The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965 UK/West Germany)

films-1965-the-face-of-fu-manchuThis motion picture exists in a weird 1920s/1960s hybrid. The male fashions and the cars suggest the 20s, but the women are pure 60s. There is enough mystery and action to keep things from slowing down too much, though the film does drag in parts. Fu’s plot is evil enough to propel things, with murdered villagers and a drowned woman to add a bit of grisly horror. But this film didn’t have the budget to portray the horrors of the books.

Christopher Lee, one of my absolute favourite actors, is never less than completely compelling as Fu Manchu, who is such a frightening figure in part because he never raises his voice. The truly powerful do not need to shout and scream to have their way. This film was shot around some hideously freezing Dublin locations in February and March. Several of the cast became ill with the flu and one German actor, Walter Rilla, nearly died. It was never going to win awards, but it is diverting enough on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Shot in technicolor and cinemascope, it truly looks more expensive than it is.

If you like a bit of pulp mystery and adventure, this film (and a few of the others) is worth a look, but keep a forgiving eye on the production. It does feature a first rate cast and a decent plot, which makes up for a lot. Christopher Lee’s first outing as the Oriental villain is probably the best of the bunch and serves as another memorable role for his huge CV. Taking over the mantle from Boris Karloff – who had played Manchu in the 1930s – Lee’s Manchu films would always be cheaper, less entertaining affairs, but still served up enough action and twists in the plot to keep things moving along nicely.

face of F MAll of the staples of the adventure genre are there: people being tied up to chairs and freeing themselves, people being whipped, glass tanks filling with water and drowning victims, and most of all: the heroes fighting off villains. Everything is black and white and made simple for the viewer. No ambiguity here! I loved the fight scenes in these B movies. Nayland Smith attacks one of his friends and fights in a laboratory, for what seems like an eternity. After the little scrap neither men are bleeding! Of course, Chinese people are the ones getting beaten up and stabbed (in a variety of PG certificate ways) along the way, which does make the film seem a little ‘racist’ in today’s overly sensitive society.

Karin Dor makes for a very attractive damsel in a blue skirt and cardigan. Nigel Green is memorably stern-faced and proud in his one-off role as Manchu’s chief adversary, Nayland Smith, while Tsai Chin is also wickedly evil as Manchu’s daughter. She would return in later entries in the series. But Christopher Lee carries the film on his shoulders and is excellent as the soft-spoken super villain with the long moustache and funny costume. Very typical of the Flash Gordon-type serials of the ’30s, with the emphasis on plot twists, explosions, kidnapping and escape, and fighting, The Face Of Fu Manchu is a hugely enjoyable yarn to be enjoyed by old and new alike. As Lee himself says “the world shall hear from me again”.




  1. Intriguing! I’ve seen parodies of Fu Manchu but not the real thing yet. Excellent review, I shall definitely check out this flick. Ermmm, perhaps not in front of my Chinese mother-in-law though ha ha! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She has become your personal Yellow Peril! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: