Brides of Fu Manchu, The
Europe 1966
Directed by Don Sharp.


Fu Manchu invents a ray of energy, which he calls a "laser," which will beam death upon untold millions. Meanwhile, he entertains a bevy of scantily clad beauties.

Our story opens with a recap of the last few minutes of The Face of Fu Manchu. Our heroes ride away on horseback, while behind them a Tibetan village goes up in flames, with Fu Manchu trapped inside. Or at least, we see most of our heroes. Nayland Smith is neatly trimmed from the footage, since a different actor (Douglas Wilmer) has come on board to play him this time. It's of no consequence, the role of Nayland Smith is completely disposable. When Sax Rohmer created him, he was really just wanting to write about Sherlock Holmes. From his very inception Nayland Smith has been nothing more than a cut rate copy of Holmes with a British Imperialist swagger.

Fu Manchu (Christoper Lee) and his daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) have escaped the blaze, of course, and have relocated to sunny Egypt, where Fu has decked out a nice little throne room for himself with an egyptian motif, all Anubis-y and Isis-y. Fu must be a real bear to travel with. Wherever he goes, he has to have his own throne room. And what's worse -- it has to be thematically designed to match the country in which he currently resides. Perhaps some of his dacoits are also interior decorators, on hand at any moment to do his nefarious decorating.

This time around, he has once again captured a scientist's daughter -- about a dozen of them, in fact. He is absolutely obsessed with this daughter-capture and torture kind of thing. Doesn't his daughter ever find it odd? Does anyone think to kidnap her and make Fu do their bidding? Well, no. He captures the daughters, then the scientists, and forces them to obey his commands, or else their daughters will be dropped into a pit of snakes. Now, Fu Manchu has each woman hypnotized to obey him utterly. I could think of some far, far more evil threats he could make to the scientists than to simply suggest that he will toss their daughters into a snake pit. How completely mundane.

While the daughters are not being used to force their fathers to do Fu Manchu's bidding, they spend their time variously washing clothes, sitting around in their cells, or being tied up to pillars in the throne room. No matter how many times we see them do their laundry, however, they are still in torn, revealing undergarments. Of course, they are all beautiful. Something in the scientist gene-pool must be gold.

Fu Manchu's new evil plan to conquer the world is to send explosive energy via sound waves to small receivers placed in various cities throughout the world. And so, conquering the world in this case resembles nothing more than operating a HAM radio. The big set piece of the show is Fu Manchu's control room, thick with consoles, levers, wheels, dials, and machines which go 'ping.' There's even a comical red lever, which Fu Manchu helpfully explains is his 'safety mechanism.' "If it ever goes beyond this point," he indicates, "the whole place could explode." HINT HINT.

And so, one of those sloppy dacoits, while abducting people in London, manages to misplace his Tibetan prayer scarf and Nayland Smith finds it, putting our heroes on the scent. After spending half the movie trying to prevent the abduction of another scientist's daughter, as if one more would make a difference, Nayland Smith joins up with the French Foreign Legion to storm Fu's egyptian lair, and save the women. Where "brides" comes in to play I have no idea. They don't marry anyone, and Fu Manchu doesn't even suggest any kind of hanky-panky. The "brides" themselves were part of the publicity for the film, supposedly contest winners, each from a different country. It doesn't really matter, they were largely irrelevant to the film itself.

The Brides of Fu Manchu is the second of five Fu Manchu movies produced by Harry Alan Towers and starring Christopher Lee. Harry Alan Towers also wrote the films under the pen name of "Peter Welbeck." Inexplicably, though he owned the rights to all of the Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu stories, he chose to make up his own, starting from this picture. The results are uneven, to put it kindly. But The Brides of Fu Manchu must be the most entertaining of all the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films. The production values are top notch, the direction crisp, and the storyline pulp fiction absurd.

The Fu Manchu control room scenes are priceless. They seem to go on forever, the power humming to life, the machines all flashing red lights, the dacoits scrambling to this dial or that. Meanwhile, Fu Manchu's able henchman Feng (Burt Kwouk) is there to assist, and has some of the best dramatic lines in the movie. Fu: "We need more power! Give us more power!" Feng: "NO! NO! We'll explode! I WON'T DO IT! NOOOO!" Fu: "You must!" etc. etc.

Burt Kwouk was a welcome addition to the cast. He was probably best known for his role as Cato in the Pink Panther series of films, though his career extended beyond that, especially to British TV. This was not the first time he and Christopher Lee have teamed up in a yellow peril picture. They worked together previously in the little known 1961 Hammer picture Terror of the Tongs. In that film, Christopher Lee plays an evil Chinese criminal mastermind, very much in the Fu Manchu tradition, while Kwouk is a respectable Hong Kong businessman, and as far as I could tell, the only Asian actor on the set. In Brides at least he is joined by the cold and evil "dragon lady" Lin Tang, daughter of Fu Manchu, played by Tsai Chin. In the end, Feng (Kwouk) actually plays a pivotal role in blowing up Fu's hideout once again. Nayland Smith leaves with all the women, after making certain that another piece of irreplacable oriental real estate has been completely destroyed. Fu Manchu returns a year later in The Vengeance of Fu Manchu.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on April 19, 2004.


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