Friday, October 18, 2013

Franco Friday #50: The Castle of Fu Manchu

Franco Friday #50: The Castle of Fu Manchu

Wow? There are now reviews for fifty Jess Franco films on this blog. Hot damn! This is just plain crazy. I only have 5 more to go before I end this series. Don't worry, they aren't all as dull as these lame-o Fu Manchu movies, I promise. Okay, I can't really promise you that.

The Castle of Fu Manchu
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Christopher Lee, Richard Greene, Howard Marion-Crawford, Gunther Stoll, Rosalba Neri, Maria Perschy
89 minutes

Fu Manchu (played by Christopher Lee) and his crazy daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) are back to take over the world. This time they are using a machine that can control the temperature of water anywhere on the planet. They manage to sink a huge ship sailing in the Caribbean by generating an iceberg in its path. He contacts the leaders of the world and threatens them with obliteration unless they bow down to him. Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) is once again called in to deal with this situation.

Lin Tang makes a deal with some drug dealers, led by Omar Pashu (Jose Manuel Martin) and his deadly cross-dresser named Lisa (played by Rosalba Neri), to help her steal a huge supply of opium. They break into the castle of the governor of Anatolia where there is enough opium to control half the world’s supply. Once they take control of the castle, Fu Manchu shows up, double crosses Omar, and kidnaps Lisa. He takes the castle as his hideout and all that delicious opium for himself. Then Fu Manchu gets high, so high. I mean like totally wasted.

Next, Fu Manchu captures Dr. Curt Kessler (played by Gunther Stoll) and fellow physician, Dr. Ingrid Kauff (Maria Perschy), in order to force them to save the life of Professor Heracles (Gustavo Re) with an experimental heart transplant procedure because they need him to make crystals or whatever. In order to show the doctors that he means business, Fu Manchu destroys a dam and causes a great flood. They agree to the operation to save Heracles and it is booooooring. Nayland Smith finally shows up to stop Fu Manchu’s broadly evil and insidiously vague plan.

The cast and the skill of the filmmakers save this mess of a film. I love the lighting; there are purples, reds, and greens all over the place. The always reliable Manuel Merino did the cinematography. It’s good to see Gunther Stoll from What Have You Done to Solange? and The Bloodstained Butterfly again. The guy had an incredible screen presence. He's almost completely wasted here. Jess Franco himself is on hand as a fez-wearing inspector who provides Nayland Smith with some important information. Maria Perschy of The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll and Hunchback of the Morgue is here too. Yay!

What can I say, the first few minutes of The Castle of Fu Manchu are just... explosively bad. By using footage from other films, Franco manages to just embarrass himself and make the viewer feel stupid. Fu Manchu sank the Titanic? Really? Give me a fucking break, duder. Well, if you can get past the opening 6 minutes or so (and I doubt many people have), what's left? A very unusual film, that's what. Castle becomes a ponderous travelogue mixed with tepid intrigue but I mean that as a compliment. There is also so much pseudoscience and mechanical mumbo jumbo thrown at you from the script that it's just baffling.

The Castle of Fu Manchu wasn't as bad as I’d read from other reviewers but that’s not saying much. If it weren’t for the uneven pacing, I could give this film a recommendation with lots of conditions. Unfortunately, this just feels like a bunch of leftover bullshit padded with stock footage and bland dialog. I won’t say the film is a complete waste of time (NO NUDITY!) but yeah, this is definitely non-essential Franco viewing. Eh, where else can you see Rosalba Neri wearing a fez or mowing down pajama-wearing motherfuckers with a Tommy gun?

“A gentleman never takes his clothes off in public!”

“Send a warning to the phosphorus!”

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