from being a simple robbery to now, MURDER!

Meanwhile Klaus has gone from loitering with intent, to completing a bit of nasty work himself. He sneaks up on the fellow in charge of raising and lowering The London Bridge and clocks him over the head. Now in charge, Klaus raises the bridge. The other cohorts are now on the bridge and are tying a rope to the railing and attaching the other end to a boat waiting on the river below. Attaching rings to the sacks of cash, they slide their ill gotten gain down to the boat. Then the criminals follow suit, crawling down to the boat. As the police flood into the area, the perpetrators make their getaway slowly cruising down the Thames.

Once in the clear they all assemble at a warehouse. Mason, after his indiscretion is given his share of the loot, and the unseen boss man’s loot too. Mason has to meet the boss outside the city in a place called ‘The Old Farm’ at Inglemere. The other cohorts load a van up with the remaining cash an drive off. Unfortunately for them, the police receive an anonymous tip off revealing the route they’ll be taking and the vehicle licence plate. This results in a car chase, with the perpetrators eventually being run off the road.

This leaves Mason as the only man with any of the cash, and he arrives at his destination – The Old Farm. For his trouble, he ends up with a knife in his back. Now this is where the films changes tone. Inglemere also happens to be the winter location for Barbarini’s Circus. Immediately we are introduced to a new set of disparate characters. Firstly there is Barbarini (Anthony Newlands) who runs the circus. Then there’s Gregor (Christopher Lee). Gregor, some years back had a horrible accident and now always wears a black hooded mask. He is also the custodian of his neice, Natasha (Suzy Kendall) Then we have Gina (Margaret Lee) who performs a knife act with her insanely jealous boyfriend Mario, who, as you’ve guessed is a knife thrower. Next you’ve got Karl (Heinz Drache), who is the ringmaster. There’s also a malicious midget called Mr. Big, who specialises at listening outside windows.

Now it’s pretty obvious that someone associated with the circus has had a part in the robbery, but of course that isn’t revealed. But it’s not before long and some of the stolen money starts to surface. All the banks in the area have been notified of the serial numbers of the stolen money, and when some turns up, passed by Barbarini, Police Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) is called in to investigate.

It’s not the purpose of this website to act as a shill for any particular video or DVD company, but if you are going to watch Circus Of Fear (or any of the other names this film has travelled under), then do yourself the favour and obtain the Blue Underground version. Previous versions have been severely truncated – in America the film was originally released at 61 minutes long and in black and white – needless to say, this will not do the film justice. Get the full version and enjoy the film for what it is – and that’s a hugely entertaining thriller with a great cast.

Circus Of Fear (1966)

Terror Of The Tongs (1961)

AKA: The Terror Of The Hatchet Men
Director: Anthony Bushell
Starring: Geoffrey Toone, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur, Brian Worth, Richard Leech, Marne Maitland, Barbara Brown, Marie Burke, Burt Kwouk, Roger Delgado, Milton Reid, Bandana Das Gupta
Music: James Bernard

Burt Kwouk must be one of the most successful jobbing actors of the last half century. Since the late 1950’s, whenever a British film production or television show needed an oriental character, Burt Kwouk was the go-to man. Very often he would re-appear in television shows, like The Saint, The Avengers, Danger Man, and Callan as different characters because he was never a household name and nobody knew who he was. The closest he came to fame and recognition is as Cato Fong, Inspector Clouseau’s manservant in the Pink Panther movies. If you look at a list of movies that he has appeared in, you’ll be staggered by the shear amount of productions he has been in. However, being oriental usually meant that Kwouk had to play evil scheming characters. Some people may say that Dr. Fu Manchu was the epitome of Asian menace, or the so called ‘yellow-peril’. I disagree. Fu Manchu was usually played by a Caucasian actor (like Christopher Lee) with eye-pieces applied. Burt Kwouk was the real thing. Having said all that, The Terror Of The Tongs is unusual in that Burt Kwouk plays a good guy.

