a mysterious jungle fortress, somewhere in South America, the
super-villain Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) has assembled a swathe of
beautiful women. First immunised, then infected with the poison of a
viper, they carry a deadly kiss, aimed at Fu Manchu's enemies.
Meanwhile an expedition through the jungle, lead byCarl Jansen (Götz George)
comes under attack from armed guards, and his friend Dr. Wagner is
killed. In London, Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) receives a telegram
from Jansen, one of his spies, reporting that he is closing in on Fu
Manchu, but it might be too late when one of Fu Manchu's deadly women
arrives at Smith's door and gives him the kiss of death. With his
eyesight gone, and his life fading away, Smith and his friend Dr.
Petrie must travel to South America to find a cure....
The fourth film in the series, Blood of Fu Manchu is by any standards a turn for the worse. While Face, Brides and Vengeance could never be called classics, they at least boasted decent scripts - Blood is saddled with an appalingly bad storyline that amazingly seems to have been stolen from Mario Bava's Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs
(1966), considered one of the worst films ever made! It is clear from
the start that Fu Manchu's plan is utterly pointless - the use of a
beautiful woman as an assassin makes little difference when all she
does is walk up to Smith in his house and kiss him - any woman (or man)
could have done this equally well, or perhaps saved time and simply
shot him dead. The film could have been saved, even with such a daft
plot, had it been established that Fu Manchu was steadily going insane
after all his close escapes from death - but sadly this opportunity is
missed and we are supposed to believe that the inane plan is actually
the result of a fearsome intellect.
Unfortunately, the script
writing is as bad as the plot, with some horrific pacing throughout
that really makes the film a drag to watch. Nayland Smith in particular
is badly treated here, being blinded early on and getting nothing to do
for most of the run-time, instead most of the film seems to revolve
around a bandit leader and seems to be an attempt to turn the film into
a jungle bound Western, without much success. Characterisation is
generally poor, Dr Petrie becomes a moaning nuisance, Ursula
Wagner (Maria Rohm) and Carl Jansen just crop up occasionally, and the
addition of a random chess playing dictator in what might have been an
attempt at comic relief just kills the film dead. Not to mention the
completely undefined aims of Fu Manchu's killings (if you are going to
kill 10 million people in London, why bother to kill some people
individually first?), the gratuitous torture scenes (or lack thereof)
and the predictable and uninspired climax.
Jess Franco takes the
director's chair this time around - the cult favourite Spanish director
was making his mainstream break here in his first film for Harry Alan
Towers. The results are very mixed and although there are some
beautiful shots and some wonderfully elaborate sets, many scenes in the
film seem very poorly framed, and despite the use of real Brazilian
locations many of the jungle sets look stage-bound - he simply fails to
capture the scale of the jungle. The soundtrack by Franco's favourite
composer Daniel White is decent, but sorely missing in many action
scenes, that as a result, seem very boring.
Lee is back as Fu Manchu and gives a commendable effort but cannot do
anything to save the material. Richard Greene takes on the Nayland
Smith role and looks very out of place - he lacks the defined
appearance of the previous actors, and generally seems bored throughout
(although the tiny role is probably a key factor in this). Hero of
several Karl May Westerns, Götz George seems to be the most
committed to this production with an ernest performance as
Carl Jansen and a couple of very impressive stunts. The stunningly
attractive Maria Rohm gets a rather underwritten role here, and Howard
Marion-Crawford and Tsai Chin return again - neither on top form.
Sadly, the most disappointing aspect of Blood of Fu Manchu
is to consider the number of ways it could easily have been improved.
In the script department, the idea of Fu Manchu's daft plan being the
result of his growing insanity would have been fun to explore. On the
direction, the presence of Jess Franco in the director's chair hints at
sleazy women-in-prision antics, but aside from a very brief topless
shot and some blood, the film is completely missing these aspects for
which Franco would soon become infamous - a nice dose of sleaze might
at least have made the film watchable. Ultimately Blood of Fu Manchu
is recommended only to connoisseurs of bad movies. It might be of
interest to Jess Franco or Christopher Lee fans but is not recommended.
Anyone famous in it?
Christopher Lee - the iconic British actor who also starred in Hammer adventure film She (1965)
Harry Alan Towers - the British exploitation producer who produced all five of the Fu Manchu series.
Various death scenes, lots of blood.
A couple of brief, violent topless shots.
Who is it for?
Only for bad movie fans and Jess Franco die hards.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print quality is decent, some print damage and mild grain. Some scenes are rather soft.
English language original mono sound. Sounds okay, although the dubbing is notably poorer than on the previous films.
The disc includes:
German theatrical edit. Contains some different editing, soundtrack and
some alternate footage with the original
German dubbing. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, most of the print
uses the restored footage of the Original version, but the German only
scenes are of a much lower quality. No subtitles.
English and German theatrical trailers.
screen text - interview with Maria Rohm, notes on George Gotz and contrast between the English and German edits.
Manual scrolling photo gallery - lobby cards and posters.
DVD-ROM - A .pdf file of the original German press booklet, in full colour.
German release. DVD Title: Der Todeskuss des Dr. Fu Man Chu Only available as part of the Kinowelt Dr. Fu Manchu Collection.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
on DVD in the USA from Blue Underground, including a similarly good
looking print, plus interviews with Christopher Lee, Harry Alan Towers,
Tsai Chin and Jess Franco and text notes on the history of Fu Manchu.
Both versions of the film are believed to be uncut. The print of the Original Version as reviewed is English language.
Poorly paced, terribly written with only acceptable direction and acting. Not recommended.
A decent looking and sounding print. Lacks the bonus features of the US disc.