The Death of Fu Manchu


Actually it’s not the ‘Death’, because nobody can kill Fu Manchu, but it is the end of this week’s series of posts featuring the Devil Doctor. Of course, Fu Manchu will return – ‘The World shall here from me again’, as Christopher Lee would say at the end of each of the Harry Alan Towers movies.

I think it has been a good week, and I have found out quite a bit of new information (new to me, that is) and have a few books to acquire and read: Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, which features Sherlock Holmes stepping in for Nayland Smith, in the dogged pursuit of Fu Manchu. Also The Rainbow Affair, by David McDaniel, the thirteenth in the American Man From UNCLE novels. How can you go wrong — Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin tracking down the evil mastermind.

Fu Manchu reviews on PTK:

The Prisoner Of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)

The Death Ships Of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)

The Master Plan Of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)

The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965)

The Brides Of Fu Manchu (1966)

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967)

The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969)

Or the similarly themed (although without Fu Manchu), Hammer Studio’s Terror Of The Tongs (1961) which features Christopher Lee.

The Death of Fu Manchu

The Rainbow Affair

Most of the books published in Australia are the English editions — although some American stuff slips in. Generally though, because we use the same spelling as the English, it will be the English version that is either imported into (or even printed in) Australia.

For the series of The Man From UNCLE books, that means that only 16 of the 23 titles reached our shores. One of those ‘missing’ titles is The Rainbow Affair by David McDaniel. So I have never read The Rainbow Affair, but as we are talking Fu Manchu this week, I thought for spy fans it was a title worth mentioning.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about The Rainbow Affair.

The Rainbow Affair is notable for its thinly-disguised cameo appearances by The Saint, Miss Marple, John Steed, Emma Peel, Tommy Hambledon (at whose flat Solo and Ilya encounter Steed and Peel), Neddie Seagoon, Father Brown, a retired, elderly Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Fu Manchu. The novel uses the same chapter title format that Leslie Charteris used in his Saint novels. (The title of one of the theatrical versions of UNCLE episodes, The Spy in the Green Hat, is very close to the title of The Man in the Green Hat, one of the “Hambledon” novels by “Manning Coles“.)

That’s a pretty impressive line up of literary heroes, and it’s another book that my life is incomplete without – so I am going to have to track it down — if not for Fu Manchu, then for The Saint, John Steed and Emma Peel.

Here’s what Dr. Lawrence Knapp’s website had to say about David McDaniel’s The Rainbow Affair:

A “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” (#13) novel in which Thrush courts Fu Manchu.

“… a tall, thin Chinese, wearing robes of silk which shimmered in the candlelight. His face was unlined, but his eyes were old with ancient wisdom, and seemed oddly veiled, like those of a drowsing cat. Above an imposing brow, he wore a black skullcap with a single coral bead which indicated the rank of Mandarin. A marmoset perched on his shoulder, occasionally nuzzling his ear.”

At a later meeting, the offer of alliance is rejected:

” ‘I know what you desire from me, and perhaps someday you may find something for which I would exchange it. I will know when you do.’ ” The man in the gray suit felt a touch on his arm, and turned to find two great, bare-chested, turbaned guards. He accompanied them out, pausing a moment at the door to look back into the hazed interior of that enigmatic room, where an old Chinese with a brow like Shakespeare, a face like Satan, and eyes of the true tiger green, lay dreaming.”

You can read a few excerpts from The Rainbow Affair at the Westray Avengers Site.

The Rainbow Affair

The Master Plan of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)

The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu: Episode 11

The Master Plan of Dr. Fu Manchu

Country: United States
Director: William Witney
Starring: Glen Gordon, Lester Matthews, Clark Howat, Carla Balenda, Alan Dexter, Steven Geray, Laurette Luez, John George
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

Television has come a long way, and this episode of the Fu Manchu television series is pretty hard going. Most of this is primarily to do with Glen Gordon as Fu Manchu. He is not charismatic, and his clipped, quasi Chinese delivery is pretty dire. At least this episode has a pretty wild premise fro the plot — and that is that Adolph Hitler did not die at the end of the War in Europe, but in fact escaped and has been living on an unchartered island in the Pacific. That is, until now. He has teamed up with the Devil Doctor, and together they plan to rule the world [insert evil maniacal laughter fading into the distance].

As this episode opens Fu Manchu is watching some film footage of Hitler and the Nazi war machine in action. He is pretty impressed. He immediately sends out one of his minions to kidnap Dr. Harlow Henderson (Alan Dexter), who is a world renowned plastic surgeon. Henderson is brought before Fu Manchu and forced to alter the features of Adolph Hitler. Henderson’s disappearance doesn’t go un-noticed, and his secretary, Betty Leonard (Carla Balenda) contacts Dr. Petrie (Clark Howat). Petrie, without the aid of his good friend Nayland Smith, goes to investigate. From an indentation on a notepad — you know where they rub a pencil over the page to see what had been written on the top sheet — Petrie discovers where Henderson went, but he too is caught and brought before the evil Doctor. This doesn’t bode well for Henderson. With two doctors on the scene, he is no longer required. It is Henderson rather than Petrie, because Henderson knows too much, and can identify the altered Fuehrer. To Petrie, Hitler is just a man swathed in bandages — he has no idea of what is going on.

