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The Blood Of Fu Manchu / The Castle Of Fu Manchu – Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

You know, I’m the guy who writes that annual Blu-ray Wishlist column (Which, I did regularly for a year). I’m a proponent on getting everything in film history bumped up to the next great format. For it to be available in the highest quality presentation possible. However, some things…maybe…maybe they don’t need that sort of effort. Maybe they were fine just ending their run on DVD. Those play in 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray players and pretty much anywhere still to this day. What’s with this intro? Because two of the Fu Manchu movies from the 1960s are coming to Blu-ray from Blue Underground and I still don’t have True Lies yet. Sure, I know Jess Franco is a popular cult director. And…yeah, they have Christopher Lee, but they are also a whitewashing embarrassment of history.  That’s not even their biggest crime.  They’re pretty much unwatchable. But, here, I’ve done my best for this new set, apologies on the lack of enthusiasm. 

The Blood of Fu Manchu 

The Castle of Fu Manchu 

The first stop on the double feature is The Blood of Fu Manchu. From his secret lair deep within the South American jungle, international super-villain Fu Manchu and his sadistic daughter Lin Tang reveal their latest diabolical plot for world domination: ten beautiful women are infected with an ancient poison so deadly that one kiss from their lips will bring instant death and lead to a global plague. Now the Asian madman’s nemesis, Nayland Smith, must desperately hunt an antidote in a savage land where and reign and the ultimate evil lies in The Blood of Fu Manchu.

Then in The Castle of Fu Manchu, Christopher Lee returns as the diabolical super-villain who along with his sadistic daughter Lin Tang creates a fiendish new chemical weapon that will turn the seas into a giant block of ice. But when his Archenemy Nayland Smith tracks the madman’s trail of kidnapping, murder and massive global destruction, he himself becomes trapped in Fu’s impenetrable lair of cruelty. Can any of the world’s top secret agent now stop the cold-blooded terror that lives in the The Castle Of Fu Manchu?

Jess Franco and Christopher Lee are both cult icons and legends in the field. Lee gained more prestige as he aged very finely. However, these Fu Manchu films are not ones to judge either by. Granted, times were different then, and though Christopher Lee does to quite an awesome job, he’s completely miscast. Franco also crafts a story that’s really hard to just jump in or even stick around for as the movie progresses.  Many of his more known elements to his craft are here, but its just not working because I’m checking the counter every chance I can. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the first two films in this series, but if these can’t grab me on a trashy level, I really don’t need to use up any more hours of my life on this series.

The Castle of Fu Manchu once made for one of the more notable episodes of one of the greatest television programs of all time; Mystery Science Theater 3000. Notable, because its one of the few movies that almost completely broke Joel, Tom Servo and Crow (One of the others is Manos, but that episode is entertaining as hell). I mean, the episode is solid, but you can tell that they are struggling hard through it and man, even the jokes are just there to be jokes. It would have been nice to have had that with this film. But alas, I had to watch both of these damn things, uncut and un-riffed.

Ideas are ideas, sleaze is sleaze, but neither was enough or strongly present for me to get into either film. Both of these films are pretty much unwatchable. They feel like elongated TV movies of this era. I had to really push myself through these for this review. I attempted watching these movies 4 times for this review. That’s how long it took me to get through them without falling asleep. It was that hard. For fans, I’m happy these bring you joy, but for me this was just incredible unwatchable.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Both of these films have similar looking transfers. This may be the best they’ve ever looked, but they are both pretty poor and look like DVD upconverts. There is some smoothing present and just an overall lack of crispness to the image. It looks a bit tinkered with on sharpness. Some areas do impress and look nicer in the detail, but overall, it should look better. Of the two, The Castle of Fu Manchu doe bode much better in its jump over to the format. My only experience with either of these movies was the MST3K episode and Castle does look way better than it did there.

Depth:  Not really much to talk about here as both are pretty flat. Movements are decently cinematic in their nature with little blurring or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich, I did not a hair of crushing present in some areas.

Color Reproduction: Colors can come across pretty bold and strong with greens, purples and reds looking rather bold. However, for the 60s, it doesn’t really show off a vast palette, but that could be the biproduct of just taking a DVD master and upconverting it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and do hold a consistent appearance throughout. The facial details are there in close ups but still suffer from a rather smooth look.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are some noise and compression issues abound.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Well, these mono tracks provide a solid performance here. Its rather loose and well balanced between the score, sound effects and vocals. Compared to the video quality, this is a massive win.  Its merely solid, but it is good quality given what the films are.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is loud, crisp and clear. A lot of the dubs pick up some good diction and clarity in delivery.

Extras 

This double feature is a 1-disc release with both films sharing a disc. Each film has its own extras.

The Blood of Fu Manchu

The Rise of Fu Manchu (SD, 15:03) – Interviews with director Jess Franco, Producer Harry Alan Towers and stars Christopher Lee, Tsai Chin and Shirley Eaton. Originally featured on Blue Underground’s DVD release, this featurette goes through the history of the film’s production and also back tracks to the early literary works and the adaptation process and rights procuring to get the films off the ground.

International Trailer (HD, 3:00) 

US Trailer (HD, 1:41)

Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 2:11)

The Castle of Fu Manchu

The Fall of Fu Manchu (SD, 14:00) – Interviews with director Jess Franco, producer Harry Alan Towers and stars Christopher Lee and Tsai Chin. This also was ported over from the Blue Underground DVD release, the story of the final film in the Fu Manchu series is told. This one gets a little more into the career of Christopher Lee and his contributions to the Fu Manchu character and film in general. Director Jess Franco said every time he shot a movie with Lee, that they would make sure there was a golf course nearby as it would make him happier.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:26) 

Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 2:03)

Summary 

Woof! This Blu-ray from Blue Underground has some nice supplements as the little mini-docs on the films are entertaining (More than the films).  But, they’re not new. And these presentations do leave much to be desired. That is, this film aren’t very good either with the lack of riffing help.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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