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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 323- The Castle of Fu-Manchu

Movie: (1969) Evil mastermind Fu Manchu has a new plot to destroy the world, but his arch-nemesis Dr. Nayland Smith is on the case.

First shown: 1/18/92
Opening: J&tB sing “We’re on the Satellite of Love.”
Invention exchange: The bots have developed a useful telephone transducer chip, while all Joel has is the big head (again); The Mads demonstrate the Joe Besser “Stinky” Bomb
Host segment 1: Crow decries “The Miss Saigon Syndrome,” J&tB become distraught, which pleases the Mads
Host segment 2: The Shriner flying carpet sketch collapses into weeping; the Mads are delighted
Host segment 3: The bots are inconsolable, Joel tries to cheer them up with the story of Fu-Manchu, but the pain is too much; the Mads celebrate
End: J&tB are utterly beaten, the Mads toast their victory but then get a little too cocky
Stinger: Monkey pile on the castle guard!
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (142 votes, average: 3.69 out of 5)


• I know, I know, this movie is terribly painful. I’m sure there are some among you for whom it is just too painful. But I’m just going to come out and say it: I LOVE this episode! The host segments are uniformly funny and the riffing is top-notch. In a perverse way, this would be an excellent starter episode, since it’s one of the shows that most explicitly deals with the premise of the Mads trying to drive J&tB crazy with bad movies. The movie, no question, is terrible: it’s drab, confusing, clumsy and poorly shot. And I imagine the cuts the Brains made didn’t help matters. But compared to some of the movies we’ll get later, it’s seems like a breeze.
• This episode is included in Shout!Factory’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XXIII.”
• The opening is one of the best ever. My daughter, as a youngster, fell in love with that song and sang it constantly for about two long weeks, especially the “dumpy overlords” line and the part about not wearing our underwear. To a 7-year-old, that’s great satire.
• The song is loosely based on the theme song of a 1960s TV show, “The Funny Company,” even stealing the line “Stories! Songs! Toys!” The line at the end, “Warriors of the World–by Marx!” apparently refers to ads for the “Warriors of the World” line of toy soldiers from all historical eras by toy maker Marx.
• Joel’s line “…uh, I’ll be right back” in the invention exchange segment was sampled by some MSTie and it became a very popular–and useful–chat room sound file.
• Local reference: the piano bar at Nye’s.
• When Crow and Tom do their invention exchange, there’s a closeup on Tom’s hand. Sheesh, couldn’t they have repainted it for the closeup? It looks terrible.
• We get the third and last appearance of the Big Head.
• Dr. F. lights the fuse on the Stinky Bomb and the sparks look like they almost put Frank’s eyes out. Yeesh.
• Then-current references: “Filmed in Oakland” (a reference to the massive firestorm that hit the city in 1991); Crow parodies the now-forgotten “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and also mentions “Doogie Hauser.”
• Movie comment: The ship sinking footage at the beginning is from 1958’s “A Night to Remember.” And the whole opening section of this movie was spliced in directly from “The Brides of Fu Manchu.” So it’s twice-reused footage. The dam bursting scene is footage taken from “Campbell’s Kingdom. You can even see stars Dirk Bogarde (green checked shirt) and Stanley Baker (red shirt) in the footage.
• VERY naughty riff from Joel: “I didn’t mean to but, uh, the new seat covers…” Tom and Crow are scandalized.
• Crow mentions “The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao.” It would come up again.
• J&tB enter the theater with their Shriner costumes on. Joel removes his, then Crow’s, then turns to remove Tom’s fez, and either can’t do it or thinks better of it.
• Callbacks: “Glen Manning get off that dam!” (Amazing Colossal Man), “I can remember a thousand wonderful hours…” (Rocketship XM), Tom hums the Catalina Caper theme, Hikeeba (Women of the Prehistoric Planet).
• Who drew those “artist’s renderings”?
• In the theater, at different points, both Tom and Joel get irritated at Crow and tell him to shut up or stop. Kinda testy!
• When those cakes of ice float to the surface of the water, Joel makes an odd pantomime that looks a little like he’s picking his nose. I watched it a couple of times, and then it hit me: he’s miming snorting coke.
• Love the slam on Toastmasters (an organization full of very nice people who think they’re witty, but usually aren’t).
• Cast and crew roundup: Producer Harry Alan Towers also produced “Outlaw (of Gor)” and “The Million Eyes of Su-Muru.” Under his pen name Peter Welbeck, he also wrote the screenplays for them.
• CreditsWatch: Kevin’s name appears along with Mike’s under “Additional Music Written and Arranged by.” Maybe he helped on the opening song?
• Favorite riff: “Look at this shot. They should never have let Shatner direct!” Honorable mention: “Feed him to the clam!”

