The Fu Manchu cycle 1965-1969 squeezes five classic films into one box-set, starring the evil mastermind Doctor Fu Manchu, created by English novelist Sax Rohmer. In 1965 Harry Alan Towers (The Lost World) produced The Face of Fu Manchu, its popularity leads the way for another four in the series.

Christopher Lee (Dracula,1958) as Doctor Fu Manchu and Harry Alan Towers collaborate to make a new film every year, with the first two being directed by Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire). Jeremy Summers (Five Golden Dragons) picks up the baton with JesĂşs Franco (Vampyros Lesbos) completing the series. The collection consists of The Face of Fu Manchu, The Brides of Fu Manchu, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu, The Blood of Fu Manchu, and finally The Castle of Fu Manchu. Luckily for the world, Fu Manchu’s arch-enemy Nayland Smith is on-hand to stop him. Nayland Smith is played by Nigel Green (Zulu), followed by Douglas Wilmer (The Vampire Lovers) and finally by Richard Greene (The Hound of the Baskervilles).

All five can be found in one place for the first time as Blu-ray premieres. Newly restored from original negatives and crammed to bursting with extras, interviews, and audio commentaries. This Limited Edition box-set is limited to 6,000 units, complete with a fully illustrated 120-page book featuring new material from Tim Lucas.

THE FACE OF FU MANCHU

Director: Don Sharp
Screenplay: Harry Alan Towers
Starring: Christopher Lee, Nigel Green, Howard Marion-Crawford, Tsai Chin
Country: United Kingdom, West Germany
Running Time: 96 min
Year: 1965
BBFC Certificate: 15

First up is The Face of Fu Manchu made in 1965 starring Christopher Lee as the diabolical Doctor and his arch-nemesis Nayland Smith (Nigel Green) of Scotland Yard. This is the first of the five-part series, a British-West German co-production produced by Constantin Film, filmed in Technicolor and Techniscope on location in County Dublin, Ireland.

The series opens at a high-security ceremony held for the execution of Fu Manchu, he is lead down the steps to his death and Nayland Smith is there to make sure things go as planned. However once Nayland is back in Blighty he has an uneasy feeling that all is not as it seems, Nayland is convinced that Fu Manchu is still alive. Smith does his home-work and is soon sure that the man he saw executed was a double of Fu Manchu. He suspects Fu Manchu has used his hypnotic abilities to make an unsuspecting actor take the evil Doctor’s place on the chopping block.

The dreadful crook is in London and has hatched his latest shocking plan, he’s kidnapped Professor Muller forcing him to do his bidding by also kidnapping his daughter. Professor Muller is an expert in the isolation of a deadly poison that can be extracted from a little known Tibetian flower. The Blackhill poppy can be used to dreadful ends, a pint is capable of killing everyone in London. Its only weakness is that it loses its deadly power if exposed to high temperatures. The scene is set and “game on” for the battle between maniac Fu Manchu and Nayland Smith.

Extras INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with critics Kim Newman and Stephen Jones (2020)
  • The BEHP Interview with Don Sharp – Part One (1993): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Sharp in conversation with Teddy Darvas and Alan Lawson
  • Super 8 version: cut-down home cinema presentation
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU 

Director: Don Sharp
Screenplay: Harry Alan Towers
Starring: Christopher Lee, Marie Versini, Tsai Chin, Douglas Wilmer
Country: United Kingdom, West Germany
Running Time: 93 min
Year: 1966
BBFC Certificate: 15

Second, in the cycle is The Brides of Fu Manchu released in 1966, once again it is an Anglo-Amalgamated British-West German co-production produced by Constantin Film. It was produced by Harry Alan Towers for Hallam Productions and directed by Don Sharp. Christopher Lee is Doctor Fu Manchu, however, this time Nigel Green has been replaced by Douglas Wilmer as Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard.

Based in London mainly on location, this installment opens as a blindfolded scientist is lead by Dacoits to an underground cavern full of beautiful women, he sees his daughter amongst the other captives. Fu Manchu enters and hypnotizes the scientist’s daughter. She is completely helpless under the madman’s trance, so much so that she holds a knife to her own father’s throat. Fu Manchu goes a step further making the scientist’s daughter kill one of the other imprisoned women. The wicked madman has displayed his terrible power in-order to bend the horrified scientist to his will, for his sick ends.

Meanwhile back in London Dacoits are kidnapping more victims, but they haven’t counted on Nayland Smith and Doctor Petrie, who are soon hot on their trail, thumping Dacoits at every chance. Fu Manchu along with his unpleasant daughter Lin Tang and dacoits are kidnapping scientist’s daughters and taking them to his secret island. The fiend is planning on building a powerful energy wave in yet another bid to take over the world.

