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Confessions of an Opium Eater / The Face of Fu Manchu / The Vengeance of Fu Manchu


Confucius say ... WTF?!?

Rod Lott October 17th, 2012

For very different reasons, I'll watch any movie with Vincent Price, Bill Murray, Jackie Chan or Carla Gugino. Falling into the first category is 1962's Confessions of an Opium Eater, a rare Price vehicle rare no more, thanks to a DVD debut from Warner Archive.

confessionopium

Based on the novel by early 19th-century journalist Thomas De Quincy (whom Price plays), the film from notorious schlock director Albert Zugsmith (Sex Kittens Go to College) is, to put it bluntly, nonsense. Should you choose to embrace that nonsense, you'll be greeted with lots of falling bodies (including a bird), Asian women as slaves, said slaves in bamboo cages, and a sidekick of sorts who is the Asian version of Zelda Rubenstein: "I not had so much fun since I caught in lettuce machine in Salinas!"

OK, so it's hardly politically correct; Price even makes a "Chinese laundry" joke. But in the mitigating column, Confessions contains a lengthy sequence that counts as Zugsmith's low-rent version of Vertigo. Nearly an hour in, he reaches for the brass ring to deliver a scene as close to art as he ever would get: an opium dream, rendered in silence, featuring a slow-motion attack by those terrible Tongs. Effective? By drive-in standards, hell, yes!



Given its exploitation nature, Confessions qualifies as one of the so-called "yellow peril" films, perhaps personified by pulp writer Sax Rohmer's now-tasteless supervillain of Dr. Fu Manchu. Two flicks from that franchise also are new from Warner Archive: 1965's The Face of Fu Manchu and 1967's The Vengeance of Fu Manchu. Neither is "good"; both are fun, thanks to horror legend Christopher Lee in his first and third of five full go-rounds in the title role.

As Face begins, Fu Manchu is beheaded … or is he? (Spoiler: No. No, he is not.) The story involves Scotland Yard's Nayland Smith (Nigel Green, The Ipcress File) trying to stop his archenemy (Fu Manchu, natch) from killing 10,000 people with a secret chemical. I won't say for sure, but Fu Manchu might be bested by Nayland, might have his fortress blown to smithereens, and might vow in the closing moments, "The world shall hear from me again. The world shall hear from me again."



And hear from him with a vengeance, one assumes, since The Vengeance of Fu Manchu followed Face two years later. It also begins with a beheading, but this one ordered by the evil Fu Manchu. The story involves Scotland Yard's Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer, TV's Sherlock Holmes of 1964-65) trying to stop his archenemy (Fu Manchu, natch) from taking over the world via the use of plastic surgery-created doubles. I won't say for sure, but Fu Manchu might be bested by Nayland, might have his fortress blown to smithereens, and might vow in the closing moments, "The world will hear from me again."

In a fashion of disbelief, I liked Vengeance a tad more because not only does it come off as a little racist, but sexist, too, best exemplified by baddie Horst Frank (The Cat o' Nine Tails) telling the scalding-hot Maria Rohm (wife of series producer Harry Alan Towers), "A beautiful girl like you shouldn't talk so much." —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
The Cat o' Nine Tails Blu-ray review  
The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu DVD review   
Sherlock Holmes: 1964-1965 DVD review  

 
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