In the film, Kwouk plays Mr. Ming, an operative for an un-named organisation that is attempting to stamp out the Red Dragon Tong in Hong Kong. The Red Dragon Tong is a secret society that preys on the the people of Hong Kong. They extort money from shopkeepers and run gambling and opium dens, as well as brothels. Mr. Ming is on a steamer captained by Jackson Sale (Geoffrey Toone) as it sails into Hong Kong Harbour. Ming is carrying a list of all the Red Dragon Tong members. With this information he intends to stop the Tong once and for all. But Ming suspects that the Tong will try and stop him, so he secrets the list into the cover of a book of Chinese verse and gives it to Captain Sale as a gift for his daughter. The Captain gratefully accepts the gift.

Once in port, Ming is right. The Tong are waiting for him, and an assassin armed with a hatchet attacks Ming on the dock. Ming shoots his attacker three times but thins doesn’t stop the assassin who delivers a mortal blow to Ming.

The Tong arrange to claim Ming’s body and possessions but are dismayed to find that the list Ming was supposed to be carrying is nowhere to be found. The leader of the Tong, Chung King (Christopher Lee – with eye-pieces applied) surmises that Ming must have passed the list onto one of the officers on the ship, and orders that anyone who comes into contact with the list must be killed.

Captain Sale returns home to his daughter, Helena (Barabara Brown) and his housekeeper Anna (Bandana Das Gupta). Sale gives his daughter the book with the list hidden inside. Anna, the housekeeper is actually Ming’s contact in Hong Kong, and secretly she retrieves the list. But the Tong follow the trail. They start at Sales Steamer, where they find nothing, and then come to Sale’s home. Sale isn’t in the house at that time, but Helena is. The Tong’s, following their orders to kill anyone who comes in contact with the list, do just that. They kill Helena.

After the death of his daughter, Sale goes on a rampage, determined to expose the secret Tong society and find his daughter’s killer.

The Terror Of The Tongs is a Hammer production written by Jimmy Sangster and provides all the action and intrigue you’d expect from a film of this vintage. It is somewhat studio bound, but this allows the film-makers to control the colour and lighting (and it’s cheaper than filming on location in Hong Kong). Put simply, the film looks fabulous (especially the new widescreen transfers available on DVD). But is it a spy film? Well there are hints of espionage, but they are never really fleshed out. We don’t know who the good guys really are. They could be Interpol, maybe even the police – we never know. If it is a spy film, it’s a cusp spy film and not essential viewing for espionage fans.

Terror Of The Tongs (1961)

The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969)


Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Christopher lee, Tsai Chin, Maria Perschy, Howard Marion-Crawford, Gunther Stoll, Rosalba Neri, Jose Manuel Martin, Richard Green
Music: Charles Camilleri
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

A bit more mayhem from the ‘most evil man on earth’. The Castle Of Fu Manchu is the fifth, final and weakest of the Harry Alan Towers series of Fu Manchu films. Like the previous film, The Blood Of Fu Manchu, this film is directed by the inimatable Jess Franco. Even with Franco’s skewed imput, this film is thin, and the budgetary restraints are obvious. The film starts with borrowed footage from A Night To Remember, and then recycles footage from The Brides Of Fu Manchu. This results in the sinking of the Titanic again, and the destruction of Fu Manchu’s secret lair once again. But this cobbled together intro is in fact, Fu Manchu’s demonstration of his newest weapon. Here he shows the world he can control the oceans of the world. In fact, it is not meant to be the Titanic. It is another cruise liner sailing the tropical seas of the Carribean. Fu Manchu has created icebergs in the Carribean, and of course, the ship hits the iceberg and sinks. But you guessed that, didn’t you!

Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard (Richard Green) and his old pal Doctor Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) are holidaying in scotland while Fu Manchu’s evil scheme is played out. But their holiday is cut short when a message from the Home Office orders them back to London at once.

Back in London, Homeland Security have been receiving reoccuring radio messages from Fu Manchu. He says, ‘In the Carribean I gave a demonstration of the new and destructive weapon I possess!’ Fu Manchu threatens to strike again in fourteen days unless the heads of the major powers agree to his demands. In his transmission, Fu doesn’t actually say what his demands are; only that the leaders are to agree to them. But as Fu Manchu has proven himself to have a megalomaniacal streak in the past four films, it’s fair enough to assume his price tag would be steep.

