The Face of Fu Manchu

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The Face of Fu Manchu
Theatrical release poster by Mitchell Hooks
Directed by Don Sharp
Produced by Harry Alan Towers
Oliver A. Unger
Written by Harry Alan Towers
(as Peter Welbeck)
Starring Christopher Lee
Nigel Green
Howard Marion-Crawford
Tsai Chin
Music by Christopher Whelen (UK)
Gert Wilden (FRG)
Cinematography Ernest Steward
Edited by John Trumper
Hallam Productions
Constantin Film
Distributed by Seven Arts
Release date
6 August 1965
Running time
96 min.
Country United Kingdom
West Germany
Language English
Box office $1,300,000[1]
Poster of The Face of Fu Manchu

The Face of Fu Manchu is a 1965 thriller film directed by Don Sharp and based on the characters created by Sax Rohmer. It stars Christopher Lee as the eponymous villain, a Chinese criminal mastermind, and Nigel Green as his pursuing rival Nayland Smith, a Scotland Yard detective.

The film was a British-West German co-production, and was the first in a five-part series starring Lee and produced by Harry Alan Towers for Constantin Film, the second of which was The Brides of Fu Manchu released the final year with the final entry being The Castle of Fu Manchu from 1969. It was shot in Technicolor and Techniscope, on-location in County Dublin, Ireland.


The beheading of international criminal mastermind Fu Manchu is witnessed in China by his nemesis Nayland Smith. Back in England, however, it is increasingly apparent that Fu Manchu is still operating. Smith is quick to detect that the execution he witnessed was that of a double, an actor hypnotised into taking Fu Manchu's place. The villain is back in London, working from a secret base underneath the River Thames. He has kidnapped the esteemed Professor Muller, who holds the key to a potentially deadly solution from the seeds of a rare Tibetan flower.



Producer Harry Alan Towers denied the films were made to cash in on the James Bond craze:

No relationship. Action, adventure, open-air, escapism - yes - but nothing to do with Bond-ism - Fu Manchu's atmosphere is a kind of timeless Never Never land. Bond is gimmicky and with-it.[2]

The film was shot on location in the Republic of Ireland. Towers:

It's a good country for location work; the British quota helps; on costs, there is not much difference between making a film here and in Britain - both sets of unions see to that. Ardmore? It seems to be doing alright with the present film - and Ireland will always be attractive as long as filmmakers and their artists are seeking refuge from super tax.[2]

The prison sequences were shot at Kilmainham Gaol.[3]


The British version of the film was scored by Christopher Whelen whilst the German release version was scored by Gert Wilden. A tie-in song Don't Fool with Fu Manchu performed by The Rockin' Ramrods[4] was not heard in the film.


In order to promote the film in the US, "Fu Manchu for Mayor" posters were done up and distributed in New York City during a mayoral election.[5]

The New York Times did not like the film, saying:

The Face of Fu Manchu, back again after all these years, is about as frightening as Whistler's Mother. If this slow, plodding, simple-minded little color melodrama were not so excruciating, it might have been acceptable farce. Christopher Lee, as the old evil one, complete with waxy mustache, looks and sounds like an overgrown Etonite. Fu Manchu, fooey.[6]

Nonetheless the film was successful enough to result in four sequels. "The first one should have been the last one," Lee wrote in 1983, "because it was the only really good one."[7]



  1. ^ Anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  2. ^ a b AN IRISHMAN'S DIARY: Unfussable QUIDNUNC. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 09 Mar 1965: 9.
  3. ^ A DAY'S SHOOTING Somerville-Large, B P. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 10 Apr 1965: 10.
  4. ^ The Face of Fu Manchu Pressbook
  5. ^ New Candidate -- at the Box Office New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 12 Oct 1965: 76
  6. ^ "Movie Review - Coast of Skeletons". 
  7. ^ "The Face of Fu Manchu". Turner Classic Movies. 

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