ORBzine - Hammer Horror - Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

The Gorgon

Gorgon, The This is a Hammer Horror effort from the 1960s. Predictably it is a period piece, set in the Victorian era. A small town in Germany is beset with a series of mysterious killings. The town pathologist (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: A New Hope ) and Chief of Police (Patrick Troughton - Doctor Who ) are involved in the coverup.

This is no mere slasher movie - the suspected killer is a magical, mythological, supernatural creature: a Gorgon named Magera.

Eventually Christopher Lee ( Dracula ) investigates.

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    The Reptile

    The Reptile Although this has all the hallmarks of the Hammer brand (including the exteriors of Bray House), this has none of the usual familiar faces from Hammer horror films. Thus, it is at a disadvantage compared to other films of the brand.

    When a man dies in mysterious circumstances, his brother inherits a remote cottage in the English countryside. The neighbour is a sinister Doctor (of Divinity), with a beautiful daughter ( Jacqueline Pearce ) and a creepy Indian servant.

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    The Witches (AKA The Devil's Own)

    Witches, The (AKA Devil's Own, The) This is a Hammer Horror film, adapted by Quatermass scribe Nigel Kneale from a novel entitled The Devil's Own. Apparently Joan Fontaine liked the book so much she bought the movie rights, and took it to Hammer so she could star in the film (at the age of 49).

    The protagonist (Joan Fontaine) is a missionary who falls foul of a witch-doctor in Africa. She somehow escapes back to England, and accepts a job as a schoolteacher in a remote country village. As with most horror movies, some of the locals are a bit creepy and she begins to suspect supernatural goings-on.

    Naturally, as the story progresses she needs the attentions of psychiatrist Dr Leonard Rossiter (Reginald Perrin). Is she re-living the trauma she suffered in Africa, or has she uncovered a genuine satanic conspiracy in Middle England? More importantly, how can the same Sh*t happen to the same guy twice?

    Unfortunately the film loses its way in the final act. Today's audience expect a Pagan blood-sacrifice ceremony to resemble the one in The Wicker Man . Unfortunately, this film's portrayal brings an unintentionally comedic tone to the proceedings.

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    Night Creatures AKA Captain Clegg

    Night Creatures AKA Captain Clegg In Eighteenth Century England, a Customs officer goes to a remote fishing village to investigate smuggling. The suspects include the local preacher (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ), the buxom barmaid ( Yvonne Romain ) and a young fop (Oliver Reed - Curse of the Werewolf ).

    This is based on the Dr Syn books. Unfortunately Disney was working on Dr Syn, Alias The Scarecrow so Hammer decided to change the main character's name.

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    Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, The (1961)

    Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, The (1961) Dr Jekyll (Paul Massie - ) is obsessed with his research into altering human nature. As a result he has neglected his wife, so she cheats on him with his best friend Paul (Christopher Lee - Dracula ).

    Jekyll decides his serum is ready for human trials, and injects himself. Mr Hyde looks just like Jekyll, except he is not sweltering under a wig and false beard. Yes, Jekyll's wife and friends do not recognise him clean-shaven!

    Hyde gets Paul to show him the perverse corruptions of London night-life. Unfortunately this consists of losing money at poker and watching showgirls dance the can-can. At least he gets to pick a fight with the young Oliver Reed ( Curse of the Werewolf ).

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    Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde

    Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde This is a typical Hammer Horror effort, a period costume drama set in the late Victorian age. Ralph Bates ( Horror of Frankenstein ) takes a potion, and turns into Martine Beswick . Next thing you know, there are a series of murders attributed to Jack the Ripper.

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    Demons of the Mind

    Demons of the Mind This takes place in typical Hammer territory. It is a period costume drama in a rural area of an unnamed central European country. The baron is up to no good, his mentally unstable son is suspected of murdering the village's scream queens, and the peasants are revolting. Michael Hordern ( Theatre of Blood ) is a priest, trying to instigate the peasants into violence.

