Set in 1920's London (actually, 1960s Dublin) this adaptation of the gritty old detective thrillers by author Sax Rohmer, stars a heavily made up Christopher Lee as the films titular villain who, having escaped execution in China, has set up a hideout in London with his equally evil daughter Lin Tang (played by chinese actress Tsai Chin).
When a number of prominent scientists go missing, it catches the attention of Scotland Yard's Nayland Smith (Nigel Green), who suspects Fu Manchu may be behind it. But when he also learns that one of the scientists had obtained a supply of rare Blackhill Poppy seeds that dissapeared along with him, which could be used to make poison gas, he realises something sinister is definitely afoot and it becomes a race against time to find out where he is and stop him.
Secret underground lairs, weapons of mass destruction, exotic villains, elaborate executions, car chases and numerous fight scenes, this was in many ways similar to those old Sherlock Holmes films. It even has a Doctor Watson type sidekick named Petrie (played by Howard Marion-Crawford). But differs substantially in tone and style, being considerably darker and with the focus being more on the villain, than the hero.
Indeed, there's a couple of death scenes that would put a James Bond villain to shame and the scene where Fu Manchu wipes out an entire village, along with the subsequent aftermath, showing bodies lying dead in the street certainly makes for grim viewing.
Not the sort of film that could be made today, partly because of the negative stereotyping of Chinese people, but mostly because of having Christopher Lee, and several other English actors, being made up to look Chinese, which is a strict no-no in today's politically sensitive times. This is, never the less, a thoroughly entertaining dark thriller though, with Christopher Lee at his menacing best.
Definitely one for Christoper Lee fans.