DRUMS OF FU MANCHU REPUBLIC 1940 / 15 Chapters Directed by: William Witney, John English Starring: Henry Brandon as Dr. Fu Manchu William Royle as Sir Nayland Smith Robert Kellard as Allan Parker FROM AN ORIGINAL PRINT STRUCK FROM REPUBLIC’S MASTER NEGATIVE
Supporting Cast: Gloria Franklin as Fah Lo Suee, Olaf Hytten as Dr. Petrie, Tom Chatterton as Professor Randolph, Luana Walters as Mary Randolph, Lal Chend Mehra as Sirdar Prahin, George Cleveland as Professor Parker, John Merton as Loki, Dwight Frye as Anderson, John Dilson, Wheaton Chambers, George Pembroke, Guy D'Ennery
THE STORY: The immortal and insidious Doctor Fu Manchu requires artifacts which will lead him to the tomb of Genghis Khan to complete his conquest of Asia, and, subsequently, the world. His gruesome fanged Dacoit slaves help him eliminate anyone who refuses to accommodate his will. In San Angeles, California, he convenes a meeting of the Si-Fan, an international conspiracy which helps him draw up his plans. When archeologist Dr. James Parker is killed so that Fu Manchu can obtain rare scrolls in his possession, his son Allan joins forces with Sir Denis Nayland Smith of the British Foreign Office to avenge his father's death.
Thrilling action and desperate, dark atmosphere dominate this highly entertaining pulp novel come to life in classic black and white. Unlike most Republic serials which take place generally in broad daylight, the scenes here take place on dark rainy nights when assassins lurk around every corner, exotic foreign lands, spooky caves, torture chambers, and sabotaged, doomed airplanes or locomotives. The threat of deadly retribution for anyone who crosses Fu Manchu is always present, and more than a few characters meet their doom by tentacle in his concealed octopus pit or other fiendish torture devices.
But the serial isn't driven by pure sadism; in fact it's carried almost exclusively by a tour-de-force performance by 28 year old, six-foot-five experienced stage melodrama actor Henry Brandon, who recognizes in the role a wonderful opportunity to cut loose as one of the most iconic and loved-to-be-hated villains ever, and does exactly that. There's never a moment he's onscreen that doesn't ooze with menace thanks to his subtle yet powerful performance, which transcends the original stereotype and becomes a creature of his own, who operates and revels in his existence in Republic Serial fantasy-land as one of his previous character roles, Uncle Barnaby, did in BABES IN TOYLAND a few years earlier. He's not interested in mocking the Chinese. He's interested in creating a villain the kids in the audience will never forget. And he does a great job of it.
In fact, there's really nothing remotely realistic about DRUMS OF FU MANCHU at all; it exists in a unique universe of blow-guns, pendulums, Dalai Plaques and Kardak Segments (whatever they are), visits to shopkeepers who turn out to be Dwight Frye and secret agents that seemingly have no help at all but must fight the most dangerous man in the world alone. And that is why it is so much fun. "Fu Manchu, the character, is in no way Chinese. As a personification of the Yellow Peril, Fu Manchu is the personification of the West's irrational fears and phobias. He is a rare mirror, through which we can see the pathetic caricature of the Oriental that exists in the minds of so many Americans throughout history. By being a white actor in yellowface, the character's illusory, fantasy quality becomes underscored. Like children who playact as doctors and nurses, Fu Manchu is the outward representation of the childish playacting of a nation." -- Peter Nepstad, The Illuminated Lantern
This long-lost serial, consistently rated as one of the top cliffhangers ever made by fans of the form, was traded among collectors in terrible quality VHS tape versions for years and has been released on DVD previously only in an edition with a fancy cover and booklet and menus but inferior video quality because it was mastered from a 16mm dupe print.
We are pleased to announce that we have been offered the opportunity to release this serial from a transfer created from of the original Republic master print which is for the most part of extremely high quality. Two 30-second sections of the original film were missing and have been replaced (which you may not even notice was done), one brief scene in Chapter 12 is oddly very high in contrast and some night scenes in later chapters of the serial were dark in the original print and difficult to transfer, but 95% of this serial, having now been stabilized to remove occasional weave due to the age and condition of the physical film, approaches DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST quality and has excellent sharpness and grey tones. It was decided not to try and patch sections of this transfer with other source material but to allow the DVD to reflect the quality and retain the sharpness of the original film which was created in the 1970s apparently from the original Republic Pictures 35mm negative. This is a great upgrade from any edition of the serial you’ve ever seen before and the first “real” DVD of an original print to ever have been made. Four and a half hours worth of thrills, chills, and action, the best-acted villain of any cliffhanger serial, and a splendid addition to your serial or cult film library!
Status of this project: PLEDGE DRIVE COMPLETE. PRINT ACQUIRED, TRANSFER COMPLETE. VIDEO HAS BEEN STABILIZED, AUDIO HAS BEEN RESTORED. COVERS ARE DONE, FINAL MASTER IS BEING BURNED & THE SERIAL BEGAN SHIPPING THURS. MAY 3! >Discussion thread with project updates
Note: Pledges were taken for this project at $39.95. We have reduced the price for those who preorder before this DVD is released to $29.95 and reserve the right to raise that price later if necessary!