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    Lust For A Vampire

    Lust For A Vampire This is a Hammer Horror period-piece, based on the work of J Sheridan LeFanu . It is set in 1830 in a Girls' school that is right beside the ruins of the castle of the vampiric Carnstein family. The protagonist joins the school staff, which includes creepy schoolmaster Ralph Bates ( Horror of Frankenstein ).

    A new girl named Mircalla ( Yutte Stensgaard ) arrives at the school. If she looks like she is too mature to play a teenage girl, this is not because she is a vampire. It is because Hammer used the typical Hollywood process of casting someone in their late 20s to play a character ten years younger.

  • Twins of Evil
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    Island of Terror

    Island of Terror Despite being directed by Terrence Fisher and featuring Peter Cushing ( ) this is not an actual Hammer horror production. It was made by a company called Planet Film Productions, which is quite obscure to say the least.

    The story is set on Pitcher's Island, off the east coast of Ireland. The local policeman wears the uniform of the Garda Siochana, so we can deduce that it is in the Republic of Ireland's jurisdiction. However, with the exception on the Garda's light brogue there are no actual Irish accents to be heard. The local doctor is an American immigrant, and the experts he calls in to help him are English. The locals' surnames and accents are lowland Scots at most.

    A local farmer disappears. When his body is discovered, his bones have been removed somehow. Peter Cushing gets called in to investigate. He and his associate launch a rogue investigation, and neglect to keep either the Garda or the mayor up to date. As a result, the monsters virtually take over the island.

    This is basically a monster movie. It seems the prime inspiration for modern parody Grabbers . However, we have to be fair to it. The second-rate special effects are a product of its time, reminiscent of the worst creatures from Doctor Who , but in all fairness are no worse than the CGI monsters of today's low-budget efforts.

    Does this film pass the bechdel test? The only female cast member is one of the doctors, girlfriend. Sorry, excuse the punctuation error - I meant to write one of the doctors' girlfriend. She is shoehorned into the plot by means of her having a rich father. The men complain about having to take her into a quarantine zone. In all fairness they are right to do so - not because of her gender, but because of her lack of relevant skills. These days, we hope that the writers would create gender-blind characters who would be defined by their actions and then cast according to ability.

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    Hammer Horror Dracula Series

    Brides of Dracula (1960)

    Brides of Dracula This starts with a voiceover to deliver exposition. Dracula (Christopher Lee - Man With The Golden Gun ) is dead, but other vampires (his disciples) still infest Transylvania.

    A French schoolmistress takes a stagecoach through Transylvania. She gets abandoned in a remote village, and ends up as a guest at the mysterious castle on the hill. The owner is the mysterious Baron Meisner ...

    Luckily, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is in the area. Not to give away the ending, but Van Helsing uses the best-ever version of putting two sticks together to make a cross you can possibly imagine.

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    Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

    Dracula: Prince of Darkness Two aristocratic couples (including Barbara Shelley ) pass through the forest, near where Castle Dracula sits. Count Dracula (Christopher Lee - Frankenstein ) was killed ten years earlier, but the locals were all wise enough to stay clear of his castle.

    Despite the advice of Father Shandor, Demon Stalker (Andrew Kier - Quatermass ), the aristocrats end up at the creepy old castle. Dracula has an Igor-type manservant, and soon Drac himself is up and about.

    Shandor's monastery is believed impenetrable to the vampires, not because it is holy ground but because a vampire cannot cross a threshold without an invitation. It has another victim of Dracula, a bug-eating fellow named Ludwig. It never occurs to Shandor that a brainwashed victim like Ludwig is exactly the kind of person who could be compelled to invite Dracula across the threshold!

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    Scars of Dracula (1970)

    Scars of Dracula A young student and ne'er-do-well (Viktor Frankenstein meets Jonathan Harker) spends the night in Dracula's castle. Dracula's Igor may look like the Third Doctor (Wurzel Gummage) but is played by the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton - The Omen ).

