just as well for the world that evil geniuses routinely
make the sort of managerial decisions you would expect
from slightly retarded 13-year-old boys. Otherwise we'd
be in big trouble.
Vengeance of Fu Manchu is the third of Christopher
Lee's Fu Manchu films, based on the novels by Sax Rohmer.
The first and second were The Face of
Fu Manchu and The Brides of
Fu Manchu respectively; they were colourful
crime thrillers, always entertaining, with plots that,
while dodgy, didn't cross over into the realm of the
stupidly annoying. Unfortunately the plot of this one
not only crosses the line once, but keeps doing so over
and over again.
are some of the crossings I found particularly annoying.
a start, Fu Manchu's scheme for destroying Nayland
Smith (which involves facial reconstruction) is
totally silly and begs far too many questions.*
Where did the facial scars go? How did the pre-reconstructed
fake Nayland Smith gain physical height through
a mere facial reconstruction? Why does no one
bring up the possibility of a "double"
(or at least the need for a doctor) when the fake
Nayland Smith starts acting so absurdly unlike
scheme also seems rather more complicated than
is necessary as Nayland Smith is often in a position
where he could easily be killed -- and even tortured
a bit first -- if it was felt necessary to do
so. But no! If there's a way of organising things
to ensure he will escape from his fate, the evil
genius who is out to destroy him will make sure
the scheme is set up that way. So we won't kill
him. We'll just kidnap him and institute a complicated
plot to kill him instead.
that's not all. The legal aspects of the false
Nayland Smith's trial for murder are a snapshot
of the legal process as filtered through the consciousness
of a 13-year-old boy.**
Why didn't Nayland Smith's counsel think to check
the fake Nayland Smith medically, even though
he was clearly and absurdly acting in a grossly
abnormal fashion? Fingerprints anyone? Blood tests?
How long do murder trials take anyway? Is an application
for a re-trial likely to be dealt with in three
days? And what do you mean there were no grounds?
Was Nayland Smith shown to have a motive for murdering
his housekeeper? Was he acting in any way normal?
Did no one question why he didn't say a single
word? Please, people, this man was a famous and
much honoured Scotland Yard chief! Surely someone
thought this was odd. But no, even his best friend
the doctor didn't think there might be a medical
reason for his condition.
there are other plot absurdities that come down
to the writer taking the easy, if silly and senseless,
way out of story difficulties. Things need to happen
(such as Fu Manchu being defeated) so they do happen,
with little effort made to give the scenario conviction.***
Don't you love it when the good guys' plan is basically:
let's rush in and worry about what improbabilities
the writer can come up with to get us out of trouble
once we're there! So they're outnumbered (though
Fu Manchu's highly trained assassins are incapable
of effective defense, it seems, and generally can
be guaranteed to miss you unless you're a nameless
piece of cannon fodder). Yet without forward planning
the good guys succeed in timing their incursion
so that it coincides with Nayland Smith's improbable
escape from prison and when the crunch comes there's
this convenient and unexplained wagon full of high
explosives sitting nearby so that they can detonate
it and blow the place up. Naturally, too, for no
good reason the heroes can get out of the castle
before the explosion, but Fu Manchu is too mesmerised
by his own brilliance to do anything but glower.
am I going on? You get the idea. The story is dumb and
the script is lazy, sloppy and cliched. No attempt is
made to work out the logistical problems or to give
the proceedings a veneer of realism. And I find that
annoying. It could be so easily remedied. Particularly
as Lee's presence as Fu Manchu is excellent, the location
shoots are colourful and attractive, the action/fight
scenes are well handled and the camera-work is generally
well-directed, giving movement and life to some fairly
lifeless scenarios. What a waste!
film was even made in conjunction with Hong Kong's Shaw
Brothers. What a pity they didn't think to include some
top-notch kung fu action, the sort of thing the Shaw
Brothers are famed for! They came so close. A major
character from among the good guys is a Hong Kong police
inspector and adds a bit of local biffo. They should
have cast a Shaw Bros. martial arts expert and really
gone for it!
say this film is fun to watch anyway. No, I'm sorry.
I don't agree. It's annoying.
it's a bit fun...)
Vengeance of Fu Manchu
of Production: 1967
company: Ardmore Studios
on characters created by Sax Rohmer
Harry Alan Towers (writing as Peter Welbeck)
Christopher Lee (Dr. Fu Manchu)
Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith)
Harry Alan Towers