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Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Fu For The Swingin' Sixties!


Face Of Fu Manchu (1965) Evokes Thrillers Of Old

There's late Fritz Lang-ian flavor to this Yellow Peril toe dip at eve of suppression of such (racial sensibilities), old-fashioned a complement I'd confer on director Don Sharp for not camping up Fu. A year later would have opened that tar pit, what with Batman and market conviction that such material was to be ridiculed. Fu had been around longer than comic books, so might command respect for more literary origin. Anyway, his revival here called forth critic appreciation for "serial-like" thrills and return to pulpy days of many a then-reviewer's memory, not unlike nostalgia that later propelled Raiders Of The Lost Ark among 80's oldsters. A tightened budget put neither lavish setting nor lush torture device at Fu's disposal, but Christopher Lee does honor to the role once played by chilling forebear Boris Karloff, and would do so again (and again) in diminishing sequels (one of which is also available from Warner Archive). Done nicely in Techniscope, Face Of Fu Manchu was distributed here by Seven Arts, whose pressbook boasted a full-color cover that was a favorite of acquisitions from the Liberty circa 1965.


Certainly there was effort to put Fu over as a modern-spun anti-hero. "Enter The Chop Suey Bond" was one promotional headline, and that hit single from The Rockin' Ramrods entitled Don't Fool With Fu Manchu certainly has possibilities. I Googled the Ramrods --- turns out they were a viable mid-60's group that had well-received instrumentals. Images online reminded me of a Dave Clark Four. Considering sequels that followed Face, mine's an educated guess that Seven Arts got a major buoy from Euro grosses, Fu being a natural for worldwide selling. I'd figure too that offshore patrons got "hotter" versions of Face, Brides, and Vengeance (were there more?), conclusion based on stills published in Castle Of Frankenstein during the late 60's with unclad women posed beside Fu's throne. Cal Beck got pretty adventurous, if not outright countercultural, as CoF wound ways to a mid-seventies finish. Sometimes he even veered to politics I could make no sense of, but then when you're fourteen, who cares about world crisis so long as there's steady flow of monster movies.

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