The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)

 Christopher Lee stars in this dull and tedious film from Jess Franco and Harry Alan Towers. Kinowelt German R2 boxset.

The Film

In 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.

Christopher 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.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Christopher Lee - the iconic British actor who also starred in Hammer adventure film She (1965)
Directed by anyone interesting? Jess Franco - the infamous director who shot everything from cultured erotica Eugenie (1970) to the utterly sleazy Inconfessible Orgies of Emmanuelle (1982) among over 200 films to his credit.
Who else was involved?Harry Alan Towers - the British exploitation producer who produced all five of the Fu Manchu series.
Any gore? Various death scenes, lots of blood.
Any sex? A couple of brief, violent topless shots.
Who is it for?
Only for bad movie fans and Jess Franco die hards.


Visuals 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.
Audio English language original mono sound. Sounds okay, although the dubbing is notably poorer than on the previous films.
Subtitles German (optional)
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original 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.
  • On 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.
AvailabilityGerman release. DVD Title: Der Todeskuss des Dr. Fu Man Chu
Only available as part of the Kinowelt Dr. Fu Manchu Collection.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Available 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.
Cuts? Both versions of the film are believed to be uncut. The print of the Original Version as reviewed is English language.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd February 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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