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The Face of Fu Manchu
Ich, Dr. Fu Man Chu

UK 1965
produced by
Harry Alan Towers
directed by Don Sharp
starring Christopher Lee, Nigel Green, Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Dor, Howard Marion Crawford, Tsai Chin, Walter Rilla, Peter Mosbacher, Harry Brogan
written by Peter Welbeck (= Harry Alan Towers), based on characters by Sax Rohmer, music by Gert Wilden

Fu Manchu, Harry Alan Towers' Fu Manchu

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When professor Müller (Walter Rilla), who is in the process of developing a poisonous gas, is kidnapped, it leaves no doubt to Nayland Smith (Nigel Green), that evil Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) is behind it all, even though he saw the villain decapitated himself. So he, along with Müller's assistant Jansen (Joachim Fuchsberger) & his trusted friend Dr.Petrie (Howard Marion Crwawford), takes up investigations of his own. & of course he is right, Fu Manchu is alive & has abducted the professor, but that man has little interest in sharing the results of his rsearches with the villain, making Fu Manchu to abduct Müller's daughter Maria (Karin Dor) too, so the professor finally gives in. But there is one more obstacle in the way of Fu Manchu getting the gas: a vital part to the formula is not yet in the professor's hands but in the museum for Oriental studies' vault (for whateever reason), & Nayland Smith knows that too & has the museum heavily guarded. But since the story takes place in London, Fu Manchu's men still manage to enter the vault through the sewage system leading to River Thames, & it is only due to the fi9ghting skills of Nayland Sith & Jansen that they can't actually get into the safe where the formula is kept. But when Smith afterwards demands the safe to be opened, he finds it ... empty - the formula is actually with absent minded professor Gaskell (Harry Brogan). Now, a desperate chase for the formula ensues, which Fu Manchu finally wins, &, once in the possession of the poisonous gas itself, he announces over the radio he willfirst demonstrate his power on the city of Fleetwick.

Now I admit it gets a little confusing: Even though Nayland Smith knows Fu Manchu now has the poisonous gas, he does not have the city evacuated but sends in soldiers to guard the townfolks - without gas masks. Of course everybody dies (at least there are some pretty atmospheric shots of the city full of corpses).

But as Fu Manchu contemplates bigger & better things, Smith & Jansen come to the conclusion that Fu Manchu's headquarters have to be beneath River Thames, & some of the maps of the sewage system show them exactly where to enter the villain's realm - which they do, too, only to be captured themselves. & they would have had it, too, was it not for a last minute intervention by Maria Müller, with whom they finally escapes. Fu Manchu & the professor manage to escape too, though, to Tuibet, where the key ingredience of the poisonous gas, some exotic flower, is growing. But Nayland Smith & company are still hot on the villain's trail, & they manage to enter his Tibetan castle & free the professor while leaving behind a crate of Nitroglycerin ... that goes boom !

 

In the sixties, crime- & espionage-movies were suddenly back en vogue (not at least sparked by the success of the James Bond series), & so it was only a matter of time until the Oriental Villain Fu Manchu would be resurrected, courtesy of producer Harry Alan Towers. The film as such is a pretty decent & solid piece of spy-adventure-yarn (apart from the slip of logic concerning the poisoning of Fleetwick, as mentioned above), even if it is a little on the old-fashioned side. It would be a reasonable success, so Towers would produce 4 more flicks about the Oriental villain, The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), also by Don Sharp, Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1966) by Jeremy Summers, Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) & Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) by Jess Franco. Apart from Christopher Lee in the title role, only Tsai Chin & Howard Marion Crawford would return in all the sequels as Lin Tang, Fu Manchu's daughter & Dr. Petrie, the Doctor Watson to Nayland Smith (Howard Marion Crawford did actually play the role of Watson in Sheldon Reynolds' tv-series Sherlock Holmes in the mid-fifties). Nayland Smith would in later movies be played by Douglas Wilmer (Vengeance of Fu Manchu), then Richard Greene (Blood of Fu ManchuCastle of Fu Manchu).

Joachim Fuchsberger & Karin Dor actually acted together in many a German Rialto Film-produced Edgar Wallace-mystery back in the 60's - just to show you that crime- & espionage-movies of that ilk really were en vogue back then -, in more or less the same role as dashing hero & daughter of somebody, respectively.

 

review İ by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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