    The student's brother (Denis Waterman - Minder) and fiance come looking for him. Luckily, the fiance's cleavage-enhancing dress comes with a silver crucifix - which entrances Dracula (and the audience).

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    Hammer Horror Frankenstein Series

    Curse of Frankenstein

    Curse of Frankenstein

  • 2000
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    The Revenge of Frankenstein (1962)

    The Revenge of Frankenstein (1962) The story starts in 1860, about a hundred years before the film was produced. Dr Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) was sentenced to death at the gillotine. After the execution, a couple of grave-robbers dig up his coffin. However, things do not go according to the robbers' plan.

    The story picks up three years later. Frankenstein has moved to a new town, the city of Carlsbruck, and carried on his work. His cover is as a doctor in the town hospital, and the pseudonym he uses is ... Doctor Stein. Presumably his first name was Frank.

    Frankenstein's cover is as a general practitioner of medicine. He has a private practice where he caters to wealthy hypocondriacs, and uses the money to subsidise his work in a free clinic for peasants. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. For example, the local Medical Council feel he has poached half their clients. It says a lot about their Oligopoly pricing system if a new competitor can dominate half the town's medical industry.

    Frankenstein's work is on surgically transferring a living brain from one host body to another. Yes, he actually perfects the full-body transplant. There is, however, one unfortunate side-effect.

    As always, Frankenstein's great flaw is his hubris. He refuses to flee, even when his own discovery is imminent. Will he evade justice again?

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    The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

    The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) Dr Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is sabotaged by a violent local preacher. He moves back to his home town of Karlstaad so he can carry on his work. His old castle has been unoccupied for ten years, but he assumes that his valuable art collection is still there.

    Once back at the castle, Frankenstein tells his sidekick about his original experiment. Instead of giving us an extended clip of the original Hammer movie, this version shows us some re-imagined scenes. Gone is the Christopher Lee monster, and in its place we see the flat head and big boots we associate with the generic Frankenstein monster. However, when this film was made that appearance was anything but genetic. It was the intellectual property of Universal Pictures, and Hammer got the rights to use it in this movie by ensuring it had international distribution through Universal.

    In this re-imagined version, Frankenstein has not yet been convicted of killing anyone. The most they got him for was assaulting a policeman, for which the punishment was permanent exile. Unfortunately the corrupt burgomeister also looted - oops, confiscated - all the Baron's furniture and clothes. Everything that was not nailed down was relocated to his home.

    Frankenstein, with the aid of a mute beggar-girl, finds his old monster. Luckily the machinery in the castle has not been sabotaged, stolen or just rusted in the previous decade. However, the creature's brain is unresponsive. Frankenstein recruits another ally - Professor Zoltan, a hypnotist who has also fallen foul of the local authorities.

    Zoltan gets drunk and decides to use the monster to even a few scores. He fails to realise that the monster has no grasp of subtlety, and that the local police will not find it difficult to trace the source of the problem.

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    Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

    Frankenstein Created Woman Dr Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is dead, buried for an hour and then dug up and revived. He then plans a soul transfer. He continues his work, with an aging doctor and a young man whose father was executed for murder.

    Frankenstein realises you can resurrect the dead after flatlining for an HOUR because the soul does not leave the body on the instant of death. He then manages to create a bulletproof forcefield that will trap the soul in the body after death.

    Apart from Frankenstein's exposition, we also see the soap-opera life of the small town. The young assistant is in love with a deformed barmaid who has a stereotypical aggressive father. They are harrassed by a trio of young hooray henrys. One person gets murdered, and an innocent party gets sentanced to death and guillotined the next morning. This tragedy is compounded with a suicide.

    Frankenstein views the double tragedy as an amazing opportunity, and ends up putting the executed man's soul in the woman's body. Of course, no good can come of this ...

