THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU. (1969) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU. (1969) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY SAX ROHMER. DIRECTED BY JESUS FRANCO.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, TSAI CHIN, RICHARD GREENE, HOWARD MARION-CRAWFORD, GUSTAVO RE, GÜNTHER STOLL, MARIA PERSCHY, ROSALBA NERI AND JOSÉ MANUEL MARTIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is Christopher Lee’s last film outing as super-villainous arch-criminal mastermind, Fu Manchu, and his last time to don the moustaches, rubber-soled shoes, little silk caps and regal Oriental robes of said villain.

This time around, Fu Manchu has the mad idea of controlling the world by freezing the oceans. Indeed, the start of the film is like TITANIC. He’s holed up in the governor’s castle in Istanbul (he’s taken over the castle) with a view to controlling the biggest opium port in Anatolia.

Now, while it’s no surprise to hear that Fu Manchu has his finger in the drugs pie, this time he actually needs the opium to fuel his ocean-freezing machine. Yes, reader, this is possibly the most far-fetched of all his zany schemes for world domination thus far, but who are we to judge, we who haven’t spent years studying and planning for world domination as Fu Manchu has done?

He needs the help of Dr. Heracles, an ailing scientist with a dicky ticker, to carry out his zany scheme. It’s this doctor’s magic crystals which will freeze the world’s oceans, see? But Dr. Heracles may not live long enough to carry out this mad plan of Fu Manchu’s. What to do, what to do?

Fu Manchu sends his men to kidnap a Dr. Kessler from England and his sexy colleague, a Dr. Ingrid, to perform heart surgery on Dr. Heracles. What would happen if they too got sick?

I suppose he’d just keep kidnapping more and more doctors until he eventually got the job done. But each quack has to be disposed of when he or she has outlived their usefulness, so the blood must flow before long…

English toff Nayland Smith, Fu Manchu’s Interpol/Scotland Yard nemesis, and his tea-drinking companion Dr. Petrie, are back once more to annoy the evil genius Fu Manchu, foil his plans and put the wind up him with their British doggedness and non-giving-up-ness.

Lin Tang, Fu Manchu’s beautiful, cruel daughter, is also here again, to say things like: ‘Father, they’re getting away!’ To which her unruffled Pops invariably answers: ‘They won’t get far.’ He keeps a cool head in a crisis, does Fu Manchu. Either that, or he has a lot of faith in his army of dacoits (bandits) to stop people from absconding.

I love the Fu Manchu Broadcasting System. It’s a lot like the Voice of Terror in the 1942 film SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, in which a stern German voice announces catastrophes the Nazis are planning to inflict on the British nation just before they happen. Fu Manchu has great fun threatening the world on his little toy. ‘The world shall hear from me again…!’

I’m sure it will, Fu Manchu, ya crazy loon. I’m sure it will.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU. (1968) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF SAX ROHMER. DIRECTED BY JESUS FRANCO.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, TSAI CHIN, RICHARD GREENE, HOWARD MARION-CRAWFORD, GŐTZ GEORGE, MARIA ROHM, RICARDO PALACIOS AND SHIRLEY EATON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The world shall hear of me again…!’

Nowadays we’d probably be making all kinds of noises about cultural appropriation and how white English males should under no circumstances be permitted to play Asian characters in film, but 1968 was a simpler, more politically incorrect, time, lol.

Horror icon Christopher Lee looks surprisingly authentic here as the magnificentally moustached Oriental villain Fu Manchu. Holed up in his Amazonian jungle hideaway with a number of beautiful female slaves suspended from hooks in the ceiling, you’d think he’d have enough to do, recreationally speaking, without wanting to be bothered about world domination as well, but bothered he most definitely is.

Having discovered a novel method of killing known as ‘the Kiss of Death,’ where women bitten by a kind of venomous snake carry the poison in their mouths and can kill chosen males by kissing them on the lips, Fu Manchu is in his gleefully evil element.

He duly dispatches ten beautiful, venom-infected female slaves to go do that voodoo that you do so well, or, in other words, to murder his ten biggest enemies all over the world, including his nemesis, Nayland Smith, in London.

But Nayland Smith is British, you see, and is made of sterner stuff than to curl up his toes and die when kissed by a hot chick. Accompanied by his even more British chum, Dr. Petrie, he pursues Fu Manchu to his jungle hideaway, much to the chagrin of the murderous Asian mastermind.

