The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)

Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer and Horst Frank star in an exciting adventure film from Harry Alan Towers. Kinowelt German R2 boxset.

The Film

In 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.

Unfortunately, Fu Manchu 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.

Director 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.

Christopher 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.

In Brief

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.
Who else was involved?Harry Alan Towers - the infamous British exploitation producer behind the Sadean Eugenie (1970)
Any gore? Various death scenes, including a beheading with quite a bit of blood.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Recommended to fans of adventure films and of the series, certainly of interest to Christopher Lee fans.


Visuals 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.
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 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.
  • Onscreen 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.
AvailabilityDVD Title: Die Rache 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 a trailer.
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 - 22nd February 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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