The Blood of Fu Manchu review
The Blood of Fu Manchu came at the tail-end of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films and the first of the two Jess Franco-directed movies. By this time, Lee had pretty much cemented his portrayal of Fu Manchu, the ultimate villain figure with increasingly preposterous world domination plans; while the whole idea of Lee playing an Asian character is quite offensive now, the ’60s were certainly a different time and the films admittedly did transform Lee into a fairly good representation of the character. With that said, both The Blood of Fu Manchu and Franco’s later The Castle of Fu Manchu (see next page) are tremendously bad films, not even in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way – both lack the tongue-in-cheek dynamics of earlier Fu Manchu outings despite the clear inspiration from James Bond-style villains. The Blood of Fu Manchu is ostensibly better than The Castle of Fu Manchu, but not by much.
The film centers around Fu Manchu’s quest to kill world leaders by inoculating his female prisoners with a special kind of snake venom, rendered dangerous when the killer plants a kiss on the victim’s lips. As most Fu Manchu films go, there’s the generic male protagonist Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) and his helpful assistant Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion Crawford) to save the day – along with being the main focus of Fu Manchu’s nefarious schemes.
As plots go, The Blood of Fu Manchu is overtly ridiculous but still somewhat fun, with a sexiness inherent in Fu Manchu’s dealings thanks to his harem of beautiful naked women enslaved in his lair. While most of Fu Manchu feels quite devoid of Franco’s usual flair, the occasional scene containing buxom lasses seducing important men and poisoning them with their kisses does add a layer of excitement to the film.
But Franco’s direction is uninspired, and the plot often lingers over small and insignificant details for long periods of time. There’s even a spaghetti western-esque inclusion of a Spanish degenerate raping and pillaging at a local village, a rather unnecessary inclusion that seems to limit Nayland Smith’s involvement in the proceedings to the outskirts of the narrative. Even at just over 90 minutes, The Blood of Fu Manchu feels too long, and Franco’s pacing does not mimic the more impressive elements of the Bond films from which the Fu Manchu films clearly draw influence.
While the better of the two offerings on this disc, The Blood of Fu Manchu is ultimately a lackluster affair that will probably not garner any interest from viewers not already well-versed in the Lee Fu Manchu films. Even those accustomed to other movies in the series will probably find this episode to be overwhelmingly unsatisfying – that is, until they move on to The Castle of Fu Manchu.
Click next for The Castle of Fu Manchu review.