a mysterious hidden palace, Jules Merlin (Rupert Davies) is hauled up
in front of the sinister Oriental Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee). Merlin
and his daughter have been kidnapped by the villian, to work on an
experiement that will give him the power to threaten the world. Across
the world scientists have been going missing, and in London, Nayland
Smith (Douglas Wilmer) is convinced that again Fu Manchu has
survived death to threaten the world once more. When servants of Fu Manchu attempt to
kidnap Marie Lentz, daughter of a German scientist, in London -
Smith is soon on the chase, and along with a French detective,
discovers Fu Manchu's horrible plan.
Brides of Fu Manchu was a quick follow-up to the relative sucess of the first film, however, although Face of Fu Manchu
was sucessful it did not make the big impact that Harry Alan Towers had
hoped, and the budget was cut for the sequel. The script, co-written by
director Don Sharp and producer Harry Alan Towers, follows a very
similar story to that of Face;
with Fu Manchu again kidnapping scientists and using threats against
their daughters to make them co-operate. Fortunately, the script does
not completely copy the previous film and this time around we get
a lot more detail about Fu Manchu himself. There was the danger in Face
that the character would become, like Hammer's Dracula, a boogeyman who
was kept off screen most of the time - fortunately that has changed
here, and instead we see him planning the operation and commanding his
men. We do still retain all the detail on the other side as well, and
Nayland Smith's activities are well plotted as well. It is good to see
the men on both sides manage to trick the others and with a few clever
twists, it helps to keep the film unpredictable. There is less action
than the previous film, but the pacing is still good, and the climax is
Unfortunately, Towers has again fallen into
the trap of making Fu Manchu want to "take over the world" for no
particular reason, and his motives again remain vague (although
Rohmer's later novels did also fall into this trap) - equally, the
actual Brides themselves seem to serve no purpose except to up the
attractive, scantily clad female count. Although sharing the title of
Sax Rohmer's sixth novel Bride of Fu Manchu
(1933), the film misses out on a lot of that story's horror themes;
including living burial (the kidnapped scientists are actually poisoned
and left in concious comatose state, only to be dug from their graves
by Fu Manchu's men), and details of some horrific experiements that Fu
Manchu is working on, including genetically engineered spiders, and a
homunculus - scenes that wound undoubtedly have made the film more
Director Don Sharp returns from the first film as
does a very Hammer style attention to detail - the sets and costumes
all look very elaborate and effective, creating a good pre-war atmosphere. Unfortunately the low budget
does mean that some of the special effects shots look very poor -
including some exterior shots that are clearly stage-bound with
rear-projection. The soundtrack by frequent Carry On composer Bruce Montgomery is a standard orchestral score, but works decently well.
Lee returns again as Fu Manchu, with a lot more to do this time around,
and he looks genuinely sinister throughout. Nigel Green is replaced as
Nayland Smith by the Shakespearian actor Douglas Wilmer, who
interestingly played Sherlock Holmes for the BBC the year before his
casting here (Sax Rohmer's Nayland Smith character was clearly
inspired by Holmes). He brings some good authority to the role, but
again seems a little old to be throwing punches. British character
actor Rupert Davies (best known for his appearances in classic British
horrors Witchfinder General (1968) and Dracula has Risen from the Grave
(1968)) plays a very haunted looking Jules Merlin, with an admirable
attempt at a French accent. The German co-producers, Constanin Film,
meant that there are plenty of German actors on the cast, including
Karl May Western villain Harald Leipnitz as the slimy Nikki Sheldon.
Look out for the character actor Burt Kwouk (Pink Panther's Cato) as
one of Fu Manchu's assistants.
Brides of Fu Manchu
is a rather more effective film than the first. Although taking a very
similar plot, it focuses equally on Fu Manchu as Nayland Smith and is
far more enjoyable as a result. A good cast with decent production make
this a more than watchable film, and it comes recommended to fans of
adventure movies - although anyone looking for an action-packed film
will be disappointed.
Anyone famous in it?
Christopher Lee - the iconic villian, best known for his role in Lord of the Rings (2001-3). Douglas Wilmer - a British actor who starred in early Hammer adventure Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)
Harry Alan Towers - the infamous British exploitation producer behind many of Jess Franco's best films.
Various death scenes, relatively tame.
Who is it for?
Recommended to fans of the Hammer adventure films, and of interest to Christopher Lee fans.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print quality is good, with minimal print damage, and only light grain.
English language original mono sound. Sounds good.
The disc includes:
German theatrical edit. Contains some different editing, soundtrack and
some alternate footage with the original
German dubbing. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, most of the print
uses the restored footage of the Original version, but the German only
scenes are of a much lower quality. No subtitles.
German theatrical trailer.
Interview with Christopher Lee about Face of Fu Manchu
and the series in general, very interesting. 12 minutes. In
English with optional German subtitles. Illustrated with clips from the first film[in French]. Same as included on the French DVD of Face.
screen text - production notes on the film and contrast between the English and German edits.
Manual scrolling photo gallery - lobby cards and posters. Includes a couple of images from scenes not in the film.
DVD-ROM - A .pdf file of the original German press booklet, in full colour.
German release. DVD Title: Die 13 Sklavinnen des Dr. Fu Man Chu Only available as part of the Kinowelt Dr. Fu Manchu Collection.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
on DVD in the UK with no features.
Both versions of the film are believed to be uncut. The print of the Original Version as reviewed is English language.
A very similar film to the first but more effectively written, with good production and acting. Partly recommended.
A good looking and sounding print. The Christopher Lee interview is very interesting.