Drums of Fu Manchu
directed by William Witney, John English
starring Henry Brandon, William Royle, Robert Kellard, Gloria Franklin, Olaf Hytten, Tom Chatterton, Luana Walters, Lal Chand Mehra, George Cleveland, John Dilson, John Merton, Dwight Frye, Wheaton Chambers, George Pembroke, Guy D'Ennery, Norman Nesbitt, Lowden Adams, Philip Ahn, John Picorri, Evan Thomas, John Ward, Francis Walker, John Bagni, Ann Baldwin, James Flatley, Joe De Stefani, Robert Blair, George Bruggeman, Jamiel Hasson, Paul Marion, James B. Leong, Akim Dobrynim, Jennifer Gray, John Lester Johnson, Bert LeBaron, Eric Lonsdale, Merrill McCormick, John Meredith, Tofik Mickey, Jack Montgomery, Bill Nind, Tony Paton, Charles Phillips, Paul Renay, Hector Sarno, Ernest Sarracino, Carl Sepulveda, Lee Shumway, Robert R.Stephenson, Walter Stiritz, Harry Strang, Ken Terrell, Kam Tong, Michael Vallon, Bill Yrigoyen, Al Taylor, Ted Wells, Vinegar Roan, Jack Roper, Frank Wayne, Bill Wilkus, Budd Buster, Tommy Coats, Art Dillard, Bert Dillard, John Judd, Alan Gregg, Edward Kaye, Duke Green, Augie Gomez, David Sharpe
screenplay by Franklin Adreon, Morgan Cox, Ronald Davidson, Norman S.Hall, Barney A.Sarecky, Sol Shor, based on characters created by Sax Rohmer, music by Cy Feuer, Paul Sawtell, special effects by Theodore Lydecker, Howard Lydecker
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In order to conquer Asia, Fu Manchu (Henry Brandon) must have the
sceptre of Genghis Khan, which is located in Genghis Khan's tomb ...
however, the only way to find the tomb is via three plaques, one of which
is believed to be in the possession of professors Parker (George Parker)
and Randolph (Tom Chatterton), whom Fu Manchu captures to torture the
location of the plaque out of them - which seems to be only arriving in
town via train, carried by Randolph's daughter Mary (Luana Walters). Thank
god for Mary though as well as Professor Randolph (Professor Parker got
killed soon enough) that Nayland Smith (William Royle) of Scotland Yard,
his sidekick Dr Petrie (Olaf Hytten) and Parker's son Allan (Robert
Kellard) are on the case.
Smith and young Allan do everything in their
power to prevent Fu Manchu from collecting the plaques, but despite their
valiant efforts, the oriental villain seems to be ahead of them way too
often, even if that means impersonating Allan Parker at one occasion or
losing his own daughter (Gloria Franklin).
Eventually, Fu Manchu has
collected all three plaques, and despte all precautions in the world, he
manages to leave the USA for Asia to find the tomb and the sceptre therein
- but Nayland Smith and Allan Parker are still in hot pursuit, even if
they have to fight hordes of natives in cahoots with the villain. In the
tomb, Smith and Parker even manage to relieve Fu Manchu of the screptre,
and from now on, the thing changes owners quite rapidly, but ultimately it
lands in Fu Manchu's hands, who beams its shadow into the skies to
mobilize a particularly large army against Smith and Parker, but in the
finale, Parker manages to break Fu Manchu's spell simly by destroying the
headlight used to project the shadow, then he goes after Fu Manchu himself
and disposes of him, while the sceptre is handed over to the High Llama
(Joe De Stefani), a unifier sympathetic to the region's British colonists.
However, the ending suggests that Fu Manchu has survived his disposal ...
its politics, and its treatment of Asians by and large, this serial might
seem terribly antiquated and of course politically grossly incorrect, but
considering the time of its production and taking it by its merits rather
than its flaws, Drums of Fu Manchu is a pleasently fast-moving
chapterplay with lots of action and stunts, and many a rather inventive
setpiece, which makes the whole thing enjoyable even today.
review © by Mike Haberfelner
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