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    Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

    Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell A medical student tries to emulate Frankenstein's work. His body-snatching Igor may look like the Third Doctor (Wurzel Gummage) but is played by the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton - The Omen ) ... and seems remarkably similar to a character in Scars of Dracula .

    Frankenstein's fan ends up getting sent to the same Asylum. Unfortunately, Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars ) has supposedly died in the meantime. The medical student soon sets about creating a new monster ...

    The Male Interest is Madeline Smith , although unfortunately for everyone who remembers her eye-catching cameo in Live and Let Die she displays absolutely no cleavage.

  • Frankenstein Created Woman
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    The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

    The Horror of Frankenstein This is a Hammer reboot of the Frankenstein story.

    Viktor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates - Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde ) is a young medical student who inherits a large castle complete with well-stacked housekeeper ( Kate O'Mara ).

    Instead of re-animating a complete person, he decides to make a jigsaw of human parts. The resulting monster looks like Dave Prowse ( Star Wars ).

    Naturally, everyone Viktor comes in contact with seems to learn to much, so he has to bump them off in order to keep his secret.

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    Amicus Horror Films

    Dr Terror's House of Horror

    Dr Terror's House of Horror Dr Shreck (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) gets into a train carriage with five other gentlemen, many of whom have since gained International recognition. He offers to predict their futures with the use of a tarot deck. The result is a portmanteau of classic horror tales, produced by Amicus (the arch-rivals of Hammer House of Horror).
  • Werewolf
    One man returns to his family's home. The ancient lands were disputed by a werewolf named Cosimo Valdemar, a name more suited to a Paris-based story by Edgar Allan Poe than to a Scottish ancestoral manor in the Hebrides. The curse is that one day the werewolf will rise from the grave and reclaim the house.
  • Creeping Vine
    Bernard Lee (M in the James Bond movies) investigates a mysterious creeper vine growing near a suburban house. The plant
  • Voodoo
    Roy Castle (Carry On Up The Khyber) is a trumpet-player who gets a good job in the West Indies. However, he makes two mistakes. The first is to eavesdrop on a secret Voodoo ceremony. The second is to memorise their sacred rythms and incorporate it into his own music. Yes, the Voodoo gods take copyright infringement even more seriously than YouTube do!
  • Creeping Hand
    Christopher Lee ( Wicker Man ) is a snobbish art critic who has a feud with an artist (Michael Gough - Satan's Slave ). Gough plays a trick on Lee, but is most ungentlemanly by continually rubbing it in. Finally, even Lee has a breaking point. But Gough's severed hand starts to haunt Lee ...
  • Vampire
    Donald Sutherland ( Don't Look Now ) is about to move to a new home in a new town with his new wife. But the new town has a vampire in it. Will Sutherland manage to slay the monster?

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    From Beyond The Grave

    From Beyond The Grave This horror portmanteau from Amicus is adapted from a series of stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes . Peter Cushing, such a nice old gent in Tales from the Crypt , is the creepy proprietor of an antique shop.

  • (segment 1 "The Gate Crasher")

  • David Warner ( The Omen ) buys a mirror. Unfortunately it has vampiric tendencies. A Victorian ghost is trapped in it, and hypnotises Warner into slaughtering some of the sexually available women he encounters.

  • (segment 2 "An Act of Kindness")

  • This segment involves Mabel Lowe ( Diana Dors ), Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence - Halloween ) and his wife Emily ( Angela Pleasence ).

  • (segment 3 "The Elemental")

  • This segment involves Susan Warren ( Nyree Dawn Porter ).

  • (segment 4 "The Door")

  • This segment involves William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy - ) and his wife Rosemary ( Lesley-Anne Down ).

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    And Now the Screaming Starts

    And Now the Screaming Starts Stephanie Beecham , married two centuries ago in the 1770s, moves into a remote countryside mansion owned by her husband, Ian Oglivy. Shades of Rebecca, perhaps, as spooky goings-on commence. Dr Peter Cushing ( Frankenstein ) is called in to investigate. He discovers that something nasty happened fifty years previously, when Herbert Lom ( Asylum ) was Lord of the Manor.