You simply wouldn’t believe how chagrined Fu Manchu is, lol. He and his drop-dead-sexy Oriental daughter Lin Tang, who’s even crueller than her cold, cruel father, are both apoplectic with rage at the unsporting unwillingness of Nayland Smith to politely succumb to the Kiss of Death like a good fellow.

Have their plans for world domination, using mass-produced vials of the deadly snake venom to kill thousands of human beings, foiled by a couple of tea-drinking, public school botty-whackers? The very idea. Their vengeance will be swift and deadly. Unless of course it’s foiled first, as I said…

My favourite character is the super-English, tea-swilling Dr. Petrie, whom you can totally imagine using expressions like ‘top-hole,’ ‘jolly good,’ ‘old boy’ and ‘what-ho, old chap!’ I love when he says ‘Cold tea and no horses? I wonder why I go abroad!’ Quaite raight, old chap. Quaite raight.

I also love the boozy, rapacious character of Sancho Lopez, the outsized, larger-than-life, lust-and-dust-begrimed bandit, who ends up captured by Fu Manchu and reluctantly working for the splendidly moustached villain.

Ditto the character of attractive archaeologist Carl Jansen, who’s poking about the jungly area looking for the ‘lost city’ that Fu Manchu has already discovered and made his own.

Maria Rohm plays sexy nursie Ursula Wagner, daughter of the archaeological professor who is killed while working with Carl, and she seems warm for Carl’s steaming, sweaty form. Bond Girl and Carry On beauty Shirley Eaton brings sex and evil to the role of one of Fu Manchu’s deadly priestesses.

A few boobies can be seen bouncing around this Boys’ Own-style action-adventure film with a hint of espionage and a soupcon of derring-do, but I would definitely have put in more sex myself.

Fu Manchu lives surrounded by beautiful female slaves who are utterly in thrall and bondage to him. Surely he could have bestirred himself to slip the odd slave girl the benefit of his honourable Oriental boner? Ah well. We can but dream.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

STEVEN SPIELBERG’S ‘DUEL.’ (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

duel dennis weaver

DUEL. (1971) BASED ON A STORY BY RICHARD MATHESON. DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG. STARRING DENNIS WEAVER, LUCILLE BENSON, EDDIE FIRESTONE AND CAREY LOFTIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This fantastic little thriller is every bit as much a horror movie as the famous director’s later blockbuster film, JAWS, in which a monstrous killer shark is literally stalking the waters off the island of Amity, a popular tourist destination, and its destruction is left to one man.

If you’ve seen photos of a ridiculously young and handsome Steven Spielberg during the making of DUEL, you’ll have seen that he looks like a moody director of French New Wave movies in which marriages fail and complex relationships become ever more entwined, lol. So moody, so handsome, and all before he’d filmed so much as a single reel of film featuring a velociraptor with a mind of its own. (‘Clever girl…!’)

DUEL, Steven Spielberg’s debut film, is the deceptively simple story of an ordinary man, anonymously called Dave Mann, a salesman who is travelling down the highway in his car one sunny day to meet with a prospective client before the client jumps in a plane and flies away out of reach.

We see Mann driving out of his garage, we hear the mindless chatter of the chat shows on the car radio as he drives along and we see the city traffic thinning out as Mann reaches those long stretches of isolated out-of-town American highway where the long arm of the law seems conspicuous by its absence, and where, therefore, all kinds of lawlessness can be tolerated.

It happens slowly at first. A monster truck, like one of the trucks from Stephen King’s MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, gradually intrudes itself on Mann’s consciousness. First it’s behind him, tailgating him to the point of being uncomfortable, then it’s ahead of him but moving aggravatingly slowly. ‘I’ve given you the highway, Jack, why don’t you take it…?’

Mann eventually realises that the anonymous truck driver, of whom we only see glimpses- an arm out the window, usually, or a sighting of a pair of cowboy boots- has actual harmful intentions towards him. The driver waves him on ahead at one point, to Mann’s relief, and Mann takes him up on his offer, only to drive straight out into the path of an oncoming vehicle. From this point onwards, a state of war exists between Mann and the truck driver.

Mann’s emotions range from triumphant elation when he wins a schoolboyish victory over the truck driver to absolute blind terror when he sees that the truck driver wants him dead, and seemingly has no problem with destroying other people’s property or maybe even lives in order to do it.

