A FU-TASTIC SERIAL!!!
SwellBooks | Park Ridge, IL | 04/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have two words to all potential buyers of this DVD: BUY IT! It is fantastic! This is probably one of the best movie serials ever made! Fifteen exciting chapters of trains wrecks, chases, car crashes, fights, fights and more fights, featuring one of the best villians in all of fiction, Dr. Fu Manchu. Brillantly played by Henry Brandon, whom most sf/ fantasy fans may know from John Carpenter's "ASSAULT ON PRECEINT 13". He is perhaps the best Fu in movie history, even better than Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee! He is that good, I kid you not! The serial is not based on the Sax Rohmer novel of the same name, but uses some of the plot of an earlier Fu novel and the Karloff film "THE MASK OF FU MANCHU". Normally this would make me an unhappy camper, but this serial is such a joy to watch and is so exciting, that I can forgive the producers for ignoring Rohmer's great book ("DRUMS" is one of my favorite Fu novels). All of the cast is pretty good. I liked Gloria Franklin as Fu's daughter Fah Loo Suee although she mysteriously disappears from the proceedings after about 12 chapters. And fans of Universal horror films will be happy to see the familiar face of the fly-eating maniac Renfield from the Lugosi Dracula, Dwight Frye in a small role in the 5th chapter. And wait until you see Loki, the lead Dacoit, one of "Fu Manchu's men-of-murder". He's a hoot! The picture and sound on the DVD are very nice and the extra's give a nice history of both Fu Manchu and the serial. There is a nice booklet included with the "HISTORY OF FU MANCHU" by Eric Hoffman and a photo gallery on the dvd and star and director bios and filmographies. Let me close by saying: this is one great DVD. BUY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT!!! - George Bauch."
Fu Do Something to Me
Loring Ivanick | Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Japan | 07/31/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well put-together serial, made wonderful by Brandon's believable performance as the villain. We have a host of usual types for this kind of film supporting Brandon: the dauntless young hero, the relentless older law enforcement official, the courageous sweet young thing, her sneaky female counterpart working with the villain, the requisite professors and experts and others, all lining up in a titanic struggle of good and evil to determine who rules India. The cliffhanger endings involve a variety of fiendish plots by Fu Manchu to get rid of one or another of the heroes, so that the good guys are not just saved every episode by jumping out of a car at the last moment before it goes over the edge of a cliff or blows up . The writers actually put together a scenario that goes in one direction from beginning to end. It all comes down to Brandon as Fu Manchu though. His is the only character with any depth and he creates a believable performance. I also own the VHS of this serial and the DVD has been restored to far, far superior quality. I recommend it if you are into this kind of entertainment."
Enjoyable Series - Disappointing Print.
Concerned About Movies | SC, USA | 07/26/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I admit that if you are a fan of these delightful old series adventures, you'll thoroughly enjoy "Drums of Fu Manchu". The DVD set includes an informative 12 page booklet entitled, "The History of Fu Manchu", written by Eric Hoffman, and also, among other things, a short documentary about the cinematic history of this grand, evil character. It's clear that VCI Entertainment put a lot of effort into this "digitally remastered" video, and I find no fault with that effort.With that said, I must admit that I was rather disappointed with the quality of the print that VCI Entertainment used, after they had put so much effort into the DVD's "extras". Although this print of "Drums" is clean and well preserved (no scratches or artifacts), it is generally dark, indistinct, and murky with only a very limited gray-scale range. It reminds me of the prints that used to be used for the late, late, late TV movies, before there was cable, that used third and fouth generation prints because they felt no one was watching anyway.The DVD format has certainly raised the bar for what is acceptable, and not acceptable, when watching films in the comfort of our own homes. I, for one, now demand a crisp, clear, clean print that does full justice to the original. With all sorts of "restorations" now being offered that, in many cases, are better than the original release print of a film, I've become spoiled and quite critical. And a film's age has nothing to do with it. The DVD print of the Republic Serial, "Jungle Girl" (1941), is absolutely pristine! It was made from a 35mm Master Positive Print that is as clear and clean as any I've seen. The serial, "Jungle Jim" (1936), is also clean and clear, although not as sharp and crisp as "Jungle Girl". Both of these serials were issued by VCI, so I suspect that what they used for "Drums of Fu Manchu" was the best they could find. Still, it was disappointing to be expecting another "Jungle Girl", and receive such a mediocre print. By the way, the absolutely worst print of a serial that I've purchased was "The Three Musketeers" produced by the Roan Group, a company that usually does pretty good work. If these companies can't find a good print to work with, why do they even bother to reissue these movies? I, for one, would be willing to wait until the negative was found, a fine grained, master print was discovered (and I "know" they're out there), or the film was properly "restored" (emphasis on "properly")."
Memorable Henry Brandon performance distinguishes the serial
Scott MacGillivray | Massachusetts, USA | 01/28/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Henry Brandon -- a master character actor who usually played villains -- got his only leading role in this 1940 Republic serial, "suggested by" Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories. Brandon steals the film from the supporting players and the squadron of athletic henchmen (who do not speak -- eerie!).The serial is about par for Republic. The plot concerns an archaeological search for the artifacts of Genghis Khan, but you won't care much. The story characters are sketchily written and competently if not brilliantly acted (although one must admire hero Robert Kellard's enthusiasm). There are the usual chases, fistfights, and narrow escapes for cliffhanger fans, and a good musical score.As the treacherous warlord Fu Manchu, Henry Brandon's careful, eloquent performance is a masterpiece of economy. He speaks volumes with a swift extension of the forearm, a slight smirk, a raised eyebrow, a dramatic pause, a sly drawl. He even plays an effective bereavement scene. when he discovers one of his coterie has died. Brandon is far better than his material in this one.The original negative of this serial was presumably unavailable, so the DVD producers had to make do with a copy. What survives looks like a good to excellent third-generation print in excellent physical condition. The image has more contrast and less detail than other DVDs, but it's certainly watchable and enjoyable.All in all, a decent show made better by the leading actor."