    This was made by Amicus Productions in the early 1970s, playing on the success of Hammer Horror Films. It is from the same year that The Exorcist was released, and it seems to encapulate every reason that the Hammer-type horror movies died out. It is a period costume drama in an age that was embracing grittier stories set in the modern age. It is based on a book, Fengriffin - not one that has made best-seller lists recently. The Scream Queen has to contend with the then-cliches of the draughty old mansion, haunted portrait and severed hand.

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    It's Alive (2008)

    It's Alive (2008) This is a remake of the 1970s classic. It is a new-wave Amicus Production, set in modern-day USA.

    Bijou Philips is a college student who gets pregnant. This is not a normal pregnancy - the foetus mysteriously doubled in size. And during the birth, something kills the entire medical team. The Sheriff is suspicious, as is the psychiatrist and the best buddy. Yes, a succession of visitors for the house with the murderous baby.

    The kid's father has a younger brother who is crippled and has to use crutches to walk. Easy prey for the man-eating baby, right? What is the brother's life expectancy? Or will he be protected by the Hollywood law that under-18s are exempt from death?

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    Tigon Horror Films

    Curse of the Crimson Altar

    Curse of the Crimson Altar This is a Tigon production from 1968. Basically it is a Hammer-style effort, so you should know what to expect.

    A Black Mass ceremony is conducted by satanic priestess Lavinia ( Barbara Steele ). The film's production design team must have had a field day, because the costumes are so OTT even the torturer has massive antlers on his hat.

    An antiques dealer goes looking for his brother. He visits the mansion where he was last seen, and wanders into not a Roman orgy but a party from the Swinging Sixties. The lord of the manor (Christopher Lee - Dracula ) seems helpful, and orders his butler (Michael Gough - Satan's Slave ) to help the dealer.

    The film has an acknowledgment of genre cliches that pre-dates Scream by almost three decades. In a self-knowing scene that removes all genre-blindness one character compares the mansion to a creepy old house in a horror movie. Boris Karloff ( The Raven ) gets a name-check, especially ironic because he gets top billing in the film. Nobody points out that the two leads both played the monster in Frankenstein - Karloff in the 1930s Universal effort, and Lee in the 1960s Hammer version.

    The main story is that Lavinia was caught by witch-hunters and executed, but cursed them and their descendants. If this sounds familiar it was previously used in another Barbara Steele movie, Black Sunday (by ground-breaking Italian horror director Mario Bava ).

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    Blood Beast Terror

    Blood Beast Terror Rural England in the gaslight era, and dead bodies are piling up. The Police Inspector (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ) asks the help of the master of the local Mansion - a Professor of Etemology. The Professor's daughter ( Wanda Ventham ) may know something about it.

    The Inspector goes undercover, and takes his daughter along as stage-dressing. This does make sense, from a certain point of view, but is also very convenient for the Damsel in Distress school of film-making.

    It turns out that the ability to turn into a giant man-eating moth has a single glaring down-side. I mean, how many centuries has it been since man discovered fire?

    The stand-out character is the morgue attendant who advises Inspector Cushing.

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    Blood on Satan's Claw

    Blood on Satan's Claw This 1971 effort makes its Hammer contemporaries seem tame in comparison. It has good cinematography but lacks familiar faces or big names, although a couple of the supporting cast later went on to major roles in Dr Who . The storyline seems a bit disjointed, because it is actually three stories joined together.

    Somewhere in rural England (everyone has a West County accent) a group of peasants discover the devil's bones. Apparently it is a demon named Behemoth, and needs human sacrifice to reconstitute itself.

    The Judge (Patrick Wymark) drinks a toast to James III, the Old Pretender - so he is obviously not to be trusted. The Reverend (Anthony Ainley - Dr Who ) has a weird obsession with snakes.