The psychological tension is ramped ever upwards as Mann desperately tries to explain his predicament to the few people he meets on the highway, but no-one believes him. They all think he’s the crazy one; for example, when the truck driver actually helps the broken-down school bus, whereas Mann just comes across to the school bus driver as someone who has a bit of a screw loose. It’s so unfair, but poor Mann just can’t seem to catch a break.

I love the scene at the diner, where we’re absolutely convinced that we’ve met the real truck driver having his lunch, but then it turns out not to be him. The scene at the roadside petrol station and snake farm after the truck driver has cut a murderous swathe through it all is chaotically spellbinding. Poor Mr. Mann with a tarantula on his trouser leg…! Talk about things can always get worse…

The viewers know by now that they are witnessing a fight to the death. Even Mann probably knows this by now, just like Chief Brody in JAWS is more than likely aware too that either he’s going to kill that massive, man-eating shark or the shark is going to kill him. There can be no other in-betweeny endings. Kill or be killed, that’s how primeval and elemental these two life-or-death struggles are. Mann is Brody and Brody is Mann. God help that truck-driving shark, that’s all I can say…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MOBY DICK. (1956) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

moby dick bones

MOBY DICK. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY HERMAN MELVILLE. DIRECTED BY JOHN HUSTON. STARRING GREGORY PECK, RICHARD BASEHART, LEO GENN, HARRY ANDREWS, NOEL PURCELL, JOSEPH TOMELTY, FRIEDRICH VON LEDEBUR, IRIS TREE AND ORSON WELLES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘From Hell’s heart I stab at thee…’

Written sometime in 1850 and including factual details picked up by the author whilst on a whaling voyage he undertook in 1841, MOBY DICK or THE WHALE is considered to be one of the greatest novels of all time, never mind just the greatest American one.

I have the book here beside me as I write this, although I must confess that I haven’t yet read it. This, despite the fact that the inscription on the fly-leaf reminds me that I bought it in 2009, lol. The problem is that the technical detail on the physical practice of whaling takes up a large part of the book and it’s probably that alone which has prevented me from reading it thus far.

I’d find such endless detail tiresome and even gruesome, given that it deals with the slaughter of the beautiful whales themselves. It’s upsetting even in the film to see the sailors harpooning these majestic beasts of the sea, but back then, I suppose they had no other way of acquiring the lamp oil to light up their homes and businesses. Where do they get it from nowadays? I haven’t got a Blue’s Clues…

The film, a cracking adventure movie the quality of which you’d be hard pushed to find the likes of today, tells the story of a personable young seafaring man called Ishmael. Ishmael has a longing to go on another sea voyage but, not only that, this time around he wants to learn the trade of whaling as well.

He fetches up in an American sea-port called New Bedford, where he asks Peter Coffin, the landlord of the local tavern, to put him up for the night. Oh sure, says the landlord genially, it’s no problem so long as you don’t mind sharing a bed. No bother, says Ishmael. Clearly this kind of thing wasn’t unusual back then. Nowadays, you’d be a bit put out, I daresay.

His bed-fellow is the most unusual person Ishmael has ever met. A so-called ‘cannibal’ from one of the islands where ‘savages’ live, Quee-queg, a chief in his own tribe, is six foot seven inches in height and tattooed all over his stern face and manly chest, kind of like the way a Maori might be but not exactly. Quee-queg has only limited English but it’s enough to get by, and he enjoys looking at sea-faring pictures in books.

After initially being scared half to death by the gigantic ‘cannibal’ with the harpoon and the shrunken heads in his luggage, Ishmael takes an immediate liking to the pipe-smoking, heathenish Quee-queg. ‘Better a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.’ The liking is mutual and the pair resolve to go whaling together on the same ship. Off they go down to the docks together for a look-see to suss out what’s on offer in the whaling line.

They end up on the PEQUOD, a whaling ship that has as its crew the same jolly lads with whom Ishmael danced and drank on his first night at Peter Coffin’s inn. Ishmael and Quee-queg sign up and go aboard, but not before an odd-looking fellow loitering on the docks tells them that their ship, in fact their entire voyage, is doomed. Just what you want to hear when you’re about to set sail, right? Right.

One day while they’re at sea, he tells the pair, they’ll smell land where there is no land. On that day, he continues ominously, the ship’s captain, Captain Ahab, will go to his watery grave but then he’ll rise again and beckon, and the entire crew, save one only, will follow him unto death. It’s enough to give you the shivers.

