Film Review – THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966)

BRIDES OF FU MANCHU, THE (1966, UK) ***
Action, Crime, Sci-Fi

dist. Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK), Seven Arts Pictures (USA); pr co. Constantin Film Produktion / Fu Manchu Films / Hallam Productions; d. Don Sharp; w. Harry Alan Towers (as Peter Welbeck) (based on characters created by Sax Rohmer); pr. Harry Alan Towers, David Henley; ph. Ernest Steward (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Bruce Montgomery; ed. Allan Morrison; ad. Frank White; cos. Harry Haynes, Tina Haynes; m/up. George Partleton, Anne Box; sd. Len Abbott, John Brommage, Roy Piper (Mono (RCA Sound Recording)); rel. 2 September 1966 (West Germany), 16 December 1966 (UK/USA); cert: U; r/t. 94m.

cast: Christopher Lee (Fu Manchu), Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith), Heinz Drache (Franz Baumer), Marie Versini (Marie Lentz), Howard Marion-Crawford (Doctor Petrie), Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), Rupert Davies (Jules Merlin), Kenneth Fortescue (Sergeant Spicer), Joseph Fürst (Otto Lentz (as Joseph Furst)), Roger Hanin (Inspector Pierre Grimaldi), Harald Leipnitz (Nikki Sheldon), Carole Gray (Michel Merlin), Burt Kwouk (Feng), Salmaan Peerzada (Abdul (as Salmaan Peer)), Ric Young (Control Assistant (as Eric Young)), Wendy Gifford (Louise), Francesca Tu (Lotus (as Poulet Tu)), Sally Sheridan (Shiva (as Danni Sheridan)), Denis Holmes (Constable), Maureen Beck (Nurse Brown).

In 1924, Dr. Fu Manchu (Lee), his army of dacoits and his vicious daughter Lin Tang (Chin) are kidnapping the daughters of prominent scientists and taking them to his remote island, where he demands that the fathers help him to build a device that transmits blast waves through a radio transmitter, which he intends to use to take over the world. He plans to keep (even wed) the girls in question. But Dr. Fu Manchu’s archenemy, Nayland Smith (Wilmer) of Scotland Yard, is determined not to let that happen. Lee returns as the evil Fu in the decent follow-up to THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965). The film repeats the same formula and adds little that is new, but the direction is lively and the pace quick. The dialogue and script are strictly comic book, of course, and the performances vary in quality. Wilmer replaced Nigel Green in the role of Scotland Yard’s Nayland Smith, whilst Crawford returns as his sidekick Petrie – the pair striking up something akin to a Holmes/Watson dynamic. Chin exudes a sadistic menace as Fu’s daughter. Good location work and period detail for the limited budget. US release includes a 1m prologue reprise of the end of THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965). Followed by THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967).

Film Review – THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965)

FACE OF FU MANCHU, THE (1965, UK/West Germany) ***½
Action, Crime, Drama

dist. Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK), Seven Arts Pictures (USA); pr co. Hallam Productions; d. Don Sharp; w. Harry Alan Towers (as Peter Welbeck); exec pr. Oliver A. Unger (US only); pr. Harry Alan Towers (as Peter Welbeck) (based on characters created by Sax Rohmer); ph. Ernest Steward (Technicolor. 35mm. Techniscope (uncredited). 2.35:1); m. Christopher Whelen; ed. John Trumper; ad. Frank White; cos. Dorothy Edwards; m/up. Gerry Fletcher, Anne Box; sd. Ken Cameron, Fred Hughesdon (Mono (RCA Sound Recording)); rel. 6 August 1965 (West Germany, UK), 24 October 1965 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Christopher Lee (Fu Manchu), Nigel Green (Nayland Smith), Joachim Fuchsberger (Carl Jannsen), Karin Dor (Maria Muller), James Robertson Justice (Sir Charles), Howard Marion-Crawford (Dr. Petrie), Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), Walter Rilla (Muller), Harry Brogan (Gaskell), Francesca Tu (Lotus (as Poulet Tu)), Archie O’Sullivan (Chamberlain), Edwin Richfield (Chief Magistrate), Joe Lynch (Custodian), Peter Mosbacher (Hanumon), Ric Young (Grand Lama (as Eric Young)), Deborah DeLacey (Slave Girl), Jim Norton (Mathius), Jack O’Reilly (Constable), Peter Mayock (Soldier), Aiden Grennell (Security Guard).

Faced with a crime wave involving Orientals and drugs, Nayland Smith (Green) of Scotland Yard begins to suspect that it is masterminded by Fu Manchu (Lee), although he himself witnessed the latter’s execution in China some years previously. This highly entertaining and fast-moving adventure has a spirit of the old movie serials. Sharp keeps the plot moving and directs with an enthusiastic zeal. The cast are game too and their performances carry a conviction that elevates the material. Lee is commanding as Fu Manchu and Green authoritative as Nayland Smith. The stunt work on the many fight sequences is excellent (despite the stunt doubles being a little obvious), although you must wonder about old Fu’s recruitment programme given the ineptitude of his followers. Cold and bleak Irish locations double for Tibet and the film was successful enough to spawn several sequels. Followed by THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966), THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967), THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968) and THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1969).

Film Review – CALLAN (1974)

CallanCALLAN (UK, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Magnum Films / Syn-Frank Enterprises; Release Date: 23 May 1974; Filming Dates: began 29 October 1973; Running Time: 106m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Dolby (Dolby System®) | Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Don Sharp; Writer: James Mitchell (based on the novel “A Red File for Callan” by James Mitchell); Producer: Derek Horne; Associate Producer: Harry Benn; Director of Photography: Ernest Steward; Music Composer: Wilfred Josephs; Film Editor: Teddy Darvas; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: John Clark; Set Decorator: Simon Holland; Costumes: Ray Beck; Make-up: Freddie Williamson; Sound: Derek Ball, Charles Crafford, John Poyner; Special Effects: John Richardson.
      Cast: Edward Woodward (David Callan), Eric Porter (Hunter), Carl Möhner (Schneider), Catherine Schell (Jenny), Peter Egan (Toby Meres), Russell Hunter (Lonely), Kenneth Griffith (Waterman), Michael Da Costa (The Greek), Veronica Lang (Liz, Hunter’s Secretary), Clifford Rose (Dr. Snell), David Prowse (Arthur), Don Henderson (George), Nadim Sawalha (Padilla), David Graham (Wireless operator), Yuri Borienko (Security porter), Peter Symonds (Smart security man), Raymond Bowers (Shabby security man), Joe Dunlop (Policeman), Mollie Maureen (Old lady in the Strand).
      Synopsis: David Callan, secret agent, is called back to the service after his retirement, to handle the assassination of a German businessman, but Callan refuses to co-operate until he finds out why this man is marked for death.
      Comment: Big screen adaptation on a low budget of James Mitchell’s assassin creation who wrestles with his own conscience. The story was originally written as an hour-long TV play entitled A Magnum for Schneider (1967), which later led to the TV series Callan (1967-72). Woodward reprises his role and delivers a believable performance in this anti-glamourous approach to the genre. Mitchell’s script is strong, padding out his original story initially into a novel and then a screenplay. There’s little in the way of action, save for a wonderful cat-and-mouse car chase. This is a spy thriller that plays on the main character’s self-conflictions as he gets to know his mark. Whilst largely downbeat there are occasional flashes of black humour. Fans of the series will find much to enjoy, whilst others may see this as an antidote to the proliferation of over-the-top spy movies.