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The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu

UK/USA 1980
produced by
Zev Braun, Leland Nolan, Lynne Frederick (executive), Hugh Hefner (executive) for Braun Entertainment Group, Playboy Pictures
directed by Piers Haggard
starring Peter Sellers, Helen Mirren, David Tomlinson, Sid Caesar, Simon Williams, Steve Franken, Statford Johns, John Le Mesurier, John Sharp, Clément Harari, Lee Kwan-Young, John Tan, Philip Tan, Serge Julien, Johns Rajohnson, Pralith Jngam Oeurn, Song Lim Bun, Clive Dunn, Burt Kwouk, Katia Tchenko, David Powers, Marc Wilkinson, Grace Coyle, Jacqueline Fogt, Iska Khan, George Hilsdon, Rene Aranda
screenplay by Rudy Dochtermann, Jim Moloney, based on characters created by Sax Rohmer, music by Marc Wilkinson

Fu Manchu

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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London, 1933: Oriental supervillain Fu Manchu (Peter Sellers) is at it again, and this time he wants to steal the George V diamond, which is the one ingredient missing in his elixir vitae recipe that would make sure he'd see another birthday (his 169th, to be precise). Of course, Scotland Yard and the deeply confused Nayland Smith (Peter Sellers again), who refuses to leave house without his lawnmower, know about Fu Manchu's plans and assisted by two FBI agents (Sid Caesar, Simon Williams) and undercover policewoman Alice Rage (Helen Mirren) who is supposed to double for the queen (Grace Coyle), they thwart his plans one after the other - until Fu Manchu figures to keep Smith from spoiling all of his evil schemes, he has to kidnap his beloved lawnmower. Then and only then, Fu Manchu kidnaps the queen (whom he wants to exchange for the Crown Jewels, of which the George V diamond is part) ... only to find out Smith has tricked him again, and instead of having the queen at his disposal, he is stuck with Alice Rage. But Alice Rage falls in love with him and helps him steal the diamond ... and it's off to the Himalayas.

Of course, Smith is still one step ahead from the comptetition and has seen to it that Fu Manchu doesn't steal the real diamond but just a replica. And then he flies his cottage (!) to the Himalayas to exchange the diamond for the crown jewels - only to arrive at the villain's place having to realize his plan wasn't as fool-proof as he thought it to be, and he has to hand over the diamond and admit defeat. Once Fu Manchu is rejuvenated by his elixir vitae though, he has a change of heart, and instead of whatever deviltry he had originally planned, he returns the rest of the Crown Jewels and invites Smith to have some elixir vitae himself ... simply to have a worthy opponent in the years, decades and possibly centuries to come.

 

Essentially, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu is an unfunny comedy, a film that neither works as a parody nor as a Fu Manchu-flick. However, the film is not a total trainwreck, it boasts great performances by a pretty good cast (even if Peter Sellers, who was in poor health and whose last movie this was, looks a bit tired), and some of the gags really show potential - but the problem here was possibly the film's director Piers Haggard, who had proven himself a capable director of (mainly TV) dramas, but quite simply lacked a knack for comedy, and thus many good jokes fall flat on their face, are underdeveloped, or simply not recognized as jokes, and one of the possibly funniest scenes of the film, when Smith flies his house to the Himalayas balloonist-style, is ruined by lazy special effects.

In all, it's a movie not worth your time and money, but when watching it, one can't help but wonder what a more able director would have made out of the material.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD