The Castle of Fu Manchu (Folterkammer des Dr. Fu Man Chu, Die) (1969) (NTSC)

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Released 25-Oct-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast & Crew-The Fall Of Fu Manchu
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Posters And Stills
Notes-The Facts Of Fu Manchu
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Booklet
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 91:53 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jesus Franco
Studio
Distributor
Stomp Visual Starring Christopher Lee
Richard Greene
Tsai Chin
Maria Perschy
Howard Marion-Crawford
Günther Stoll
Rosalba Neri
José Manuel Martín
Werner Abrolat
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Carlos Camilleri
Malcomb Shelby
Gert Wilden


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) is intent on bending the world to his will. This time around it will be through the agency of an ice-making machine, his plan being to turn the world's oceans into ice. He manages to sink an ocean liner in a demonstration of his power, but due to technical difficulties his machinery explodes. Escaping to Istanbul he sets himself up in a castle. Having kidnapped a scientist who is deathly ill, he has to also kidnap a doctor and nurse to operate on the scientist. Meanwhile Nayland Smith (Richard Greene) and Dr Petrie (Howard Marion Crawford) are hot on his trail, by golly. There's also a local crime boss who is trying to stop Fu Manchu, for some reason or other. Add into the mix a female assassin who likes to wear men's clothing and you have The Castle of Fu Manchu.

    I saw this a few years ago on television and recall it as a horrible, incomprehensible mess. This DVD must contain a different cut of the film, because it is no longer quite so incomprehensible. It is still, however, ludicrous, dull and embarrassing in equal measure. I found myself laughing out loud several times at the bad acting, clumsy action scenes (mainly involving a very inept Richard Greene, though he is more mobile than in the previous film) and stupid script.

    The opening sequence isn't too bad, benefiting from the presence of Burt Kwouk as an ill-fated henchman who loses his nerve. But this sequence also shows an ocean liner sinking after hitting an iceberg. Sound familiar? Yes, inserted in the movie are several black and white sequences taken from 1958's A Night to Remember, the epic about the Titanic disaster. I suppose Jess Franco and Harry Alan Towers thought no-one would notice. There's also some footage of a dam bursting, which goes on far too long and also appears to be taken from another movie.

    At the end we hear the familiar words "the world will hear from me again". What we don't hear is Towers' reaction on seeing the film. He claims to have said to Franco that he had killed Fu Manchu, something that Nayland Smith was never able to do. A projected sixth film was never made, and the world should be grateful.

    Lee is a bit more mobile in this film than in The Blood of Fu Manchu, but he has surprisingly little screen time. There's some shenanigans with the local mob boss Omar Pasha (José Manuel Martín), and too much of the suffering of the scientist Dr Heracles and the kidnapped Dr Kessler and his nurse Ingrid, the latter played by Maria Perschy. Too little is seen of the luscious Rosalba Neri as the female assassin. There is considerably less nudity in this film than in its immediate predecessor, making it unusual in Jess Franco's later work.

    If you are a Christopher Lee completist you have probably sat through a lot worse than this (Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow springs to mind) and this disc is worth the investment if you want a copy of this movie. General viewers should beware.

    I will also mention that since my reviews of the first three Fu Manchu outings starring Lee I have had the opportunity to see the sound version of the 1929 adventure The Mysterious Dr Fu Manchu, with Warner Oland as the fiendish Oriental. Oland was already typecast as an Asian character, having started his long stint as Charlie Chan the same year. This early movie is fairly uninteresting though it does attempt to explain the origins of Fu's criminal career. That leaves the first Lee outing The Face of Fu Manchu and the MGM Boris Karloff entry The Mask of Fu Manchu as the best movies made with this character. The latter deserves a DVD release with all of the non-PC elements restored. I think Warners might own the rights to this movie, so there may be a possibility that it will see the light of day.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It is also an NTSC transfer. The distributor seem to have merely imported the US release from Blue Underground, which was coded for all regions and so can be played in Region 4.

    This transfer is very good, probably as good as the film will ever get. The video is sharp and there is plenty of detail. Colour is good, with flesh tones appearing natural. Black levels are also good. Like the disc of The Blood of Fu Manchu the red portion of the spectrum is too saturated, but not to the extent of that transfer. Shadow detail is average.

    Some of the darker sequences show some low level noise. There is also a lot of edge enhancement, though the haloes around objects are generally thin. There are film artefacts, but these are only small white flecks which appear from time to time. Some of the darker sequences show dust on the print, and there are occasional light blemishes and slight flickering.

    The disc has no subtitles.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change not particularly visible at 49:47.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono according to the case, but at times it sounds like stereo.

    Dialogue is clear throughout. There is no hiss present, but there is a digital edge to the sound that suggests that noise reduction filters have been applied.

    Again the dialogue seems to be looped. For the most part it is done reasonably well, but the acoustic always sounds slightly boxy or lacking in space. The principal actors dub their own lines and get the sync just about right, except for Howard Marion Crawford whose dialogue is often completely different from his lip movements.

    While the score on the previous Fu Manchu film was abominable, this one isn't too bad. The theme music we hear over the opening credits is almost memorable, but it does sound like it belongs in a Bond film rather than here. The score is well recorded and has a presence that makes the audio sound like it is in stereo at times.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    The same short video introduction that appears on the other Fu Manchu disc, with the voice of the wily Doctor heard over some distorted video.

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features music from the score.

Interviews-Cast & Crew-The Fall Of Fu Manchu (14:00)

    This is a continuation of the interview extra on the Blood of Fu Manchu disc. This time it is mainly Jess Franco (in French and subtitled), with bits from Tsai Chin, Lee and Towers. Franco has a couple of amusing stories about his tall star. It's also amusing when he refers to Lee's prodigious memory, which comes just after Lee says he doesn't remember much about the films. "Something about poison I think, and a woman being bitten by a snake", or words to that effect.

Theatrical Trailer (2:25)

    This trailer is widescreen and 16x9 enhanced. It is in pretty good condition and preserves a way over-the-top narration.

Gallery-Posters And Stills

    This well-stocked gallery includes posters for the film, publicity stills, behind the scenes stills and the original press book.

Notes-The Facts Of Fu Manchu

    This is a set of notes on the origins of the character and the history of his portrayal in films. It is the same extra as included on the disc of The Blood of Fu Manchu.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    The same biographies and filmographies for Lee and Franco as included on the Blood disc.

Booklet

    A four page booklet including artwork, chapter listing and a two-page essay by Tim Lucas.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As the Region 4 appears to be the Region 1 release then the choice of where to buy it comes down to price and convenience. The advantage of the distributor having imported these discs is that they are not defaced by brightly-coloured classification markings.

    The Region 1 is also available as part of a set of Lee potboilers, including both Franco Fu Manchu movies, Circus of Fear and The Bloody Judge. Each is also available separately.

Summary

    A dismal ending to the Fu series.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio is average but acceptable.

    Not a huge number of extras, but very relevant and more than the film deserves.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, November 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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