In 1966, Harry Alan Towers travelled out to the Shaw Brother's studio in Hong Kong to film his third Fu Manchu picture, Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967), and the bizarre Million Eyes of Sumuru
(1967). Taking the leads from these two films, Klaus Kinski and
Christopher Lee, he filmed this quick but effective thriller, inspired
by the stories of British thriller writer Edgar Wallace, who at the
time was very
popular and had inspired an entire genre of German cinema - the Krimi.
man arrives in Hong Kong and is soon found dead, his final act was to
give a letter to a taxi driver. It ends up on the desk of Police
Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies) who eventually sends it on to the
recipient, a playboy named Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings) - the letter simply reads Five Golden Dragons.
When Mitchell meets a couple of attractive sisters, he finds that one
of them is very scared of something, he is soon drawn into the
secret of the Dragons, and finds himself running for his life...
The story, penned by Towers himself,
is nothing too original - a man gets drawn into a web of conspiracies,
and as soon as he discovers that a pretty girl is involved, he just has
to save her. Fortunately the film is well plotted with some good
characterisation and plenty of mystery - the character of Mitchell
could prove annoying to some, liking to wisecrack at everything,
although it is clear that he does it because he is nervous and it never
becomes too stale. Although largely dialogue based, there are a few
action and chase scenes, and although a few of these come off as
gratuitous, they do keep the film moving and although slowly paced, it
is never dull - only one scene stands out as unnecessary, when Mitchell
takes on a group of henchmen, with some "comedy" sound effects - it is
very out of place on this otherwise very realistic and tense film. The
climax is strong and effective and will keep you guessing up until the
final moments (and some interesting questions remain afterwards as
Director Jeremy Summers does a fine job here,
capturing a side of Hong Kong that you rarely see in European/American
made films; the exterior shots especially have an authentic feel to
them, as though they were simply shot on a street without any planning
or extras. Music is used well throughout, especially in the nightclub
per Harry Alan Towers' usual form, the film is packed with top
name stars, and a solid selection of character actors. Bob Cummings
(Dial M for Murder (1954)) is in good form as Mitchell (looking amazing
for 60), and an experienced comedian, he is able to bring some very
good timing to his role. British character actor Rupert Davies (Dracula has Risen from the Grave
(1968)) plays the British police inspector while the legendary Klaus
Kinski gets a small but key role as a chief henchman, and looks
suitably theatening throughout. A wonderful pair of Marias - Maria
Perschy and Maria Rohm play the theatened sisters and look very
alluring, while the equally attractive Margaret Lee looks a long way
from her dark haired Olga in Venus in Furs (1969). The Dragons themselves, Dan Duryea (Winchester '73 (1950)), George Raft (Some Like It Hot (1959)), Christopher Lee (The Mummy (1959)) and Brian Donlevy (The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)) get little more than cameos, but play along well.
A largely forgotten film despite its big name cast, Five Golden Dragons
is an effective little thriller that will keep you on the edge of your
seat first time around, and has enough intesting direction and
storyline to keep repeat viewings interesting. Viewers just wanting to
see Kinski, Donlevy etc. will probably be disappointed, but the film
should prove of general interest to cult movie fans and comes
Jeremy Summers - largely a television director, he also shot Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) with Christopher Lee.
Who else was involved?
Harry Alan Towers - the British exploitation producer behind the sleazy 99 Women (1969).
Some death scenes, quite tame.
Who is it for?
Recommended to fans of the Edgar Wallace thrillers, and generally to cult movie fans.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print quality is strong, with good colours, minimal print damage, and only light grain.
English original mono sound. Sounds strong throughout and is well made. Christopher Lee's voice is notably retained. Italian mono and 5.1 surround.
DVD Title: I Cinque Draghi D'Oro
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Not available elsewhere.
film is believed to be uncut - the print used here is the full,
original 105 minute version of the film - it was trimmed for
distribution in England and the US (where it ran just 70 minutes). The
print and credits are English language.
A well made, well acted and well written little thriller, let down only by some attempts at comedy. Recommended.
A great looking and sounding print, pity about the lack of extras.