Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu

So I went to The Dollar Tree the other day and bought some more DVDs, one of which has four episodes of The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu, a TV series I'd never heard of. And no wonder. I've watched all four shows, and they're pretty bad. I mean that in a good way, of course.

Each show opens with Dr. Fu Manchu playing chess with an unseen opponent while the narrator intones the following lines: "Black and white. Life and death. Good and evil. Two sides of a chess game. Two forces in the universe. One magnificent. The other sinister. It is said that the devil plays for men's souls. So does Dr. Fu Manchu. Satan himself. Evil incarnate."

Each show concludes with a scene of the evil doctor (Glen Gordon) walking to the chessboard, picking up a couple of pieces and throwing them onto the board in resignation, as he's once again been defeated by Sir Dennis Nayland Smith (Lester Matthews), Dr. John Petrie (Clark Howat), and Dr. Petrie's nurse, Betty Leonard (Carla Balenda).

The other members of the cast are Dr. Fu Manchu's dwarfish assistant, Kolb (John George), and the main reason to watch the show, Karamaneh (Laurette Luez). Kolb made a career of playing characters referred to in the credits as Shorty, Hunchback, Dwarf Beggar, Pygmy in Rescue Party, The Gnome, and Midget. Luez was the star of the classic Prehistoric Women, and she played opposite Bomba the Jungle Boy in African Treasure. And she was in Jungle Gents with the Bowery Boys. As if that wasn't enough for a great career, she also played the wicked Felina in Marty Robbins' Ballad of a Gunfighter. She doesn't do a lot in the Fu Manchu series, but shes certainly nice to look at, as always.

Sample show: "Dr. Fu Manchu's Master Plan" is about how Hitler didn't really kill himself at the end of WWII, and how old Fu has a plastic surgeon give him a new face. Why Hitler needs a new face is a puzzle, since apparently he's has been living in an immense underground cavern on an island in the South Seas where everybody knows who he is anyway. Be that as it may, Fu gives him a new face, kidnaping Dr. Petrie to look after him after killing the original surgeon. They sail back to the island on a submarine (that's shown only above the water), where Hitler has this device that will explode when you put it next to atomic bombs. It's apparently nothing more than a remote-controlled bomb, but Hitler thinks it's a big deal. He's going to put it next to all WMD that the U.S. has stockpiled and blow them up (too bad GWB didn't stumble on this plan for Iraq). With all its stockpiled WMD destroyed, the U.S. will, of course, be weakened to the point of impotence and a prime target for takeover by the Reds. After which, Hitler is somehow going to move in and take over for himself. And for Fu, naturally. Unfortunately for them, Sir Dennis Nayland Smith foils the plot: "We've found a copy of Hitler's book, and films of his speeches. Betty, I believe that he's alive!" Heck, with clues like that, anybody could have figured it out. Sir Dennis goes to the island, saves Petrie, shoots Hitler (who then blows up the underground cavern with his secret device), and saves the world again.

Well, what can I tell you? You either get a kick out of this kind of thing, or you don't. For me, it was a buck well spent. Posted by Hello


Bob said...

I've never seen the show. Definately sounds like it's worth a buck. I'm a big fan of Sax Rohmer (sp?). I first read Fu Manchu in high school. Loved it. Recently I have discovered that most of his books, including all the Fu Manchu books, have gone into public domain and been published by Project Gutenberg as plain-text ebooks. Every once in a while I'll download one and read it. Great fun.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I just bought that DVD myself. The plots are laughable, but watchable. Fu Manchu is an underrated character so I enjoyed them more than I thought I would.
The true classic of the dollar store is "Flash Gordon" though. That is the funniest, most poorly made series ever.

Anonymous said...

Bad? Are you kidding? I grew up in the 50's. Fu Manchu is GREAT by comparison to much other stuff we had available. Laughable plots? Only to the children of today. It saddens me how little you young folks know about our past pop culture. As a college teacher, I see it only getting worse. Oh well, back to Fu. These Republic Pictures productions were far superior to so many things available back then AND they even attempted to explain things to us. How about the price of Gold tied to one world price? Watch what you say in the future. There are some old duffers out here who know better.

Unknown said...

I'm an old duffer, too. I just don't know any better.