The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)

Christopher Lee stars in this woefully boring and pointless film from Jess Franco and Harry Alan Towers. Kinowelt German R2 boxset.

The Film

Somewhere in the Carribean, a cruise liner hits an iceberg. It soon emerges that the iceberg was created by another diabolical invention of Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) who informs the rulers of the world that they must submit to his demands before he uses the weapons again. Teaming with an Opium dealer, Fu Manchu's men capture a castle full of opium which is turns out is essential to their scheme. Meanwhile, Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) and Dr. Petrie head to Istanbul to find and stop Fu Manchu...

The fifth and final film in the series, Castle of Fu Manchu is an execrably bad movie. From the opening scenes - stock footage from Brides of Fu Manchu (1966) and blue tinted black and white footage of the Titanic sinking from A Night to Remember (1958) it is clear that this film is beyond lost. The storyline makes little sense - did anyone tell the writer that icebergs cannot just be made by freezing water? Again, just what is Fu Manchu actually asking for? Characterisation is non-existant (are we really suppose to care about Dr. Herakles and his weak heart?), plot holes abound and the film suffers from some of the worst pacing I have ever seen in a film (many scenes were boring even at 16x fast forward).

Direction is equally inept - the obviously modern backdrops compared with the occasional attempts at a 1930s setting - stock footage is crudely inserted, most notably in the film appalling opening, that goes on for seven minutes and should prompt any sane viewer to turn off immediately. There are some nicely lit scenes in some caves, but few viewers will actually be awake or sober enough to notice by this point.

Christopher Lee is back for the last time in a very small role this time around, while Richard Greene as Nayland Smith tries hard but cannot capture the character or make his scenes interesting. A curious mix of euro-cult stars are present, including the attractive Rosalba Neri and the Spaghetti Western regular José Manuel Martín, while director Jess Franco plays a typically eccentric role as a police inspector, with one of the best scenes in the film (even if it does make no sense). Howard Marion-Crawford tries his hardest as Dr. Petrie but the script has turned him into a buffoon, while Tsai Chin as Fu Manchu's daughter seems very bored.

Undoubtedly the worst film in the series, Castle of Fu Manchu is one of the worst films I have ever watched, and is simply not enjoyable (except of course in its incarnation as an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000). Not even gratuitous nudity could have saved this film (although it might at least have made it interesting). A waste of celluloid and of time, not recommended to anyone. If Fu Manchu were really diabolical, he should interrupt all television broadcasts and screen this 24 hours a day.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Christopher Lee - the iconic British actor who appeared in a variety of Jess Franco films, including Eugenie (1969)
Rosalba Neri - the beautiful euro-cult starlet who had an early role in Hercules and the Haunted World (1961)
Directed by anyone interesting? Jess Franco - the infamous director who has shot over 200 films, from the early Spanish horror film The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962), to Spain's first hardcore porn film Lilian the Perverted Virgin (1984).
Who else was involved?Harry Alan Towers - the British exploitation producer behind Jess Franco's classic Venus in Furs (1969).
Any gore? Various death scenes, some blood.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Only for die hard Jess Franco fans.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print quality is decent, some print damage and mild grain. Stock footage is noticably poor.
Audio English language original mono sound. Sounds okay, although the dubbing is much 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 - notes on the film and contrast between the English and German edits.
  • Manual scrolling photo gallery - lobby cards and posters.
AvailabilityGerman release. DVD Title: Die Folterkammer 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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