a remote province of China, the villain Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) is
preparing once again to become all powerful. He has arranged to meet
with American gangster Rudy Moss (Horst Frank) who has negotiated terms
with the criminal underworld from around the globe - they seek Fu
Manchu as their overall leader. Meanwhile in Europe, the British police
inspector Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer) is helping to form Interpol,
an international union of police chiefs, but unbeknown to him, deep in
China, Fu Manchu has created an exact look alike of the British
detective, and is going to see him convicted of murder....
While the series' first two entries, Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and Brides of Fu Manchu
(1966) had essentially used the same storyline (Fu Manchu kidnaps
scientists to invent new deadly weapon, tests it sucessfully before
being thwarted) Vengeance
fortunately changes the plot somewhat. While the clichés are all
there - kidnapped scientists with attractive young daughters and a plan
to rule the world, this time it works much better. For a start, Fu
Manchu does not plan to rule the world alone (quite a task for even the
most evil of super villains), but in union with a global network of
underground organisations (hints at the mysterious Si-Fan organisation
of Sax Rohmer's original books). In tune with Brides
the film is mostly dialogue based, with a few action scenes to add some
excitement, fortunately thanks to the Chinese setting, we actually get
the first proper kung-fu fight of the series. Generally the story does
not throw up anything too surprising, but it builds to an effective
climax with solid pacing throughout.
falls in too the typical trap of most super-villains, and goes too
easily on Nayland Smith by letting his clone take his place in the
court room just to drag him half-way across the world to kill him
anyway (surely more diabolical would be to drug Smith and let him live
through the horror of his own death sentence....). There are also a
variety of curious plot holes, quite why Fu Manchu has to blow up a
passage to isolate his palace seems rather vague, since it is seemingly
still very easy to get to - what a legendary surgeon is doing in a
Chinese village, and just how a criminal barman knows how to
get to Fu Manchu's palace are never answered. Once again Towers has
missed out on a lot of opportunities to build the Fu Manchu character,
with Rudy wondering around the palace it would have been a perfect
chance to introduce to the films, some of the more supernatural ideas
that Sax Rohmer had for the character.
Jeremy Summers was brought in to direct the third film in this series
and does a good job, although the editing is not as tight as on the
previous efforts. Towers finally took the opportunity to shoot out in
China itself (actually Hong Kong, but closer than Ireland where the
previous films were shot!) - this leads to some very impressive scenes
inside Fu Manchu's Palace and in the countryside, while the Irish
locations still provide a good backing for the British sequences, and
the film maintains a good 1920s atmosphere throughout.
Lee is back for a third time as Fu Manchu and looks suitably menacing,
although he is clearly becoming tired of the series and his proper
British accent is starting to come through, which does sound rather absurd among the Chinese extras.
Douglas Wilmer gives his second and final performance as Nayland Smith,
and does an impressive double turn as his lifeless, hypnotised clone.
Co-producers Constanin Film again demanded some German names on the
billing, thus Wolfgang Kieling (best known from Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain
(1966)) plays the kidnapped Dr. Lieberson, while character actor Horst
Frank is curious casting as the American Rudy Moss, but certainly seems
to be enjoying himself and adds a solid arrogance to the character. The
very attractive Maria Rohm, the wife of producer Harry Alan Towers
makes the first of two appearances in the series as a nightclub singer
attached to Rudy Moss, and looks good in her short role. Howard
Marion-Crawford and Tsai Chin appear again as Dr. Petrie and Lin Tang
(Fu Manchu's daughter), roles they would play in all five films in the
series. Fortuately, the Chinese locations mean that the extras are all
Chinese, rather than the random mix of Chinese and Western helpers that
Fu Manchu uses in the previous films.
While keeping to a similar formula, Vengeance of Fu Manchu
fortunately provides some new ideas and proves a more than watchable
entry to the series. The real Chinese locations and a solid cast make
this film enjoyable. Recommended to fans, but newcomers should really
watch Face or Brides first.
Anyone famous in it?
Christopher Lee - The iconic Hammer villian who came to fame in Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Douglas Wilmer - a British actor, best known for playing Sherlock Holmes on the BBC. Horst Frank - a German character actor who played an assortment of Spaghetti Western villains Maria Rohm - the attractive female star of many Jess Franco films, including Venus in Furs (1969).
Directed by anyone interesting?
Jeremy Summers - a little known British director who has largely worked in television.
Various death scenes, including a beheading with quite a bit of blood.
Who is it for?
Recommended to fans of adventure films and of the series, certainly of interest to Christopher Lee fans.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print quality is generally good with a clean print and good transfer,
although there is some print damage, light fading and grain, especially
in stock shots.
English language original mono sound. Sounds good.
The disc includes:
German theatrical edit. Contains some different editing, soundtrack and
a small amount of 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.
text of a lengthy interview with Maria Rohm, a
brief interview with Christopher Lee, notes on the films and the
cuts versus the English language print.
Manual scrolling photo gallery - lobby cards, stills and posters.
DVD-ROM - A .pdf file of the original German press booklet, in full colour.