The Face of Fu Manchu

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Face of Fu Manchu
Theatrical release poster by Mitchell Hooks
Directed byDon Sharp
Produced byHarry Alan Towers
Oliver A. Unger
Written byHarry Alan Towers
(as Peter Welbeck)
StarringChristopher Lee
Nigel Green
Howard Marion-Crawford
Tsai Chin
Music byChristopher Whelen (U.K.)
Gert Wilden (FRG)
CinematographyErnest Steward
Edited byJohn Trumper
Hallam Productions
Constantin Film
Distributed byConstantin Film (West Germany)
Warner-Pathé Distributors (United Kingdom)
Seven Arts (United States)
Release date
6 August 1965
Running time
96 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom
West Germany
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 next year, with the final entry being The Castle of Fu Manchu in 1969. Only the first two were directed by Sharp.[2]

It was shot in Technicolor and Techniscope on location in County Dublin, Ireland.


The beheading of international criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu is witnessed in China by his nemesis Nayland Smith. Back in England, however, it is increasingly apparent that Dr. Fu Manchu is still operating. Smith is quick to detect that the execution he witnessed was that of a double, an actor hypnotized into taking Dr. 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.[3]

The film was shot on location in the Republic of Ireland, with Towers commenting:

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.[3]

The prison sequences were shot at Kilmainham Gaol.[4]


The British version of the film was scored by Christopher Whelen, while the German release version was scored by Gert Wilden. A tie-in song, "Don't Fool with Fu Manchu" performed by The Rockin' Ramrods,[5] was not heard in the film.


In order to promote the film in the U.S., "Fu Manchu for Mayor" posters were done up and distributed in New York City during a mayoral election.[6]

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.[7]

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."[8]



  1. ^ Anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  2. ^ Vagg, Stephen (27 July 2019). "Unsung Aussie Filmmakers: Don Sharp – A Top 25". Filmink.
  3. ^ a b "An Irishman's Diary: Unfussable". Quidnunc, The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 9 March 1965: 9.
  4. ^ "A day's shooting". Somerville-Large, B. P., The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 10 April 1965: 10.
  5. ^ The Face of Fu Manchu Pressbook
  6. ^ New Candidate -- at the Box Office New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 12 Oct 1965: 76
  7. ^ "Movie Review - Coast of Skeletons".
  8. ^ "The Face of Fu Manchu". Turner Classic Movies.

External links[edit]