Kamis, 19 Mei 2011

Jesus Franco - The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)

When horror icon Christopher Lee was not menacing the cinematic world as Dracula, or starring in other Hammer films, he was making the rounds in the European low-budget arena, working alongside the likes of Mario Bava (THE WHIP AND THE BODY), Antonio Margheriti (HORROR CASTLE), and Eugenio Martin (HORROR EXPRESS). Christopher Lee eventually teamed up with B-movie producer Harry Allan Towers and director Jess Franco for a series of Fu Manchu pictures, based on the super villain from Sax Rohmers’ novel series. Like many of Jess Franco’s pictures of the time, THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU was heavily edited for release on several continents, and the filmmakers had to conform to the censorship laws of each country (contingent upon the amount of acceptable nudity and violence), resulting in different versions of each movie. To further complicate matters, Franco’s films were always renamed in foreign markets. For instance, THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU was retitled to THE KISS OF DEATH in the USA. Leave it to that conglomeration of cult cinema mavens, Blue Underground, to hunt down all known existing prints and restoring THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU to its original length for the first time on home video.

THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU boasts an impressive cast of genre principals and supporting players. In addition to the great Christopher Lee, Fu Manchu’s daughter Lin Tang is portrayed by the seductive Tsai Ming, who can be seen in INVASION (1966), YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967), and THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS (1969). German genre specialist George Gotz known for his roles in films like HYPNOSIS (1963), A MAN CALLED GRINGO (1965), and HALF BREED (1966), in this Fu Manchu outing portrays a swashbuckling archeologist ala Indiana Jones. Richard Green is Christopher Lee’s Sherlock Holmes-like rival, Nayland Smith. Green’s best genre credits include THE BLACK CASTLE (1953), ISLAND OF THE LOST (1966), and TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1974). Jess Franco regular Maria Rohm plays a village doctor in this film. This European beauty starred in several of Franco’s better productions like VENUS IN FURS (1969), THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970), and COUNT DRACULA (1970). Euro sleaze performer Ricardo Palacios has a major role in THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, as the leader of a gang of bloodthirsty bandits. You can see him in such films as PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1978), WHERE TIME BEGAN (1976), and HUMAN BEASTS (1981). And the nudity factor to this film is boosted by international starlets Loni Von Friedl, Frances Khan, and Isaura De Oliveira.

Fu Manchu and his daughter Lin Tang have built a new fortress inside the Mayan ruins of a South American rainforest, and gathered an army of obedient soldiers to serve them. Fu Manchu’s latest plan of world domination involves the kidnapping of the local sexpots to use as living weapons against his enemies. His soldiers inject lethal snake venom inside the bodies of the unwilling female victims who are immune to the poison. Fu Manchu tests his latest weapon by sending a hypnotized female to England to assassinate detective Nayland Smith. The plot works and the poison causes Nayland Smith to go blind. Intelligence reports indicate that Fu Manchu has taken up residence in South America and Nayland Smith and his entourage begins the long trek to the dangerous jungles. Meanwhile, archeologist Carl Jansen has discovered the presence of Fu Manchu and attempts to warn the authorities. The South American jungle is a very dangerous place; not only do Fu Manchu’s private army assault travelers, but packs of marauding bandits attack local villages. The ruthless Sancho Lopez is one such bandit leader who invades local villages, killing innocents and taking over the establishments. Nayland Smith and his comrades arrive in the steamy jungle and team up with Carl Jansen and village physician Maria Rohm to oppose the forces of Fu Manchu. Sancho Lopez takes over a nearby town and his gang of cutthroats help themselves to all that the village offers. Lin Tang and her father’s soldiers attack and kill the bandits, recruiting their nasty leader into their ranks. Can Nayland Smith and his intrepid heroes stop the combined might of Sancho Lopez and Fu Manchu from executing their plan of world domination?

Blue Underground presents THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU in it’s original 1.66.1 full frame ratio, with 16x9 enhancement. The image is very good indeed, showcasing the Mayan set design, South American Jungles, and foggy European locations. There are some nics and scratches in the film elements, but that is normal considering the origins and cheap film stock employed by Harry Alan Towers. Grain is seen in many shots. The black levels are calibrated and flesh tones are fully natural (as evidenced by all the female flesh viewed in THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU). The sound is two-channel mono which serves the film well. Though the film was shot in English, THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU is still over dubbed by professional voice artists of this period—which is sometimes a little distracting. The sound effects (gunfights, hand-to-hand combat, automobiles, jungle sounds) are prominent in the mix. Only Daniel White’s awful score hurts the film as it does not accentuate the action or intrigue. Blue Underground includes some wonderful extras for this disc. In addition to the trailers and photogalleries, they have produced an all new, 15 minute documentary called The Facts of Fu Manchu. Blue Underground has gone through the expense and effort of reuniting Christopher Lee, Tsai Chin, Shirley Eaton, Harry Allan Towers, and director Jess Franco, who reminisce about the making of THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU and other Fu Manchu offerings. The principals address all the controversial issues surrounding the film including racism, sexism, and sadism. This excellent documentary is a must see.

Blue Underground has done all European cult enthusiasts a huge favor by pouring all their time and hard work into completely remastering this underground favorite. Though the film itself is something of an acquired taste, they have completely restored this film to it’s legendary uncut state, and the image quality of the transfer could not get any better. The excellent documentary is worth the price of the disc alone. Even if you are not a fan of Franco, THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU is still and worth a look by genre fans. Blue Underground’s DVD is an integral part of their Christopher Lee Collection Box Set, along with THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU, THE BLOODY JUDGE, and THEATER OF DEATH.

Subtitles: Dutsch
no pass

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