The Face of Fu Manchu

The Face of Fu Manchu

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Sharp
Produced by Harry Alan Towers
Oliver A. Unger
Written by Harry Alan Towers
Starring Christopher Lee
Nigel Green
Howard Marion-Crawford
Tsai Chin
Music by Christopher Whelen
Cinematography Ernest W. Steward
Ernie Stewart
Edited by John Trumper
Hallam Productions (UK)
Constantin Film (W. Germany)
Distributed by Seven Arts
Release dates
6 August 1965
Running time
96 min.
Country United Kingdom
West Germany
Language English
Box office $1,300,000[1]
Poster of The Face of Fu Manchu

The Face of Fu Manchu is a 1965 British/German co-production thriller based on the character of Fu Manchu, the Chinese villain created by Sax Rohmer. Don Sharp directed, with Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu and Nigel Green as Nayland Smith, the Scotland Yard detective in his pursuit.

It was produced by Harry Alan Towers in a co-production for Hallam Films and Constantin Film and was filmed on location in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. The film was the first in a series of five, the next of which was The Brides of Fu Manchu.


A ghostly execution of world mastermind criminal Fu Manchu is witnessed by nemesis Nayland Smith. Back in England, however, it is increasingly apparent that Fu Manchu is still operating. Smith is quick to detect that the execution he witnessed was that of a double, an actor hypnotised into taking Fu Manchu's place. The villain is back in London, working from a secret base underneath the River Thames. He has kidnapped the esteemed Professor Muller, who holds the key to a potentially deadly solution from the seeds of a rare Tibetan flower.

Cast of characters

Also featuring


Producer Harry Alan Towers denied the films were made to cash in on the James Bond craze:

No relationship. Action, adventure, open-air, escapism - yes - but nothing to do with Bond-ism - Fu Manchu's atmosphere is a kind of timeless Never Never land. Bond is gimmicky and with-it.[2]

The film was shot on location in Ireland. Towers:

It's a good country for location work; the British quota helps; on costs, there is not much difference between making a film here and in Britain - both sets of unions see to that. Ardmore? It seems to be doing alright with the present film - and Ireland will always be attractive as long as filmmakers and their artists are seeking refuge from super tax.[2]

The prison sequences were shot at Kilmainham Gaol.[3]


In order to promote the film in the US, "Fu Machu for Mayor" posters were done up and distributed in New York City during a mayoral election.[4]

The New York Times did not like the film, saying:

The Face of Fu Manchu, back again after all these years, is about as frightening as Whistler's Mother. If this slow, plodding, simple-minded little color melodrama were not so excruciating, it might have been acceptable farce. Christopher Lee, as the old evil one, complete with waxy mustache, looks and sounds like an overgrown Etonite. Fu Manchu, fooey.[5]

Nonetheless the film was successful enough to result in four sequels. ""The first one should have been the last one," Lee wrote in 1983, "because it was the only really good one."[6]


  1. Anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  2. 1 2 AN IRISHMAN'S DIARY: Unfussable QUIDNUNC. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 09 Mar 1965: 9.
  3. A DAY'S SHOOTING Somerville-Large, B P. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 10 Apr 1965: 10.
  4. New Candidate -- at the Box Office New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 12 Oct 1965: 76
  5. Review of film at New York Times
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