So Henderson is killed and his body ios dumped in a river, but Fu Manchu’s minions are seen by the police in the act. Henderson’s body is soon recovered, and an autopsy report shows that he died from the venom of a rare spider (Tarantula Maximus). This tiny piece of information alerts Nayland Smith to the involvement of the most evil man alive, Fu Manchu.Nayland Smith takes on the case, attempting to track down his friend, Dr. Petrie, the evil Fu Manchu, and a bandaged madman who has a new plan to take over the world.

This episode may be silly, far-fetched pulpy nonsense, but really I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would like a bit more character development, but these episodes only go for around twenty-five minutes, so the time is spent delivering fast paced thrills.

The Master Plan of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)

The Death Ships of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)

The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu: Episode 9

The Death Ships of Dr. Fu Manchu

Country: United States
Director: William Witney
Starring: Glen Gordon, Lester Matthews, Clark Howat, Peter Mamakos, Hugh Sanders, Carla Balenda, Laurette Luez, John George
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

The Death Ships of Fu Manchu is the ninth the episode in the Studio City Television series featuring the Devil Doctor, Fu Manchu. Traditionally, Fu Manchu’s nemesis is Dennis Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard. In the first episode of this series, when we are introduced to Nayland Smith, Dr. Petrie’s voice-over informs us that Nayland Smith is formally of Scotland Yard, meaning he doesn’t work for the ‘Yard’ any more. In this episode it is explained that Nayland Smith is a British Secret Service Operator. Does that make him a spy? Well not really. But considering that this is an American television series, it universalises his character a bit and makes him slightly more identifiable. Only a smidge, mind you. It also adds a layer of sensibility to Nayland Smith’s globe trotting ways. It would seem a bit silly for a Scotland Yard Inspector to be loitering around with his good friend Dr. Petrie in the United States, just waiting for an incident to happen. As an agent, he can be anywhere at any time.

In this instance, currently Nayland Smith (Lester Matthews) is in Hong Kong with Dr. Petrie (Clark Howat) and they are checking all goods coming into the country from the United States. It appears that somebody has broken into a research laboratory in California and stolen a deadly germ culture. It is suspected that this lethal virus will be smuggled into Red China through Hong Kong.

It appears that the man behind the theft is Dr. Fu Manchu (Glen Gordon), and he has shipped two small boxes on the freighter, Carfax, under the command of Captain Warren (Hugh Sanders). As the ship approaches Hong Kong it is caught up in a wild storm and driven into the rocks. The Captain gives the order and the crew all abandon ship. The Captain, as he has been paid well, collects the two small boxes and brings them with him on the lifeboat.

As the Carfax sank, and no cargo was put ashore in Hong Kong, Nayland Smith believes there is no cause for alarm on this occasion, but still is wary enough to chose to interview the crew members of the Carfax.

Meanwhile Fu Manchu, who is now also in Hong Kong, has received his boxes of deadly germ culture. Now he needs it shipped forward to the Red Chinese, and he believes that once again Captain Warren is the man to transfer the merchandise. However, Nayland Smith finds it strange that a man who just lost a ship in a storm, should so quickly be given a new ship to command. He chooses to investigate further.

The Death Ships of Dr. Fu Manchu strangely still seems topical today, even after fifty years since it was first broadcast. It has a strange duality to it. The Red Chinese must not get their hands on the American germ-culture because they will use it on their own people and hold the Americans responsible. With the Americans then being blamed for releasing germ warfare in China, China can then, in the eyes of the world, justifiably retaliate. But before you condemn the underhanded, evil Chinese (or at least that’s how they are portrayed in this tv series — and let’s remember that is all this is, just a television program — it’s not intended to be real life), you’ve got to ask why were the Americans experimenting with deadly germs cultures in the first place?

At the end of the day though, the plot contrivances and the politics of the day, are simply there to drive the plot along as fast as possible. Fu Manchu, like Bulldog Drummond and wartime propaganda films are products of their time and place. I think it is pointless getting upset at the racism and cruel stereotyping that go on in these programs. Certainly they are not to be applauded, but the past is the past, and while I am glad that times are changing and the world is becoming more tolerant, I hate to think that in this politically correct age, that somebody would feel that it is necessary to go back and re-write all our history so it hides or removes all the ugly bits that don’t fit in with the current paradigm.

The Death Ships of Dr. Fu Manchu (1956)