The intro sequence to this film also showed the destruction of Fu Manchu’s secret lair, so he needs a new one. And for his weapon to work he needs two things – large amounts of water – and the other is large quantities of opium. Apparently the opium is somehow transformed into ice crystals and this creates the icebergs, or some other such mumbo-jumbo. To be honest, the ‘science’ in this film is pretty flakey. So ‘water’ and ‘opium’ are Fu’s requirements, and it just so happens that these items are in plentiful supply in Anatolia in Turkey. To make this a reality, Fu Manchu’s evil daughter, Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) meets with a local Turkish ganglord and opium dealer, Omar Pasher. Together thay form an alliance and plot to storm the Govenor of Anatolia’s castle.

The incursion works like clockwork. Pasher’s men kill the guards at the main gates to the castle, and then Fu Manchu’s army of evil minions do the rest. Fu Manchu has a new base of operations, but he needs one man to bring his reign of terror to fruition. He is Professor Herades. Fu Manchu has Herades already held prisoner, but Herades has a terminal heart condition which limits his usefulness.

Meanwhile, back in England, Nayland Smith and petrie begin to nut together the piece’s of Fu Manchu’s scheme and deduce that he must be hiding out in Turkey.

Richard Green is Nayland Smith once again, and thanfully he gets a litle more to do in this film than he did in The Blood Of Fu Manchu. But the Franco films concentrate far more on Fu Manchu than any one of the good guys. Christopher Lee phones through another acceptable performance, but he isn’t really stretching himself. Rosalba Neri has a flashy role as Omar Pasher’s number one minion. In the film, she gets to wear some unusal striped suits and hats.

At the start of the review, I mentioned that this film was directed by Jess Franco. Most fans of B-grade or cult cinema will be familiar with his work. But The Castle Of Fu Manchu, while having a few small Franco touches isn’t really indicative of his work.

This film is pretty bad. Franco tries hard to do what he can to cobble together a decent story but there is way too much padding. There is one sequence which is almost laughable in it’s attempt to create tension with no budget. Fu Manchu and an assortment of characters stare at a room full of bubbling test tubes and beakers ans shout out warnings. But the test tubes look the same from one scene to the next. It doesn’t look like things are heating up. But the scene is well edited – there simply wasn’t an adequate budget to provide some convincing scientific equipment or sets.

The film is really is the nadir of the series. It’s hard to go down further when you’re already beyond the bottom of the barrel. It’s not surprising that no further films were made in the series.

The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969)

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967)


Director: Jeremy Summers
Starring: Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Tsai Chin, Horst Frank, Noel Trevarthen, Tony Ferrer, Maria Rohm, Howard Marion-Crawford, Peter Carsten, Wolfgang Kieling, Susanne Roquette
Music: Malcolm Lockyer
Songs, ‘The Real Me’ and ‘Where Are the Men’ sung by Samantha Jones (Lyrics by Don Black)

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu is not a spy film, but it does feature an evil mastermind attempting to take over the world. There’s also a nice subplot about the birth of ‘Interpol’. This is the third in the Harry Alan Towers produced, Fu Manchu series. With each installment, the quality of the series dropped considerably and the film has some long protracted moments where not too much happens.

Douglas Wilmer once again plays Fu Manchu’s Nemesis Nayland Smith, which he did previously in The Brides Of Fu Manchu. Wilmer is adequate in the role, displaying a squared jawed heroic countenance, but he doesn’t have the screen presence of Nigel Greene who played the character in the first film.

Of course, you can’t talk about a Fu Manchu film without talking about horror icon, Christopher Lee. By this film in the series Lee looks quite bored by the role. He isn’t given too much to say. He simply has to glower and nod his his head and his evil minions do the work for him. I guess it is in keeping with the character, but it isn’t particularly a stretch for Lee.

The film begins in the Quang-Su Provence in Northern China, and along a winding mountain track a small caravan of men make there way to a hidden fortress. Riding in comfort in two carriages, carried by their evil minions are the most evil man on earth, Fu Manchu and his equally vicious daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin).

Once at the fortress, Fu Manchu has all the paths and roadways dynamited, cutting off the outside world, so he can formulate his his attempt to take over the world in relative peace.

