03 February, 2007

The Fu Manchu Cycle: SLAVES OF CRIME

Producer: Herminio Garcia Calvo / Madrid.
Director: James Lee Johnson [Jess (Jesús) Franco].
Cast: Lina Romay [Fu Manchu's daughter}, Jose Llamas, Marco Moriarty, Mel Rodrigo, Maite Saury, Yolanda Morbita, Eric Raymond, Maria Gunhill.
Screenplay: David Khunne [Jess Franco].
Photography: Juan Soler.
Music: Daniel J. White.
90 min, color.

Leaving aside THE FIENDISH PLOT OF FU MANCHU with Peter Sellers, Jess Franco directed the last "serious" Fu Manchu film, the Harry Alan Towers Production THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1968). CASTLE... was already a cut-rate production, marking an endpoint to the long Fu Manchu cinema-cycle.

The 1986 Fervi production ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer's characters (Rohmer receives screen credit, as "S. Rohmer")into a kind of post-modern programmer with a B minus budget.

Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with exotic eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style. A title card explains it takes place "in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption."

Members of the ROCKY WALTERS rock and roll band are kidnapped by her seductive agents and transported to a hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. There they are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by Jump-Jets delivering a napalm payload into the encampment represented by an outrageously obvious use of stock footage.

An amusing if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most interesting for the eye-popping colored lens flare effects, which fill many scenes with intense halations and bright hues which sometimes obscure the action. These shots would probably be rejected as mistakes or unprintable by many DPs and directors. Franco has said that he especially favors these startling light effects over conventially illunimated compostions.

The female bunch are a scantily clad and buxom army of Amazons who recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in FUTURE WOMEN (1968). There's much more nudity here though, demonstrating the relaxed Spanish censorship of the mid 1980s. This is a more personal and eccentric effort than that 1968 Harry Alan Towers production.

A somewhat miscast Lina Romay gets to repeat the old Fu Manchu standard at the end: "The world will hear from me again!" It didn't...*

Since graphics for SLAVES OF CRIME are difficult to come by I decided to illustrate this blog with a related favorite Jano poster.

*cf the somewhat related DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL

(c) Robert Monell, 2006 [updated version]

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