|MST3K: The Castle of Fu Manchu (1992)|
|Starring:||Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy|
|The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgeson) is abducted by his boss at Gizmonic institute and shot into outer space. His boss, Dr. Forrester, then sends Joel the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Joel, who has built two robot friends named Crow and Tom Servo, does his best to improve this bad situation by having a good time and riffing on the movies with his robot pals. In this episode, Dr. Forrester forces Joel to watch the fifth entry into the Fu Manchu series starring Christopher Lee, which is known as The Castle of Fu Manchu. A nearly incoherent film, the plot is made up of multiple strands that will confound any potential viewer. However, the basic story revolves around the evil Dr. Fu Manchu (Chrisopher Lee) who runs a massive opium operation and is consistently pursued by his righteous nemesis Nayland Smith, Britain’s top Interpol agent. This sequel follows Fu Manchu and his army as they take over a castle in Istanbul, where they look to enact a plan to freeze the world’s oceans. To do this, he has to kidnap an ailing scientist who has a bad heart. Fu Manchu promises to cure the scientist, but he must first construct his freezing device. Will Nayland Smith stop the evil Dr. Fu Manchu before all hope is lost? Will Joel and the bots find a way to survive this monstrous movie?|
Directed by a true stalwart of cult cinema, Jesus Franco, this director was unfortunately about as hit or miss as you could get. If there is one thing that you can say, however, it is that this odd piece of spy fiction shows him at his strangest. Despite the ridiculous plot and the terrible dub, Franco does manage to offer some decent visual flair to the project. Packed with nifty visuals and some interesting foreground/midground/background differentiation, the movie generally looks “OK” for what it is. There’s a sequence early on in the movie that perfectly encapsulates this visual flair, where the audience is introduced to one of the best locations in the movie. A massive hallway, that appears Roman or Greek in its decoration, littered with giant columns, this sequence shows Fu Manchu approaching a key player in the story and showing off his power. Yet, here I am talking about all of this in a movie that is absolutely horrible in almost all other regards. Still, if you’re going to look at the movie from an objective standpoint, you have to acknowledge this one decent aspect. The fact that this movie is so poor shouldn’t come as a shocker to me, I suppose. I have never been a Franco fan, and the only project of his that I really seemed to like was Faceless. So, The Castle of Fu Manchu just turns out to be another head scratching train wreck from one of the most puzzling directors within sleazy cinema’s history.
I would like to meet the person who can actually keep up with the plot in this movie. Whether this comes from the movie being edited for the US market, or whether it was just poorly scripted, I do not know. As it stands, the movie is incomprehensible. Scenes happen, one after the other, but nothing seems to tie the movie together in a coherent fashion. Looking over plot descriptions, it seems that Nayland Smith was supposed to be the very-obvious hero within our story, but he has to be the least fleshed-out protagonist I have ever seen in a movie. In all honesty, it seems as if he is in the movie far less than most of the other characters. The only figure who seems to stick around for any long period of time is Fu Manchu himself. Going back to the plot and how it never seems to tie together, there is one potential viewer who could maybe explain it to the rest of the world. There is a joke made within this episode, by Crow I believe, that Roger Ebert supposedly gave this film a positive review. I want to think that this was indeed a joke and not based upon any reality, but Ebert has made some rather daring proclamations in the past. Since I can’t find it in Ebert’s catalog, I would assume this was merely a joke. However, if he is the one guy who can actually make heads or tails out of the plot behind The Castle of Fu manchu, then I beg for him to decipher it. My puny brain can’t handle the task. Maybe then, with Ebert’s notes in hand, I could go back and actually keep track of just what the hell any of it means.