In London, Commissioner Nayland Smith of Scotland yard is planning a trip to Paris. He is meeting with other Police Chiefs in order to set up a new organisation designed to battle International Crime. This new organisation is to be called ‘Interpol’. At this meeting is a young FBI agent, Mark Weston (Noel Trevarthen). He reports that the crime gangs of America have selected a man named Rudolph Moss (Horst Frank) to be their new ambassador and seek out a new ‘Head’ of global crime. You’ve got to remember here, that everybody thinks that Fu Manchu is still dead. he died at the end of the last film. So the FBI and Interpol don’t know who this new ‘Head’ will be. Of course, we viewers know it is going to be Fu.

Meanwhile back in China, Fu Manchu is putting his latest plan into operation. Firstly he kidnaps Dr. Lieberson (Wolfgang Kieling) and his daughter, Maria (Susanne Roquette) from a nearby village. Lieberson initially refuses to work for Fu Manchu, so his daughter is tortured. Soon after the Doctor relents. The Doctor’s mission is to transform one of Fu Manchu’s Asian minions into a Caucasian likeness of Nayland Smith. And Fu instructs that this must be done in forty-eight hours. I think a modern day plastic surgeon would have trouble completing that task, let alone a Doctor in a remote village in Northern China. But who knows, maybe the Doctor is really a ‘Super Doctor’ who really believes in doing humanitarian work, rather than living at the cutting edge of medical science. I know, it’s silly of me to pick on the medical and scientific plot devices in a Fu manchu film. But I cannot help it. Regardless, the Doctor, fearing for his daughter’s life, agrees to transform Fu Manchu’s mindless killer into Nayland Smith.

Interpol are busy tracking down Rudolph Moss. It seems he was bound for Shanghai on a ship called the Orient Star. Interpol wires Inspector Ramos (Tony Ferrer) of the Shanghai police Department. Ramos intercepts the ship but he is too late. Moss has alreadt disembarked and his heading across country to meet Fu Manchu.

Meanwhile, Nayland Smith and his close friend, Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) are off on holiday in Ireland. On a rural track, their car runs out of petrol. luckily a car comes along and Petrie hitches a lift into the nearlest village to fill up a can of fuel. By the time Petrie returns, Nayland Smith has been kidnapped and Doctor lieberson’s psycotic double has been put in his place. The real Nayland Smith is bound and gaged and sealed in a wooden crate bound for Shanghai.

I don’t rate this entry in the Fu Manchu series very highly, but it does have a few points of interest. Firstly, this film was a co-production with Hong Kong’s Shaw Studios, which means it has a slightly different flavour to the other entries in the series. It also stars Tony Ferrer, who plays Inspector Ramos. Ferrer was a big star in the Philippines. One of his higher profile series were the Tony Falcon films made in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

In the end though, despite the International intervention in the series, this film is a step down from previous films, and it really should have been the end of the series. But the series kicked on for another two films, each with a diminishing budget, and helmed by Jess Franco. But that’s another story.

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967)

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaise, Demond Llewelyn, Bernard Lee
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by Lulu
Based loosely on the novel by Ian Fleming

The Man With The Golden Gun is the most psychedelic of the Bond series or at least tries to be. The villains lair, which is revealed in the opening sequence, and features in the finale is a carnival of flashing coloured lights, revolving mirrors, robotic toys and wall high video screens. But despite all the toys it isn’t that trippy. As such, it provides the setting for one of the Bond series weakest endings. The story for two thirds of it’s running time is okay, but it is always leading to the showdown between Bond and The Man With The Golden Gun, Francisco Scaramanga. And that showdown is a bit disappointing.

James Bond (Roger Moore) is summoned to M’s office. M (Bernard Lee) presents Bond with a package that has been sent to M.I.6 headquarters in London. Inside the package is a golden bullet and etched on the side are the numbers 0-0-7. It looks like somebody wants James Bond dead, and that someone happens to be Franscisco Scaramanga. Scaramanga is the world’s most expensive and dangerous assassin. He is known as the ‘man with the golden gun’ because he always uses a gold bullet to kill his targets. On top of that, he charges one million dollars for every target – it’s not bad work if you can get it! M relieves Bond from duty. M.I.6 cannot jeopardise a mission by having an agent shot while on active duty. Bond suggests that if he found Scaramanga first, then the tables would be turned. M agrees and begins tracking down the mysterious ‘man with the golden gun’.

