The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

Christopher Lee stars in this well written adventure film from Harry Alan Towers, directed by Don Sharp. Kinowelt German R2 boxset.

The Film

In a mysterious hidden palace, Jules Merlin (Rupert Davies) is hauled up in front of the sinister Oriental Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee). Merlin and his daughter have been kidnapped by the villian, to work on an experiement that will give him the power to threaten the world. Across the world scientists have been going missing, and in London, Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer) is convinced that again Fu Manchu has survived death to threaten the world once more. When servants of Fu Manchu attempt to kidnap Marie Lentz, daughter of a German scientist, in London - Smith is soon on the chase, and along with a French detective, discovers Fu Manchu's horrible plan.

Brides of Fu Manchu was a quick follow-up to the relative sucess of the first film, however, although Face of Fu Manchu was sucessful it did not make the big impact that Harry Alan Towers had hoped, and the budget was cut for the sequel. The script, co-written by director Don Sharp and producer Harry Alan Towers, follows a very similar story to that of Face; with Fu Manchu again kidnapping scientists and using threats against their daughters to make them co-operate. Fortunately, the script does not completely copy the previous film and this time around we get a lot more detail about Fu Manchu himself. There was the danger in Face that the character would become, like Hammer's Dracula, a boogeyman who was kept off screen most of the time - fortunately that has changed here, and instead we see him planning the operation and commanding his men. We do still retain all the detail on the other side as well, and Nayland Smith's activities are well plotted as well. It is good to see the men on both sides manage to trick the others and with a few clever twists, it helps to keep the film unpredictable. There is less action than the previous film, but the pacing is still good, and the climax is suitably exciting.

Unfortunately, Towers has again fallen into the trap of making Fu Manchu want to "take over the world" for no particular reason, and his motives again remain vague (although Rohmer's later novels did also fall into this trap) - equally, the actual Brides themselves seem to serve no purpose except to up the attractive, scantily clad female count. Although sharing the title of Sax Rohmer's sixth novel Bride of Fu Manchu (1933), the film misses out on a lot of that story's horror themes; including living burial (the kidnapped scientists are actually poisoned and left in concious comatose state, only to be dug from their graves by Fu Manchu's men), and details of some horrific experiements that Fu Manchu is working on, including genetically engineered spiders, and a homunculus - scenes that wound undoubtedly have made the film more memorable.

Director Don Sharp returns from the first film as does a very Hammer style attention to detail - the sets and costumes all look very elaborate and effective, creating a good pre-war atmosphere. Unfortunately the low budget does mean that some of the special effects shots look very poor - including some exterior shots that are clearly stage-bound with rear-projection. The soundtrack by frequent Carry On composer Bruce Montgomery is a standard orchestral score, but works decently well.

Christopher Lee returns again as Fu Manchu, with a lot more to do this time around, and he looks genuinely sinister throughout. Nigel Green is replaced as Nayland Smith by the Shakespearian actor Douglas Wilmer, who interestingly played Sherlock Holmes for the BBC the year before his casting here (Sax Rohmer's Nayland Smith character was clearly inspired by Holmes). He brings some good authority to the role, but again seems a little old to be throwing punches. British character actor Rupert Davies (best known for his appearances in classic British horrors Witchfinder General (1968) and Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968)) plays a very haunted looking Jules Merlin, with an admirable attempt at a French accent. The German co-producers, Constanin Film, meant that there are plenty of German actors on the cast, including Karl May Western villain Harald Leipnitz as the slimy Nikki Sheldon. Look out for the character actor Burt Kwouk (Pink Panther's Cato) as one of Fu Manchu's assistants.

Brides of Fu Manchu is a rather more effective film than the first. Although taking a very similar plot, it focuses equally on Fu Manchu as Nayland Smith and is far more enjoyable as a result. A good cast with decent production make this a more than watchable film, and it comes recommended to fans of adventure movies - although anyone looking for an action-packed film will be disappointed.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Christopher Lee - the iconic villian, best known for his role in Lord of the Rings (2001-3).
Douglas Wilmer - a British actor who starred in early Hammer adventure Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)
Directed by anyone interesting? Don Sharp - the Australian born director who also filmed Hammer's Devil-Ship Pirates (1964).
Who else was involved?Harry Alan Towers - the infamous British exploitation producer behind many of Jess Franco's best films.
Any gore? Various death scenes, relatively tame.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Recommended to fans of the Hammer adventure films, and of interest to Christopher Lee fans.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print quality is good, with minimal print damage, and only light grain.
Audio English language original mono sound. Sounds good.
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.
  • German theatrical trailer.
  • Interview with Christopher Lee about Face of Fu Manchu and the series in general, very interesting. 12 minutes. In English with optional German subtitles. Illustrated with clips from the first film [in French]. Same as included on the French DVD of Face.
  • On screen text - production notes on the film and contrast between the English and German edits.
  • Manual scrolling photo gallery - lobby cards and posters. Includes a couple of images from scenes not in the film.
  • DVD-ROM - A .pdf file of the original German press booklet, in full colour.
AvailabilityGerman release. DVD Title: Die 13 Sklavinnen 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 UK with no features.
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 - 21st February 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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