Extras INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU
  • New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historians Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons (2020)
  • Kim Newman on Sax Rohmer and the Fu Manchu novels
  • The BEHP Interview with Don Sharp – Part Two (1993): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Sharp in conversation with Teddy Darvas and Alan Lawson
  • The BEHP Interview with Ernest Steward (1990): an archival audio recording of an interview with the respected cinematographer, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU

Director: Jeremy Summers
Screenplay: Harry Alan Towers
Starring: Christopher Lee, Maria Rohm, Tsai Chin, Douglas Wilmer, Horst Frank, Wolfgang Kieling
Country: United Kingdom, West Germany
Running Time: 91 min
Year: 1967
BBFC Certificate: 15

The third of the series is The Vengeance of Fu Manchu, this time directed by Jeremy Summer. This is also a British/West German Constantin Film collaboration. This is the first of the series to be filmed in Hong Kong and generally released in the U.K. through Warner-Pathe.

Fu Manchu is plotting yet another fiendish scheme, he is setting up an international crime syndicate. Firstly Fu Manchu must remove Nayland Smith from the scene by having his double executed and kidnapping the real Nayland…seems overly complicated. Doctor Manchu has absconded once more to a secret location in a bid to rule all the world’s criminals. Fu Manchu along with his murderous daughter has added Horst Frank to their evil army. Douglas Wilmer is Nyland Smith, with Howard Marion Crawford his assistant. There’s plenty of action and sadism in this adventure filmed in China. This one was filmed in China, as production is through the Shaw Brothers and Harry Allan Towers. Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd. was the largest film production company in Hong Kong that operated from 1925 to 2011.

Extras INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES

  • THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU
  • New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • Original mono audio
  • The BEHP Interview with Jeremy Summers (2001): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Summers in conversation with Darrol Blake
  • Archival interview with Harry Alan Towers
  • New interview with first assistant director Anthony Waye (2020)
  • The Ghost of Monk’s Island (1966): Jeremy Summers directs this exciting mystery made for the Children’s Film Foundation
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU

Director: JesĂşs Franco
Screenplay: Harry Alan Towers, Jess Franco, Manfred R. Köhler
Starring: Christopher Lee, Tsai Chin, Maria Rohm, Richard Greene, Götz George, Howard Marion-Crawford, Shirley Eaton
Country: United Kingdom
Running Time: 94 min
Year: 1968
BBFC Certificate: 15

The Blood of Fu Manchu can also be found going by the name of Fu Manchu and the Kiss of Death with the USA knowing it as Kiss and Kill. Directed by Jesús Franco it was made in 1968. The Blood of Fu Manchu is the fourth in the series of diabolical adventures and was filmed in Spain and Brazil. Christopher Lee is of course the despicable Dr. Fu Manchu while Richard Greene is detective Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard and Howard Marion-Crawford is Doctor Petrie. Shirley Eaton discovered years later that she also appeared in the film. Apparently, naughty Jess sneaked some stock footage of her into the Fu Manchu film without telling her, and worse still apparently without paying her. A powerful music score and imagery opens this Jesús Franco take on Fu Manchu.

This time twisted Dr. Fu Manchu has discovered a deadly poison in a lost city deep in the Amazonian jungle which acts on men alone. Women bit by a venomous snake become carriers of the “kiss of death” causing blindness followed by death. With the use of his infamous mind control, the evil Doctor sends a troupe of women after a selection of high-profile individuals including detective Nayland Smith. With Nayland Smith out of the picture, the unholy Doctor will be free to distribute his poison across the planet to gain total control of the world.

This volume of Fu Manchu’s depraved adventure opens as Dacoits lead their chained and hooded female captives through the jungle. Sadistically cracking their whips to strike terror into the petrified prisoner’s hearts, they are lead in silence to Fu Manchu’s secret hideaway. They have been chosen to take part in a great mission as instruments of Fu Manchu’s destiny. The beautiful women are un-hooded and greeted by Fu Manchu’s dreadful daughter, who orders them to obey her father. Fu Manchu explains that centuries ago a great race conquered this continent and with their knowledge, Fu Manchu will conquer the world. Five hundred years ago the priests of a lost civilization living in this city distilled a poison that still exists. The poison is tested on one of the unfortunate captives, Fu Manchu exclaims “The moon is full, the moon of life, let her kiss the taste of death, she shall be the first, the first of ten”. The poisoned prisoner kisses a male captive on the lips causing him to immediately become sightless, with death soon to follow. Nayland Smith is first to be eliminated, the fiendish game is afoot, let loose the dogs of war.