Bond’s first port of call is a nightclub in Istanbul. A Double-O agent had been killed there many years previously by Scaramanga. The agent had been with an exotic dancer named Saida when he was killed, and now she uses the remnants of the bullet as a lucky charm, wedged in her navel. After some gentle coercion, Bond obtains the bullet and takes it to Q-Branch. Q (Desmond Llewellyn) examines the bullet and the mineral content of the gold that it was made from. Q ascertains that the gold could have only come from one part of the world, the Far East, and only one man in that part of the world is equipped to make some specialised bullets. His name is Lazaar and he works out of Macao.

Bond pays a vist to Lazaar and threatens to kill him unless he leads him to Scaramanga. In fear for his life, Lazaar offers to help, but he is only a small link in the chain. He takes the golden bullets to a casino where they are collected by a lady. As it happens, Lazaar has another shipment of bullets ready to be delivered. As he takes them to the casino for collection, Bond follows and watches.

At the casino, the bullets are collected by Andrea Anders (Maud Adams). She leaves and catches a hydrofoil to Hong Kong and then checks into a hotel, all the time with Bond discreetly on her trail.

Later, Bond convinces one of the hotel staff to open the door to Andrea’s hotel suite. Inside she is taking a shower and does not hear Bond enetre the room. After she has exited the shower, Bond asks her where he can find Scaramanga. She refuses to say. In one of Roger Moore’s more brutal scenes as Bond, he gives her a backhand across the jaw and then literally twists her arm. She tells Bond that Scaramanga has an appointment that evening at a Hong Kong night club called the ‘Bottom’s Up’.

As this Bond film is set in Asia, and at this time Kung-Fu films were exceedingly popular, it is not surprising that The Man With The Golden Gun jumped onto the martial arts bandwagon. The scenes aren’t too successful because Roger Moore is not too convincing as a martial artist, and most of the scenes fall to Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Tek Oh), who plays Bond’s contact in Hong Kong.

The Man With The Golden gun of the title is played by Christopher Lee, and he is pretty good in the role, but he is at his most charming and menacing when he is simply conversing with Bond. Whenever Scaramanga has to engage in any type of action it comes off as silly (this probably has more to do with the script, than Lee’s acting ability). On such scene is where he has to slide down, on the soles of his feet, an embankment of flattened steps (don’t ask!), and then roll into a somersault, grab his gun and fire at the target. Equally silly, is when he has to pilot a flying car. Lee is at his best as an urbane gentleman – not as a two bit action hero.

Hervé Villechaise is Scaramanga’s diminutive manservant Nick Nack who at the height of 3′ 11″ is not a particularly threatening henchman. In fact, he is one of the few villains in the Bond series who is not killed.

There are two main Bond girls in The Man With The Golden Gun. The first is Maud Adams. Adams plays Andrea Anders, the woman who sets the whole chains of events in motion by sending James Bond one of Scaramanga’s golden bullets. The bullet usually signifies the recipient is to be the next target for assassination by The Man With The Golden Gun, but in this instance it is simply a ploy to drag James Bond into Miss Anders game. And she is quite prepared to use her body to sweeten the deal, if it will get her what she wants.

The next Bond girl is Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight. Goodnight is the good girl in this movie, but she is also lumbered with some awkward comic relief moments.

After George Martin had taken over the musical reigns for Live And Let Die, it was back to the maestro, John Barry for the score to The Man With The Golden Gun. It was Barry’s seventh score for a Bond movie, and it is lighter than previous scores, to suit Roger Moore’s lighter interpretation of Bond. But as always, it is good to have John Barry back in control, and in the chase sequences where he, once again, comes into his own with pounding rhythms and driving horns to underscore the action.

The Man With The Golden Gun is one of the weaker Bond films. This is mainly due to the ending. The duel between Bond and Scaramanga works on paper, but not particularly well cinematically. And when the gunfight moves into Scaramanga’s funhouse, the ending becomes repetitive – because we have seen it in the pre-title sequence. It is also predictable – again the pre-title sequence enables you to guess what happens next.

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)