The master of evil takes a harem of horror!
Would-be world conqueror Fu Manchu returns, holding the beautiful daughters (are there ever any others?) of important scientists in order to blackmail their fathers. With their help, he is able to construct a device capable of transmitting destructive energy from his mountain stronghold anywhere in the world. However, his eternal foe, Sir Dennis Nayland Smith, is always ready to contest the sinister Mandarin's plot.
The hypnotic action starts immediately: scientist Otto Lentz is brought before Fu Manchu and his sinister daughter Lin Tang (played by Tsai Chin: it is obvious that she is supposed to be Fah Lo Suee.) in a throne room lined with the placid forms of a multinational group of young women, all the "brides" of Fu Manchu. There, he is ordered to cooperate. When he refuses, his beautiful daughter Marie is brought forth, looking equally as placid, is if drugged. She is led before Lin Tang, who takes the girl's head in her hands and closes the girl's eyes with her thumbs. When released, Marie opens her eyes to stare directly in the eyes of her captor. Just that easily, Marie is under the control of Lin Tang and Fu Manchu. At their direction, she sends another of the "brides" to her death, and her father is blackmailed with the threat of awakening her with the full knowledge of her action. Only then does the audience get an idea of what the sinister Mandarin's plot is: the scientists have all been working on parts of a device that will transmit destructive radio waves to anywhere in the world. With it, he plans to destroy an upcoming arms conference, sowing disorder and chaos in the West.
Sir Dennis Nayland Smith, however, is always there to oppose the sinister Mandarin, and through his investigation into the disappearances of the "brides" is trying to prevent the next disappearance. To that end, he employs the help of Franz Bauer, Marie's fiancee, and arranges for him to be taken in place of the next scientist on Fu Manchu's list. Lacking the aid of the scientist, and with Nayland Smith closing in on both the London hideout and Fu Manchu's hidden lair, the final assault on the conference goes terribly awry, as the transmitter is overloaded and the entire installation destroyed. Befitting their status, Fu Manchu and Lin Tang escape through a secret passage and survive the destruction, in order to return in the next movie.
There are three other hypnotic scenes: the first, when Lin Tang enters the dining room with all of the "brides" to take Otto Lentz away; the second, when another of the "brides" is brought before Fu Manchu; and the last is during the riot when the "brides" attempt to escape. There is also a brief moment at the end of the movie, after all of the "brides" were rescued and Fu Manchu's lair destroyed, when they all pause, turn and stare blankly back at the ruin, as if hearing the voice of Fu Manchu commanding them one last time.
- In the first, Lentz and Marie are saying goodbye when Lin Tang enters the room: at that moment, all of the girls stand and are entranced. Marie, even, is completely oblivious to her father, seeing and hearing only Ling Tang.
- In the second, the bride is terrified by the sight of a pit full of snakes, then, in her terrified state, is mesmerized by Fu Manchu himself.
- In the last, during the riot as the "brides" are battling the guards. Into that chaos strides Lin Tang, who takes one of the women by the shoulders and stares into her eyes, entrancing her. However, another of the "brides" sees that and knocks Lin Tang unconscious. Not so when the imperious Fu Manchu enters, as which point every one of the "brides" falls back into their placid trance state.
The above clip is actually from two different movies of this series: the first half is from the third movie, "The Vengeance of Fu Manchu", while the second half, starting at about 0:53, is from this movie, and is a longer and better version of the scene shown previously. It also speaks of Marie being "prepared" which tends to confirm that she is somehow drugged. Just ignore the random clip inserted somehow in the middle.
Commentary: The second of five Fu Manchu movies starring Christopher Lee in the title role. "The Brides of Fu Manchu", a sequel to "The Face of Fu Manchu" of the previous year. It has nothing to do with the novel "The Bride of Fu Manchu", which is about
It should be noted that this is the first time that Fah Lo Suee (or whatever she is named in the movies) was played by a true Asian actress: before this, the character was always portrayed by a Western actress, including Myrna Loy.
Recommendation: For sheer historical value, I would recommend the movie, if it can be found. Christopher Lee has a certain amount of sedate fun in this movie, which I believe is the best of the five of this series, and possibly of all the later Fu Manchu movies, which is not really saying much.
Note: For years, I thought these were Hammer films, what with Christopher Lee starring in them: the look was so similar to the Hammer style it was pretty easy to confuse the two, as director Don Sharp also directed such Hammer classics as "Rasputin: The Mad Monk" and "The Kiss of the Vampire" , as well as a number of "Avengers" TV episodes and an episode of the "Hammer House of Horror" anthology TV series. The "Avengers" connection also carries over to his Director oh Photography, Ernest Steward who also worked the series.
Trivia: If you watch carefully, you will see a somewhat familiar face: one of the guards, Feng, was played by Burt Kwouk, who is famous for playing Cato on the Peter Sellers "Pink Panther" movies. Kwouk has a very long acting resumé, including other Fu Manchu films, and is still working today.