12/14/06

323 The Castle of Fu Manchu

(1969, Drama-Adventure, color)

I can’t watch this—I mean I can’t see this.

Rating: Zero Stars

In a nutshell:

Christopher Lee in a long mustache takes over a castle for his own nefarious ends.

Summary:

Not a real Asian, but an incredible simulation.In a control room of indeterminate location, Christopher Lee in a long mustache pushes buttons and shouts incomprehensible orders to an oriental woman, somehow involving a zigzag lever. I assume he’s meant to be Fu Manchu, but I defy the viewer to definitively decipher any full line of dialogue in this film. After much shouting, the lever gets pulled by a dead man (I think he was shot) and an ocean liner hits an iceberg in footage lifted from a completely different film.

Interminable opening credits roll over footage of a Turkish castle. British men go fishing and then run back to London. At their headquarters, they talk to each other about presumably important things while pointing gravely at a large map of Europe. Christopher Lee calls up on an omelet pan to gloat about something or other.

Meanwhile, the oriental lady (the one from the first scene) sails into Istanbul and has a conversation with a tall woman in a fez. The fez woman takes her to an opium den, and the next thing we know the fez people help the oriental woman take over the opening credits castle with a bunch of clumsy ninjas. Christopher Lee shows up, the castle’s previous owner loses his head (literally), and the clumsy ninjas kill all the fez people except for the woman.

Lee keeps a very important prisoner (an ailing man with muttonchops) so clumsy ninjas kidnap a doctor and his beautiful assistant while they have tea with the fishing British men. The Brits call the police because of a burning cigarette.

The ninjas take the doctor and assistant to the captured castle, where Christopher Lee destroys a dam and drowns the workers for no discernable reason. They perform a long and bloody operation on the muttonchops man, and then get all smoochy-face (the doctor and his assistant, not the doctor and muttonchops man) in the nearly total darkness.

Meanwhile, the main fez guy (the one from the opium den) wants the fez lady back, so he goes to the castle throws a dagger at Christopher Lee. He misses by quite a lot. The clumsy ninjas take him prisoner and kill him. Ninjas attack the rest of the fez people, but a fishing Brit shows up and frees the fez lady. Together they rescue the muttonchops man and stagger to the surface, karate-chopping clumsy ninjas left and right.

The doctor and his kissy-face assistant use acid to escape from their cell and get to the surface. Christopher Lee flips a switch and the whole castle floods and explodes at the same time. For some reason fez lady runs back in to drown. The ending is a shot of the undamaged castle, with Christopher Lee’s face superimposed over it. Like the rest of the film, it’s hard to understand what he’s saying, but we should probably assume it to be something sinister.

Introduction:

Tom is moments away from tears.Joel and the ‘Bots put on marching band uniforms and belt out the show’s premise in classic Broadway style. “We don’t care / Don’t despair / We’re not wearing our underwear.”

Host Segment One:

Joel and the ‘Bots have a cast party after their big song. Joel’s not ready with his invention, so the ‘Bots have invented a powerful new telephone transducer chip. The Mads have invented a bomb that turns Frank into comedian Joe Besser (I’ll harm you!). Joel has invented the big head…again. Dr. Forrester warns them about today’s film. Quoth he, “This film makes The Unearthly look like Citizen Kane.”

Host Segment Two:

Crow gives a speech about “Miss Saigon Syndrome,” where Caucasian actors play ethnic roles. He bursts into tears, much to the Mad’s delight.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots don fezzes and ride fake flying carpets. Tom bursts into tears, much to the Mad’s delight.

Host Segment Four:

Joel displays his sketches, portraying how Fu Manchu got his start in show business. Apparently he chose his stage name when a homeless guy asked him for money to buy some “food, man!” Joel bursts into tears, much to the Mad’s delight.

Host Segment Five:

Joel tries to read a letter, but bursts into tears, much to the Mad’s delight. Joel challenges them to try and mock the film. Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank make an attempt, but fail miserably. Quoth Frank, “We could have made funny comments, but the movie wasn’t that good.” Dr. Forrester clamps his head in a wood vise.

Stinger:

Clumsy ninjas overwhelm an inept castle guard.

Thoughts:

What these two characters are saying to each other is anyone's guess.Peter Sellers starred as both Fu Manchu and his British nemesis Nayland-Smith in a 1980 comedy called The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu. It’s a decently funny film; not Sellers’ best work, but it’s worth a laugh or two. If you must see a Fu Manchu film, watch that one. Whatever you do, don’t watch The Castle of Fu Manchu. Not in any form.

It sounds like they recorded the soundtrack with a brand-new boom mike, still wrapped in cardboard, plastic, and Styrofoam. I think I understood about every third word. Understanding the dialogue probably wouldn’t have helped. From what I thought I’d heard, when Fu Manchu pulled the lever and flooded the castle, something bad was supposed to happen to the entire world (involving crystals, I think). He pulled the lever, and the castle flooded, but the only thing I saw afterwards was a lot of fog, water, and Christopher Lee’s giant superimposed face.

The cinematography is horrible as well. Shots lingered forever in one place. Almost every scene under the castle looks like it was filmed without removing the lens cap. Most visible scenes were framed so that you can just see the face from the nose down in close up; medium shots show the actors’ lower abdomens, crotches, and thighs. I haven’t even mentioned the blood yet. You don’t have to look hard for it—it’s the main character of the film, appearing in almost every visible scene.

All of the host segments (except the intro and invention exchange) are about the film and its horrific awfulness. They all start out funny, but just can’t continue, because Joel and the ‘Bots are just so distracted by the incomprehensible horror that is (gasp, sob) The Castle of Fu Manchu. Like the host segments from Manos the Hands of Fate, there’s not much else to talk about. The horror…the horror...

All of the funny comments during the film segments likewise address the film’s utter ineptness. Comments like, “I can’t watch this—I mean I can’t see this,” (Crow) and “Wouldn’t be great if we knew who they are, where they are, and what they’re doing?” (also Crow) are pretty much the only possible kinds of quips you can make during this kind of movie. Tom sums it up perfectly at the end when he says that the film’s about, “dry ice, Roscoe fog, and blood.” If you’re really hell-bent on watching every MST3K ever made then go ahead and watch it—I won’t stop you. I would, however, leave you with a few words of caution: oh no…please…gasp…sob…the horror…oh, the humanity… Please imagine that I have just said these words for about ninety continuous minutes, and then heed them carefully.