115 Replies to “Episode guide: 323- The Castle of Fu-Manchu”

  1. swh1939 says:

    Harry Alan … TOWERS!!!!!!


  2. Revlillo says:

    From the IMDB trivia page for this movie:
    All of the footage at the beginning of the movie featuring a large ocean liner striking an iceberg and sinking is all stock footage from the famed 1958, British Titanic film, A Night to Remember.

    The dam bursting scene is footage taken from the Dirk Bogarde film Campbell’s Kingdom. Bogarde is in the green checked shirt and Stanley Baker in the red shirt, both are recognizable in this footage.


  3. JimmyBruce says:

    If you’re having trouble sleeping, put this one in. I’ve never watched the entire thing straight through.


  4. Dan in WI says:

    Dr. Forrester calls Frank Larry. But it wasn’t necessarily in any way that otherwise reminded me of Dr. Erhart. Curious.

    This is a rare low point for the invention exchange. Really? Joel doesn’t remember doing the big head already? I wonder what the real behind the scenes story is here. Meanwhile the Mads’ invention isn’t great either. The highlight is Frank trying to reprise the Big Head theme.

    I’m not entirely sure what the ocean liner sinking was all about. But all I can say is I wish James Cameron would have made the sinking in his little film with similar pacing. Of course that is the last thing that would move quickly in this movie.

    Now the high point of this episode is the rest of the host segments. I just love watching Joel and the Bots slowly breakdown while the Mads make gloating an art form. Clayton’s line about winning the Nobel Prize for evil is the perfect paradox to sum things up. All I can say is they picked the perfect film for these desperately hopeless feeling host segments. This would be revisited in the closing segment for Monster A-Go-Go when Servo is the Happy King and Crow is Sir Giggles-Von-Laughs-a-Lot.

    This is the by far the most incomprehensible film of the national run and in a league with Humanoid Woman and Million Eyes of Su Maru for most incomprehensible ever. It makes stitched together TV episode films like Fugitive Alien and Master Ninja look like Citizen Kane by comparison.

    You notice the “riffing” by Frank and Clayton are mostly state park “jokes” of the lowest magnitude.

    Overall I have to say the riffing isn’t bad on this episode. That said this film is such a slog nothing can save it. I dare Sampo’s theorem to rear its ugly head on this one. And my dare is answered by Sampo himself.

    Favorite Riffs:
    Narrator “This is Fu Man Chu” Crow “and you’re not.” (Nice Weekend Update riff.)

    Joel “You know I’m learning much more about this guy’s nasal hair than I ever wanted to know.”

    The cigarette burns on the desktop. Crow “Gee this is the most action we’ve seen so far.”

    After several more total black scenes: Crow “Accepting the award for editing.”

    Crow “By this time my lungs were… aw who cares.”


  5. snowdog says:

    I first watched this ep in 2003 and hated it so much that I put the disc away until now. Strangely, the movie didn’t seem quite as brutal this time, as I had built it up in my mind as another audience-hating Red Zone Cuba. My rating of MST3K episodes appears to be quite mood-dependent.

    I sighed at the reappearance of the big head which imo wasn’t funny the first time, much less the third. Joe Besser references rarely make me laugh and Frank’s impression is a little too good. In fact, the only host segment I really enjoyed was flying carpet sketch. No one comes apart and gets hysterical like Servo and this is one of Kevin’s best performances. I wish I had remembered it when we were doing Servo’s greatest moments.

    Is this the only time J&tB’s use the “say…” catchphrase while looking at a man? They’re quite impressed with him here.

    Three stars.


  6. Graboidz says:

    While not a huge fan of this episode, I am a fan of the “big head” invention!! Never fails to crack me up for some reason, and I only wish it had made more appearances through the run of the show.


  7. big_john_suds says:

    This ep makes The Projected Man seem action packed. But it does show how J&tB can turn chicken s*** into chicken salad….or at least come close.


  8. Sitting Duck says:

    As a point of interest, this was the last of a series of five Fu Manchu films with Mr. Lee in the title role. And as any fan of a film franchise that runs longer than it probably should have can tell you, the last film in such a franchise will be a convoluted mess. If this review is to be believed, the first film in the series was actually pretty decent (at least if you can get past the outdated racial attitudes.

    Evil mastermind Fu Manchu has a new plot to destroy the world, but his arch-nemesis Dr. Nayland Smith is on the case.

    The hell? To my recollection, Nayland Smith has never been a doctor. It was his personal Watson Dr. Petrie who was the medical man.