Extras INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES

  • THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU
  • New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with critics David Flint and Adrian Smith (2020)
  • Visions of the Yellow Peril (2020): Christopher Frayling on ethnocentrism in the Fu Manchu cycle
  • New interview with clapper loader Ray Andrew (2020)
  • New interview with Stephen Thrower on Fu Manchu and JesĂşs Franco’s collaborations with Harry Alan Towers (2020)
  • The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu: The Fiery Hand (1923): a chilling episode of the original silent serial, starring Harry Agar Lyons as the evil mastermind
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU

Director: JesĂşs Franco
Screenplay: Manfred Barthel
Starring: Christopher Lee, Richard Greene, Howard Marion-Crawford, Günther Stoll, Rosalba Neri, Maria Perschy, José Manuel Martín
Country: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, West Germany
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 1969
BBFC Certificate: 15

The Castle of Fu Manchu can also be found under the title of The Torture Chamber of Dr. Fu Manchu or in German title Die Folterkammer des Dr. Fu Man Chu. This is the fifth and final one in the series shot in 1969, of course with Christopher Lee as super-villain Fu Manchu.

The world is at the mercy of Fu Manchu, he has conquered not only the mysteries of the continents but the mysteries of the oceans too. In the tropical waters of the South Atlantic, he has the power to turn vast quantities of water into ice. Total cad Doctor Fu Manchu comes up with his most mad-cap scheme yet, intending to freeze the world’s ocean aided by his deadly daughter, Lin Tang, Dacoits, and master criminal Omar Pasha. The psycho Doctor must control the opium supply in Istanbul and the key port so the opium can be used as fuel for his latest deadly machine. Fu Manchu has captured a scientist for his fiendish plot and is keeping him in unbearable conditions deep with-in his secret hideaway. Unfortunately, he is dying so sicko Fu must kidnap a doctor and his wife to keep him alive. He needs them to perform heart transplant surgery on the ailing doctor so that he can complete his evil plan. They complete the terrifying heart surgery with a hammer and chisel or is it a screwdriver? Not to fear Nayland Smith and Doctor Petrie are on the case…will they stop him one last time?

Crammed full of wonderful shots setting the atmosphere with sinister lighting and laboratories of bubbling chemicals. The scenes are over-extended compared to current filming styles, adding to a languid ambiance. As a special treat, you even get to see Jess himself appear as the inspector, maintaining a Francoesque slow-moving style, building the mood of the film… I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Extras INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES

  • THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU
  • New restoration by Powerhouse Films from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • Original mono audio
  • New interview with star Rosalba Neri (2020)
  • The Further Mysteries of Dr. Fu-Manchu: The Coughing Horror (1924): Fu Manchu torments Nayland Smith with a terrifying creature in this silent serial sequel
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray
  • Limited edition exclusive 120-page book with a new essay on the Fu Manchu cycle by Tim Lucas, a look at the career of producer/screenwriter Harry Alan Towers, an examination of the work of Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer, new writing on The Ghost of Monk’s Island and the Stoll Pictures’ Fu Manchu silent serials, archival newspaper articles on the films, extracts from the films’ pressbooks, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
  • Limited edition exclusive double-sided poster and five replica production stills 

Taking place in the 1920s with cars, sets, and costumes of the time it exudes an ambiance all of its own. Even though Fu Manchu may seem, tamer, than he used to, this is a fantastic selection and will immerse you into a by-gone world. The Fu Manchu cycle is kindly brought to us by Indicator, a British Blu-ray and DVD label owned and operated by Powerhouse Films Ltd. 

I reviewed the Blu-rays alone from this fine collection, however, I was not lucky enough to review the box, artwork, or Limited edition exclusive 120-page book, so I am unable to pass comment on these. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip through the world of Fu Manchu and I am quite in awe of the volume of extras that come with the collection. It’s certainly for the discerning collector who is interested in knowing more about this section of film history. The total running time is 7 hours and 46 minutes, released on 2 November 2020. The Fu Manchu cycle 1965-1969 is rated suitable for 15 years and over. The imagery and sound are crisp and clear creating a fresh viewing experience, making this a fine collection to own. If you enjoy this era of film, you will love this collection. If you have not seen any Fu Manchu, what are you waiting for?

The Fu Manchu Cycle 1965-1969
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