    Wendy Padbury falls victim to Sunday School bullies, in the worst ways imaginable. The village children start to become a satanic coven.

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    Virgin Witch

    Virgin Witch In the early 1970s, a pair of young women (real-life sisters Anne and Vicki Michelle ) go to London and get work from a seedy modelling agency. They are sent for a photo session at a remote mansion in the countryside.

    The mansion, like the modelling agency, is secretly owned and run by a coven of satanists. They use it to select potential sacrificial victims. The two young women have to remain virgins, so there is an element of cock-blocking.

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    Vintage European Horror Films

    Horror Express

    Horror Express It was filmed in Spain, re-using the sets from a Spaghetti Western, and dubbed into English. The basic story is that of the classic pulp sci-fi story Who Goes There?, previously filmed as The Thing From Outer Space . This time, however, instead of a polar research station the action takes place on the trans-Siberian express train.

    In the Edwardian era, an English gentleman explorer (Christopher Lee - Dracula ) has recovered a mumified body from the mountains of Manchuria. It has been frozen in ice for two million years. He crates it up and puts it on the train from Vladivistok to St Petersburg.

    Also on the train is the explorer's friendly rival (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ). Normally they are antagonists, but this time it is a good thing because when the monster starts to bump people off, they team up and fight it.

    The passengers and crew on the train are a forgettable bunch of Spanish actors who only a hardened viewer of European genre film would recognise. However, along the route our heroes get reinforcements in the form of a band of Cossacks led by Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas - ). It turns out that Savalas worked on the spaghetti western that featured the train set, and like it he was recycled in the new project. If only British film-makers would use their initiative in such a way.

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    The Bloody Judge

    The Bloody Judge Jess Franco delivers this historical horror in the vein of Witchfinder General . It was filmed in Spain and then badly dubbed into English.

    It is 1685, the reign of wicked King James II. Judge Jeffries (Christopher Lee, who previously worked with Jess Franco as Fu Manchu ) persecutes beautiful young women who are associated with anachronistic pagan rituals. Lots of soft-core sado-masochism is shoehorned in, to prevent it from being a dry historical drama.

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    Castle of Fu Manchu

    Castle of Fu Manchu Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee - Dracula ) has a new base of operations in Anatolia. He is planning to blow up the Bosphorus - like the villains' plot in The World Is Not Enough . His test sequence consists of some stock footage from a dam disaster movie

    Spanish Director Jess Franco combines aspects of his other works - the Turkish location of Venus in Furs with the villain (Christopher Lee) of The Bloody Judge ).

  • Blood of Fu Manchu
  • Brides of Fu Manchu
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    Brides of Fu Manchu

    Brides of Fu Manchu Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee - The Man With The Golden Gun ) is back, and he has a cunning plan. He can manipulate the world's greatest scientists into doing his bidding by kidnapping their gorgeous twenty-something daughters. One scientist is ordered to invent a walkie-talkie radio transceiver device. Surely such technology was commonplace by the year 1966. This raises the question of what time period the film is set in. The cars appear to be 1930s models.

    Nayland Smith and everyone else still think that Fu Manchu was killed off when his evil lair was destroyed at the end of the previous film. However, the Yellow Peril has no intention of laying low. He sends out his dacoits, clad in their trademark uniforms of black pajamas and red bandana, to kidnap a woman in front of the Tower of London! Naturally, none of the oriental villains display any martial arts talents during the poorly-choreographed fight scenes. How sad to think that Christopher Lee later starred as villain in a James Bond movie that epitomised the chop-socky genre.

    Burt Kwouk (Return of the Pink Panther) is Fu Manchu's sidekick. Their evil plan is to use a radio wave as a death-ray to incinerate buildings in London.

  • Castle of Fu Manchu
  • Blood of Fu Manchu
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    Soon

    Soon

  • 2000
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