Cheerio then, he says, or as good as, and saunters off, leaving the two lads flummoxed. They don’t know what to make of this mad fella and his zany predictions at all at all. And what was the fella’s name, anyway? You might well ask. Elijah ring any bells with you guys…?

The mysterious Captain Ahab, who doesn’t show himself to his curious crew until the PEQUOD is well out to sea, is brilliantly played by Gregory Peck (TO KILL A MOCKING-BIRD, etc.). A huge white whale- Moby Dick- once upon a time tore off his left leg, for which he now has an ivory substitute, and scarred his face for life.

A normal person would just thank their lucky stars that they’re still alive, and try to adjust to their prosthetic limb as best they could. Captain Ahab is not a normal person, however. He’s as mad as a box of frogs. He’s on the hunt for the white whale, so that he can kill it and avenge himself for the lost leg and ruined face.

He’ll give a Spanish gold doubloon to the man who first spots Moby Dick. What’s more, he gets the crew all hyped up on grog and menacing threats of ‘Death to Moby Dick! Death to Moby Dick!’ He’s determined to infect the crew with his own afflictions. The very thought of Moby Dick is like a cancer in his soul. He’s really got it bad, this guy.

Out there on the ocean, in the blazing heat of the noonday sun, the men get all caught up in the Captain’s madness, much to the alarm of Mr. Starbuck. This is Captain Ahab’s second-in-command and the only sane person on board the PEQUOD. I don’t know what he’s so worried about. He can always fall back on the money from his family’s legendary chain of coffee shops if he loses his job on the ship.

Some of the scenes that follow are really gripping. There’s the lookout falling into the sea and the men not being able to find a trace of him. ‘It’s as if the sea just swallowed him up,’ says Laughing Stubb, Carefree Stubb, but Stubb (played by Harry Andrews from ICE COLD IN ALEX) ain’t laughing nor carefree no more. Not over this. It’s too eerie, too disturbing.

There’s Quee-queg seeing his own death in the bones that he throws, then giving away to Ishmael all his worldly possessions- ‘Money yours, harpoon yours.’- and commissioning the ship’s carpenter, played by Irish actor Noel Purcell, to build him a durable coffin. ‘No water get in.’ Little Pip chanting ‘Quee-queg gon’ away,’ little knowing who’s going to be accompanying Quee-queg on his journey into the unknown.

There’s Captain Ahab ‘catching St. Elmo’s Fire by the tail’ and Mr. Starbuck trying to interest some of the crew in a mutiny, as the ship is no longer being used for its original purpose of whaling, but solely to pursue Ahab’s crazy vendetta against Moby Dick. Sorry mate, that’s the Bounty you’ll be wanting, is what they should have answered Mr. Starbuck with…!

Have you ever seen that episode of THE SIMPSONS where Homer tries to avenge himself against the bear that humiliated him in front of the whole town and got him featured on the KENT’S COWARDS slot of the local Channel 6 News?

‘Dad,’ Lisa Simpson sagely comments, ‘if MOBY DICK has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t get revenge against an animal!’ Does Homer listen to his know-it-all daughter? Not so much. Well, on his own head be it, then, if he goes ahead with his bonkers scheme to bring Tubby Bear to a grisly/grizzly end. See what I did there?

The scenes of Moby Dick himself are simply magnificent. The white whale is enormous, the kind of thing you might see in your nightmares, a veritable ‘mountain of snow.’ (Good news for cocaine users, lol, a mountain of ‘snow’ that no-one can legally lay claim to and which is therefore there for the taking!) 

The film’s ending is one of the most memorable in cinema history, so I won’t spoil it for you. I think Elijah the Big Fat Blabbermouth so-called Prophet might have taken care of that already, lol. Nice one, Lije…

Orson Welles has an important four-minute cameo- yes, I timed it!- in the film as Father Mapple, the minister who gives a sermon  from the pulpit of his little church to all those heading out to sea. It’s a handy way of calling down God’s blessing on your little nautical endeavours. The pulpit is composed of the front bit of a ship, the bit where you have the masthead, and the minister has a rope ladder to get up and down by, just like in a ship. It’s beyond cool.

All over the church are memorials to the local men who lost their lives whaling. So many memorials. So many lost men. You’d wonder at Ishmael and his pals, rushing blithely off to do a job that’s so damned dangerous. They can’t all be trying to evade paying their child support. Or can they? You know what, 1850 or 2050, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor