23 August, 2008


The daughter of Fu Manchu (Lina Romay) places one of her slaves into a deep trance state.

1986-PAL (approx. 87m) Spanish Video


This is an updating of my 1999 review:

I sometimes think that Jess Franco is first and foremost a conductor of light and color. His use of filters which diffuse colors, natural and ambient light into intoxicating, exotic patterns along with the comic-book style visual treatment of the environment are what really stand out in ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN. Style isn't just a way to dress a film, it's EVERYTHING in the world of Jess Franco.

This 1986 obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that supposedly updates Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu tales (Rohmer receives onscreen story credit, although I doubt if it's based on an actual story/novel. ). Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with heavy eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style.

A title card places the tall tale "in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption." Members of the famous Rocky Walters rock & roll group are abducted by the seductive slaves of the female spawn of Dr. Fu Manchu (who is not seen but is heard on the soundtrack conversing with his daughter from beyond the pale) 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 before being murdered and left in situations which make the deaths look accidental.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a spaced out rocker (Mel Rodrigo) who is trying to find his band companions. A karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent are also on the case. After the rocker is also abducted and drugged the karate and Interpol guys move in. It all climaxes with an air strike delivered by a vertical lift-off jump-jet (via stock footage), dropping a napalm payload into the encampment. The inferno is represented with what looks like [more stock footage] burning tires in some garbage dump and the camera being shaken to simulate the experience of big explosions!

This amusing if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most notable for its arresting lens-flare/filter effects, which bathe scenes with intense luminescence, candy colored effulgence which teases (and delights) the eye, once again demonstrating that the director is always more interested in visual atmosphere than plot or action. The Far Eastern locations are represented by various the facades of local Chinese restaurants, stock footage of bustling street scenes in some Asian city, interiors decorated in B-movie Oriental style and the exterior of the Hotel Tropicana along the sun-drenched Spanish coastline. Franco will sometimes frame his scenes through the leaves of palm trees and other tropical flora to establish that this is supposed to happening in the heart of the jungle. There are a number of shots framed through the legs of the statuesque guards [who stand at their posts just about nude clutching rubber looking automatic weapons].

The female bunch are a well coiffured, scantily clad army of Amazons that recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in LA CIUDAD SIN HOMBRES/THE GIRL FROM RIO/FUTURE WOMEN (1968). There's also a back-story to Lina's character which suggests that she was once an abused innocent, but that's obscured by my lack of understanding of the Spanish dialogue in these scenes. This time around the costumes are less elaborate than the brightly colored leather and plastic confections seen in Franco's 1968 Feminia, probably due to the fact that this is a Hermino Garcia Calvo production rather than a Harry Alan Towers (with Hollywood back-up) production. The Pablo Villa [Daniel J. White]cues are familiar from other Franco 1980s adventures and previous Fu Manchu titles.

One will have to decide if Lina Romay's arch-villain is as compelling as Shirley Eaton's Sumuru or Tsai Chin's Lin Tang. It's all worth it in the end, though, for
that final close-up of Lina Romay repeating the old Fu Manchu standard: "The world will hear from me again!"

Franco would return to the Fu Manchu aesthetic, if not character, in the visually outrageous DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL, financed by One Shot Productions.

This review is based on a 1.33:1 presentation on Spanish video. Obviously the original widescreen compositions are unfortunately cropped.

(c) Robert Monell 1999-2008

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