Wednesday, July 26, 2017

1980 Week: The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu

Representing the undignified final statement of a celebrated career, this painfully unfunny comic adventure was Peter Sellers’ last picture, although outtakes from various films were used to simulate his presence in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). Whereas Sellers' penultimate movie, Being There (1979), exemplifies artistic restraint, The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu is obnoxious on every level. Based upon Sax Roehmer’s famous pulp character, the picture features Sellers in dual roles as Fu Manchu, an Asian criminal mastermind who has lived to 168 years of age because of a secret formula, and Dennis Nayland Smith, an intrepid Scotland Yard investigator devoted to battling Fu Manchu. When the movie stars, Fu Manchu exhausts his supply of immortality serum, so he arranges outlandish heists to secure ingredients, thereby inadvertently making his whereabouts known to Smith. The product of behind-the-scenes friction—several directors were fired, and Sellers helmed a few scenes by himself—The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu lobs one dud joke after another at the audience, creating pure tedium. The Fu Manchu scenes are offensive because of the way Sellers speaks in a cartoonish accent while wearing “yellow devil” makeup. The Smith scenes are insipid because this movie’s idea of a running joke involves Smith pushing a lawnmower so he can concentrate—even if he’s indoors. Notwithstanding Helen Mirren’s valiant efforts to make her supporting role as Fu Manchu’s consort credible, the movie is painful to watch because nothing connects, right up to the excruciating finale during which Fu Manchu transforms from a fragile old man to a young stud in an Elvis jumpsuit, leading a rock band through an atrocious original song.

The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu: LAME

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