The Face of Fu Manchu
Release year: 1965
Director: Don Sharp
Screenwriter: Harry Alan Towers, Sax Rohmer (based on the novels by)
Starring: Christopher Lee, Nigel Green, Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Dor, James Robertson Justice, Tsai Chin, Howard Marion-Crawford
Sunday Classic #297, week 9 2020
Naylan Smith (Green) of Scotland Yard watches his arch-nemesis Fu Manchu (Lee) executed, but the feeling he has been cheated remains with him until the day they are proven right. Fu Manchu is alive and has a deadly plan.
The books by Rohmer was previously adapted with Boris Karloff playing the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu but in this, the first in the 1960s series, the part is played by the legendary Lee (Dracula, 1958) complete with politically incorrect yellowface making good use of his towering height. His counterpart in the movie is the Sherlock Holmes style Nayland Smith, played elegantly by Green (Zulu, 1964) and with the very British inspector trying to unravel the case and eyes seen behind mask and moving statues, the movie seems like a mixture of 1960s James Bond movies mixed with a bit of Sherlock Holmes. The movie starts out with a scene that indicates a history between Fu Manchu and Smith, one you are never told, and it makes you double check whether the movie you are watching is a sequel and not the first in the 1960s Fu Manchu series. But once the spectacle of secret doors, sneaky minions and evil plots begin the story is gripping with good action scenes and a tense battle against time. It is kind of cheesy fun thanks too the towering Brit playing a Chinese criminal mastermind complete with bejeweled nail guard and the famous Fu Manchu beard. But it is also a well-working crime thriller because the same Brit makes it work with his intensity and talent to intimidate with a quiet look.
The character Fu Manchu has been used in several movies with a new one currently in development.
The movie was a British-West German production.
As a publicity stunt, Producer Harry Alan Towers had Sir Christopher Lee tour European countries choosing a national beauty contest winner from each one, the prize being a part in the movie. However, despite their decorative appearances in Fu Manchu’s cave headquarters, none of these beauties was allowed to utter a line, as they were not members of Equity.
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video