Both films collected in a relatively cheap package
Occasional fun moments in The Blood of Fu Manchu
Neither film is very good
Transfer isn't very good
Same features as the DVDs released by Blue Underground previously
Neither The Blood nor The Castle of Fu Manchu are very good films or even indicative of the rest of the series, and unfortunately this is also a lackluster Blu-Ray from Blue Underground only worth a pickup for those who need this in their collection.
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.
The Castle of Fu Manchu review
The Castle of Fu Manchu would wind up being the last of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films, and for good reason: the film’s a steaming pile. Jess Franco didn’t capture the fun or excitement of the series in The Blood of Fu Manchu, but this film is excruciatingly dull; even an intricate surgery scene fails to create interest, instead becoming a fatiguing exercise. The film also makes Franco’s prior installment look miles better in comparison, because this is altogether a messy, shoddily-produced film that gets more use out of other films’ cinematography than its own.
The Castle of Fu Manchu follows Fu Manchu as he yet again comes up with a new scheme to conquer the world, this time involving a method of freezing oceans unless world leaders follow his demands. Luckily, Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie are on the case, tracking Fu Manchu down in Istanbul and invading his castle in order to stop the plan. But Nayland Smith also has to battle Turkish enemies stopping him from getting into the castle.
There’s very little to like about The Castle of Fu Manchu, unfortunately. Whatever ridiculous enticement The Blood of Fu Manchu contained due to its storyline about dangerous female poisoners is lost here, and instead the film has a much more mundane and uninteresting scheme. Some of the film’s main attractions, like a sinking ship and water bursting from the castle’s tunnel system, are actually stolen from older films. They’re sloppily placed and clearly out of place in the film’s production, and it’s apparent that Franco and company were either rushed or simply did not have the budget to actually shoot scenes that would fit within the context of the movie.
Likewise, the rest of the film feels poorly paced, much slower than even Franco’s previous directorial episode. This film doesn’t even have the benefit of nude women to keep the viewer interested. It’s not campy or funny or even laughably bad; it’s simply a mess, and it’s hard to recommend The Castle of Fu Manchu to fans of his other films, let alone new viewers not accustomed to the series’ dynamics.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.
Most people purchasing The Blood of Fu Manchu/The Castle of Fu Manchu will probably know what they’re getting in terms of movie content, so the relatively poor scores that the two films receive are not going to detract some collectors from grabbing Blue Underground’s Blu-Ray. However, the lackluster Blu-Ray itself certainly will.
Blue Underground previously released these two films on DVD back in 2003, and it looks like they didn’t do much work to those DVD transfers for this double-feature Blu-Ray release. The video quality looks like upscaled DVD image, and it doesn’t look particularly good on this disc. Neither film boasts a good transfer, with various film damage throughout and an overly pixelated image that features quite a few artifacts. The same audio seems to have been used for these films as well.
Likewise, the same special features have been ported over from those DVD releases. The Blood of Fu Manchu gets a 15-minute series of interviews with the cast called “The Rise of Fu Manchu,” and The Castle of Fu Manchu features a 14-minute featurette called “The Fall of Fu Manchu.” Artwork, stills, and trailers are also included, along with chapter titles on the reverse side of the cover art.
However, the lack of any new extras paired with the rather poor image quality means that Blue Underground’s new Blu-Ray isn’t worth a recommendation unless collectors truly need to have these films in their collection. While the price is certainly low enough for those who don’t already own the DVDs, anyone already possessing both of Blue Underground’s DVD releases need not double-dip.
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