Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Monday, January 12, 2009

Free Fu! (and Fah Lo Suee)

There's a slew of color Fu Manchu films coming out on DVD, starring Christopher Lee and directed by that bargain basement Bunuel, Jess Franco, amongst others. I've been a Fu fan since childhood, when I went through a polymorphously perverse sado-masochistic phase around 4th grade, with my ideal being Fu's sadistic daughter, Fah Lo Suee. I was almost afraid to read the Sax Rohmer books because they were just so full of danger and dread that my nine-year old heart could hardly stand it, and Fah Lo Suee was always there, somewhere, the perfect daughter. The only thing more relentlessly suspenseful for me at the time was the Danger Island serial on the old Bannana Splits TV show.

Of course there is a deep xenophobic thing running through all this, and for sure, the "Yellow Peril" concept is some seriously racist shit. But there were usually some good Asians around to balance things, and you really got a hold of that in the excellent Marvel comic book, Masters of Kung Fu, in which the Fu Manchu mythos mixed beautifully with the story of Shang Chi, a combination Bruce Lee and British agent working for Nayland Smith (and he turns out to be Fu's son!) I wish I still had those comics. I had to sell them to get back into Manhattan. Damn you, Fu!!

I've got my doubts about all those fun Franco Fus coming out on DVD twofers (or Two Fu One, or however they're calling it), but I do love to read online reviews of them, by qualified names I trust. Tenebrous Kate from the Tenebrous Empire writes well of CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1962)::
The movie is unrepentantly escapist, weaving its complicated tale of action and treachery using creaky models, rubber weapons, and shamelessly-snagged-from-elsewhere footage (the ship that gets sunk is pretty clearly from a movie based on the Titanic and the dam Fu Manchu destroys is from a movie set in America, not Turkey). However, Franco incorporates beautiful scenery, striking interiors, and gorgeously saturated colors along with the aforementioned awesome costumes. The titular castle that Fu Manchu occupies during the majority of the film is the Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. Franco makes the most of this exotic set, making a character of the curving, mosaic surfaces of the building.
(read rest of piece here)

The best and hottest of the Fah Lo Suees will always be Myrna Loy in the MGM pre-code MASK OF FU MANCHU, starring Boris Karloff as Fu. Karloff is clearly having a great time in the role, but he can't hold a candle to Myrna Loy, who creeps over the hunky form of her latest victim like a vampire (after ordering him whipped to a pulp).

The fact remains, why haven't more "good" films been made about this great character and his sexy sadist daughter? Why must we let political correctness and fear of controversy stop the flow of first-class Fu? What about releasing those early Anna May Wong and Warner Oland Fus in a big boxed set, so we don't have to crawl around gray markets on our hands? I'd rather die than crawl before anyone.... except Fah Lo Suee and maybe Tenebrous Kate. What the PC thugs and the disapproving Chinese Government don't understand is that in our post-colonial worldview, Fu Manchu has become the GOOD GUY!! He's James Bond in reverse, fighting to restore the third world's riches back to its own people.

That's right. I always secretly want Fu to win. He's got all the good lines and gadgets, crazy taste in clothes and architecture. He makes ironic little jokes while describing how he's going to torture you and the tortures he picks are always more psychological and slow than the typical waterboard and beating variety. His foe, Nayland Smith is just a worrying hothead for the forces of colonialism and stoic blandness. He's dull and proper and would insist you go to bed on time if he were your babysitter (as opposed to Fah Lo Suee, who would play the "leash game" with you and let you stay up to watch horror movies). Fu and Fah Lo Suee represent the stuff Steven Spielberg has managed to deny us - kids are EVIL! We kids want to destroy the world because it makes us eat vegetables and clean our rooms and do our homework. And while the Nayland Smiths of the world work to uphold the unfair system, glorious celestial Fu is out there making his own rules and going for the gold, torturing and killing and throwing the anguished young males to his daughter for "her pleasure." What traits could be more admirable in a future father-in-law? Aren't movies the place we go to get away from the tired bonds of "order" and "civilization"? Can't Fu Manchu ever get a break? Free Fu and Fah Lo!


  1. Crawl--nay! I say we join forces and cut a bloody swath through this unjust world till we get all the Fu we so rightly deserve. I'm with you on this mission--More Fu Manchu = More Better!

  2. wytchcroft16 May, 2009

    damn straight!:) bring on the Fu!

  3. "...and Nicolas Cage as FU MANCHU!" I am completely on Fu's side. I have a feeling that today's third world hothead students haven't even heard of him. If the French can embrace Fantomas as a rebel, why won't Fu be rehabbed. PS, let's hear it for Sessue Hayakawa,the true hero of Daughter of the Dragon.

  4. Great article, and love the idea of Fah love Suee as a babysitter? But what is the 'leash game? '


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