I’m not sure why taking over the world is always so appealing to some folks, let alone someone so anti social as the Chinese super villain Fu Manchu. Yet the outrageous racial stereotype has a plan to take over the world, despite clearly not enjoying having to deal with people directly and so spending the entirety of the film hiding away in a cave.
That well know Chinese actor, Christopher Lee, plays the eponymous baddy for the forth time and in a rare moment in this brilliant performer’s long, illustrious career he clearly seems quite bored of the whole proceedings. Fu Manchu’s plan, if you can call it a plan, is to have ten women infected by snake venom and then to use their wily womanly ways to get close to ten of his “enemies” around the world. He is obsessed with his enemies, completely obsessed. He incessantly talks about them like they are the greatest threat in the whole universe and so it’s a bit of a shock when they turn out to be some old toffs and a fat bloke.
Anyway, once they’ve ensnared his enemies, the idea is that the women will kiss these poor unsuspecting men who will then go blind and promptly drop dead from the poison. After that, Fu Manchu will be clear to… Well it’s not clear what Fu Manchu will do. Something about poisoning all of London and bringing the world to its knees, but I’m not sure he’s really thought this through very well. Firstly, why do the women themselves not die from the venom? Somehow it’s something to with women being aligned with the serpent from old. Oh, that Old Testament bag of sexism. Didn’t realise Oriental would-be-dictators went in for that Judeo–Christian kind of thing, but on the other-hand it does seem to work. Well, none of the women die from the poison, so the jobs a good-en.
Interestingly, none of the women are taking their jobs out of free will. They are all part of some kind of white slave trade ring and spend much of their time chained up, with their boobs being exposed, while screaming or acting defiant. However they all go along on their missions with little fuss and usually mess them up. One rebellious woman is told as she is a good dancer “you will dance one more time tonight, and it will be the last dance of your life.” So off she goes to dance her way close to a very fat and sweaty Mexican bandit (another one of Manchu’s enemies who appears to be such a non-threat that it seems like a waste of good snake venom to me) despite the fact she’s been told she will die and has to kill him too. This doesn’t seem all that appealing to me and I doubt I’d go along with it. Also it transpires that she blatantly is not a good dancer; she wriggles around on the floor like a wooden worm dying of a calcium overdose. Needless to say fatty bandit sees through her charade and pops a cap in her ass… As it is known in the bandit trade.
Oh yeah, at this point, Fu Manchu realises his plan hasn’t worked and so sends in a bunch of ninjas to chop up the Mexican. Why the hell didn’t he do this in the first place!? It’s a perfectly solid idea and the ninjas are brutally efficient, even if they never actually draw any blood and manage to take out their opponents with a poorly rehearsed slicing action which misses their victims all together.
Actually, the ninjas seem kind of flawed, in that they look uncannily like the Mexicans they are fighting. Now I come to think of it, considering the film is about a Chinese man trying to take over the world, there’s a distinct lack of real Chinese people present. Lee, despite his last name, obviously isn’t Chinese and no amount of hooded eye make up and dangly moustaches are going to make us think otherwise. None of his ninjas are Chinese and neither are any of his other cronies. They try to hide all this via the use of headbands and masks with dragons on them but really, they’re not kidding anyone.
The only Asian actor in this whole sorry mess is Fu Manchu’s daughter Lin Tang, played by Tsai Chin, who really is Chinese. You’ve got to admire a daughter like Lin, a real daddy’s girl, totally committed to his cause and his mad schemes.
Apparently Fu Manchu’s whole mantra is to destroy his enemies through cunning and elaborate plans, like the venom lady killer chicks, rather than by conventional means like just shooting them. It’s all nonsense of course, the moment the hero shows up in Fu Manchu’s evil lair/badly made cardboard cave, he shoots everyone with a machine gun and blows them up with some dynamite. Poor old Fu never stood a chance against such fire-power, or well really any firepower at all. I felt kind of sorry for him in the end, a sad old man telling his master plan to anyone who’d listen. Anyone being his daughter, some half-naked girls and some Mexicans dressed up as Chinese men. Bit of a half-hearted gang to take over the world with.
Mind you this whole adventure seems half-hearted, Jess Franco directs with almost no flare, Lee is asleep the whole time (or at least droopy eyed and not because of the bad make-up) and everyone else acts like acting is something they’ve only heard of five minutes before the camera rolls. It’s an entertaining half hour I suppose; unfortunately it’s an hour and a half long.