In "Blood of Fu Manchu," the insidious doctor (played with the kind of dignity that only Christopher Lee can bring to a deeply ridiculous role) is once again up to his global domination hijinx, this time using an ancient Inca technique to transform a bevy of international babes into poisonous drones of destruction. By placing an adorably diminutive snake next to the bosom of the intended girl bomb (no--wait--wrong movie!), the woman is infected with a venom that she's immune to but that will strike down any man unfortunate enough to kiss her. Things go all WTF straight away, mainly because it would be a LOT easier to just send the snakes directly to the intended targets (they're small; shipping would be cheap, quick and simple) instead of having the girls smooch the victims. These ladies don't so much seduce anyone as they just leap out and facerape Fu Manchu's enemies. It seems needlessly baroque, but that's part of that whole "inscrutable" thing the Bad Doctor's got working for him. Furthermore, the effects of the poison are kind of... well, they're incredibly unpredictable. At different points in the film, death can follow quickly, or take a few days, or ensue after six weeks of suffering. My personal demand for Teutonic Efficiency balks at all this, lemme just tell you.
Digressions as to the relative efficacy of Fu Manchu's methods aside, his choice of female assassins provides plentiful shots of beautiful women in bondage and a fair amount of T&A, and the whole "ancient South American" tie-in thang gives an excuse to employ an exotic Brazillian setting. So at the end of the day, I'm not complaining.
Naturally, Fu Manchu's nemesis Nayland Smith, British explorer and superspy, is one of the first targets for the girl bombs (damn, damn, DAMN; I keep screwing that up!), and after this Kiss Of Eventual But Non-Specific Death is received, he spends 90% of the movie blind, looking as sweaty and disoriented as Steven Seagal on a semi-reality, law-enforcement-themed television show. This affliction, quite problematically, leads to Dr. Petrie taking center stage in all of the Brit-buffoon majesty that actor Howard Marion-Crawford invests in the character. By the time Dr. Petrie is hanging in chains, begging for hot tea (the third such instance of tea-related humor), I was groaning audibly. Folks say the Fu Manchu character is a symbol of racism against Asians, but I'd posit that this film, at any rate, makes me fear and loathe the British far, far more. Let's just assume that's a clever inversion placed into the film by Jess Franco, shall we?
The seams where additional footage has been added for the export market really show here. I'm no film editor, but I could clearly see where the orgiastic raid on the sleepy South American town, the bare-chested snakebites, and the groovy, translucent nighties could easily be excised to create "clean" prints of the movie.
This all sounds like bitching--I realize this. "Blood of Fu Manchu" gives the viewer exactly TWO choices: punch out early due to excessive silliness, or roll with the stupidry and enjoy the over-the-top acting, outfits, plot and sets.
I might've been inclined to go with the former choice, had I not stuck in till Sancho Lopez's vicious gang of Mexi-flavored marauders showed up. Oh yes, friends--that wasn't a typo up there. This movie has three--THREE--delicious stereotypes where you thought you'd only get the Yellow Peril! Bandit Sancho Lopez, with his tiny hat, his drinking, his raping and his haphazard shooting of stuff, is the spiritual cousin of Speedy Gonzalez, though probably with a nastier meth habit. I'm not even entirely sure why the Sancho Lopez character gets involved in the story at all, since he doesn't really do much except serve as Local Color, but holy wow am I glad this character got kept in the script. I was fascinated enough by this nugget of "Why" that I almost overlooked Maria Rohm's country doctor character, clad like the lead in a community theatre production of "Annie Get Your Gun."
Absurd, insensitive, and never boring, "Blood of Fu Manchu" has plenty to recommend it to fans of trash cinema. Folks seeking a sophisticated tale of intrigue should look elsewhere, and those looking to analyze the dreamy, jazz-influenced structure in Franco's work will be disappointed with this movie. However, if you love crazy action stories as much as I do and get a kick out of ... how shall I put this ... Cinematic Texts That Are a Product Of Their Respective Times, then "Blood of Fu Manchu" is right up your foggy Limehouse alley.