Wednesday, September 29, 2010

'Castle of Fu Manchu' is Jess Franco at his worst (and his usual is already pretty bad)

The Castle of Fu Manchu (aka "Assignment Istanbul") (1969)
Starring: Richard Greene, Christopher Lee, and Tsai Chin
Director: Jess Franco
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

The immortal Dr. Fu Manchu (Lee) launches yet another nefarious scheme--this one involving a weapon that will freeze the world's oceans--and only Sir Dennis Nayland-Smith (Greene) can stop him. But will Sir Dennis save the audience from dying of boredom?

I think "The Castle of Fu Manchu" has got to be one of the absolutely worst movies ever released. Even by the low standards to which one has to hold Jess Franco--a director far worse than just about anyone who's still making movies today that you could mention--this is an awful, awful movie. It is so bad that it was one of the first movies that I slated for inclusion in the forthcoming 150 Movies You Should (Die Before You) See book, and it I never considered dropping it for some other film.

This is one of those movies that you have to have seen in order to be pass value judgements about what is and isn't "the worst movie ever made."

There's about 20 minutes worth of plot in this movie, with over 60 minutes of dull filler garbage. What's worse, the fight and actions scenes are so lame and cheap that the filmmakers didn't even bother adding sound effects in post production--so all we get are actors swinging at each other, falling over logs, and rolling around on the ground. And we have the embarrassing experience of watching adults tumble around like 9-year-olds playing Cops & Robbers instead of being able to surrender our imagination to the illusion that a movie should conjure.

I was tempted to give this movie One Star--and in fact when reviewed it several years ago on my Rotten Tomatoes blog, I did--because Christopher Lee once again gives a great performance as Fu Manchu. He even almost rises above the crap-fest he is surrounded by. But it's only almost, and even if he had given the best performance of his life, it still would have only earned this film a single of the smallest of small Stars. So, it gets Zero, in the interest of clarity and fairness to what an abominable effort this film is.


  1. I have to agree - did you notice that the disaster footage at the start was nicked from the Titanic film A Night To Remember, and so even the new footage was tinted blue to try and disguise the fact that the inserted shots were black and white!
    Have you see the other films in the series? The first three, Face of FM in particular, are perfectly decent little movies.
    But the last one, Blood of FM, also from our pal Franco, is for my money even worse than Castle.

  2. Yeah... I did notice that and I laughed when I first saw that. I think that was one of the trivia points I mentioned in one of the drafts of the book, but it was ultimately cut for space. (I'd actually intended to include that here, but forgot. I'm glad you brought it up!)

    As for "Blood of Fu Manchu," it was a toss-up which of the two to include in the book, but I went with this one, because of the awful fight scenes. I think they give this one a slight edge in the crapitude department, although I also see all sorts of evidence to support your position. :)

    I've not seen the three earlier Fu Manchu films, but they are among those I hope to some day get around to.