in Hong Kong harbour from Singapore, Captain Jackson Sale
as one his passengers is brutally killed on the wharf. He soon learns
that the notorious Tongs were behind the killings and as they make a
desperate search for a piece of paper that the passenger had been
carrying they kill both Sale's friend and then his daughter. Despite
being discouraged Sale tries to seek revenge against the secret society
and its powerful leader (Christopher Lee).
usual Jimmy Sangster is called in for the writing chores and his script
shows his typically strong style. The television style teaser opening does not
bode well but the film proper gets off to a good start with plenty of
mystery and continues to build this up throughout. The Captain Sale
character is probably the most noteworthy, while the 'normal man
getting involved' is a pretty typical fictional cliché, it is his sheer
incompetence that marks him out, he is not a policeman or detective and
despite his best efforts just never manages to act like one - randomly
trying to interview and threaten people. Fortunately Sangster never
plays this up for laughs although the scenes border on unintentional
humour more than once. The film builds to an effective and quite tense
climax with a fitting ending, although like many Hammer films of the
era it ends very suddenly.
The only real dampener is the Lee
character and her love story with Captain Sale, both of which seem
really tacked on and are certainly never convincing, existing perhaps
only to pad out the film to its quite short 80 minute runtime or to
appease the female audience. There are a few logical jumps - notably,
how the 'liberator' got into the secret gaol and why Sale never
mentions the murder of Mr Ming to the police officer - but these are
quite minor. While
Stranglers of Bombay (1960) had been partly based on
incident, Terror of the Tongs seems to be an
fictional creation. The Tongs themselves did exist in the 1800s and
many became corrupt and involved in extortion and vice, however they
were established mostly in the United States as a measure of
protection against racist attacks and prejudice, and they are
unlikely to have existed in Hong Kong itself.
one of director Anthony Bushell's very few film works, he shows some
real talent here, in particular with the long lingering close-ups to
end scenes that add some genuine mystery to several of the
characters. The production values are up to Hammer's typically strong
standard and all of the sets look beautiful - although the exteriors
can never escape that stange-bound feeling. The studio's long term
composer James Bernard provides another superb score mixing his
trademark strings with some appropriate Oriental sounds.
born Geoffrey Toone is cast in the lead role. Rarely a lead film
actor he certainly looks the part as a British captain, but never
convinces in the acting stakes with a generally wooden performance.
Yvonne Monlaur has previously appeared in Hammer’s Brides of
Dracula (1960) and gives a similarly unimpressive performance
here making what there was of the love scenes, completely without
emotion. Christopher Lee plays lead Tong (foreshadowing his later
work as Fu Manchu) and gives a decent show but is clearly hampered by
the restricting make-up. A young looking Burt Kwouk makes a brief appearance at the
start of the film and is the only genuinely Oriental actor in the
whole production, the rest of the Chinese characters being played by
Brits (including The Master Roger Delgado) – with
exception of widely travelled Indian born actor Marne Maitland who
gives one the film’s best performances as the leader of the liberators.
Terror of the Tongs suffers a
little from poor acting and a rather tacked on love story, but despite
this manages to remain a highly enjoyable adventure film - aided by a
generally strong script and some beautiful sets. Fans of the Hammer
adventure films should find plenty to enjoy here.
John Gilling - writer and
director of the low budget British smuggling film Fury at Smuggler's Bay
(1961) and Hammer's adventure
film The Brigand of Kandahar
scenes with blood.
general appeal, certainly for fans of Hammer and Christopher
Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The print looks beautiful with minimal damage and light
grain. There does appear to be some very light cropping at the top of
the frame - or perhaps just poor framing - that seems to crop off the
very top of a few scenes.
language mono sound - sounds good throughout.
French dub track.
commentary with Hammer expert Marcus Hearn, script writer Jimmy
Sangster and art director Don Mingaye. Further discussion about the film and the studio in general.
Original theatrical trailer.
Other extra features are also included in the boxset.