  9. Joseph Nebus says:

    I can’t say much about this episode, because I’ve only seen it once, a long time ago. But that time …

    It was the late 90s, in that time when it was technically possible to watch videos online, but what happened was you’d download an enormous file taking upwards of three weeks to finish and then you’d find that about two seconds of video would play and then the computer would crash. That’s if it got that far, since everybody grew their own quirky little video system and none of them worked.

    So it was at a convention I’d attended, a rare chance to gather with like-minded science fiction or fantasy fans, and find the MST3K party room, which wouldn’t be on the schedule but would get signs pasted to the walls so you caught as you could. You’d drop in with people you maybe knew online somehow vaguely, maybe not; and someone, from somewhere, would have these rare video tapes of episodes that weren’t running anymore, that you couldn’t see easily, that Rhino might never get around to releasing on tape.

    It might be disappointing, and they’d be showing Laserblast or another one that you had gotten recorded on SP, and you’d have to be satisfied with the way episodes are different watching in a group. But sometimes it’d be one you had barely heard of, and never saw on the Comedy Central listings of what was supposed to air.

    It’s how I saw Cosmic Princess or whatever that KTMA compilation of Space:1999 episodes were. It’s also how I saw The Castle of Fu-Manchu, or at least most of it, since the guy I was at the con with was not an experienced MST3K viewer and he needed a decompression break for which I can’t blame him.

    I do want to see the whole episode, but I like that there is this episode I have seen just the one time, and in such a special experience.


  10. klisch says:

    This is in my top 10 worst episodes. I’d rather watch Starfighters again before Fu Manchu and Starfighters is horrible.


  11. dsman71 says:

    I like this ep too, although it doesnt get much love or attention – just like Master Ninja it was filler to get to the ep # 324 – even in the ACMG the movie has very little acknowledgment –
    This was the last of the Fu Manchu’s with Christopher Lee – even he could not escape MST3K, however he usually did a lot of GREAT horror and sci fi movies such as Horror of Dracula, the Devil Rides Out, The Creeping Flesh, Horror Express, plus he was in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars Prequels (ok those werent any good but still)
    Lee is a fantastic actor
    I wish they would get released on a Shout Factory set , it is public domain ..
    On that note
    Joel’s Hair ( grew out and parted it)
    Joels Knees
    Dr Petri *Dish!*
    Fu Manchu vs. Manos ! Make it Happen
    Time for therapy
    No no no I said Therapist not the-rapist ! :/


  12. Stressfactor says:

    Since I’m relatively new to all this I was kind of looking forward to this one having heard how universally “bad” it was.

    For me though it’s actually not a “bad” movie it’s just, as Joel and the bots point out several times, boring. Too many people just standing around talking about stuff rather than doing something. There are other movies that are far worse (For example, “Sidehackers”. I know I’m probably in a minority but, as a woman, that movie is just so offensive to me on a visceral level that not even Joel and the bots can save it).

    I have to confess to also being very, very confused about the film. On the one hand several things make it appear as if the movie is supposed to be set in the nineteen teens or early nineteen twenties but then other things look very modern for the time period it was filmed. So is the film supposed to be a modernization of an older story (as “The Million Eyes of Su-Muru” was) or was it just a poorly done period piece?

    I also have to say that I could really see Towers’ hand in this film. There was a definite tonal quality as well as filmic quality in “The Castle of Fu Manchu” that echoed “The Million Eyes of Su-Muru”.

    Still, love the host segments on this one. It’s always fun to get to see Joel break out of his laconic range and his defiant speech to the Mads at the end is actually pretty stirring.


  13. briizilla says:

    The host segments save the episode for me, I crack up every time when Tom snaps ‘there’s something wrong with me! There’s something wrong with me!’
    @#5, the big head return is funny to me because it comes across like Joel has forgotten to do his homework and is hoping the teacher won’t notice.
    The movie is so bad though that I can’t go past 3 stars for this one…


  14. Matthew Shine says:

    This is my least favorite episode.
    I really like the Fu Manchu movies but this is just sad. It’s kinda like the Pink Panther movies Blake Edwards did after Peter Sellers died. The titular castle is actually stock footage from previous films, as is 90% of shots of Fu Manchu.
    The problem with the movie is that by 1969, no one even cared about Fu Manchu. His heyday was in the 30’s and 40’s.
    I’ll say it right now: Boris Karloff was the best Fu Manchu.
    Anyway, this movie may have been the worst possible choice for MST3K. You’re telling me that they couldn’t get the rights to The Catwomen On The Moon or Killers From Space? Not even Joel and the bots could save this one. I even found SOME riffs in Hamlet funny, but this…eh. I don’t think that this kind of movie is right for MST3K. And yet, I love the episodes with the REALLY AWFUL movies. Monster A Go Go, Creeping Terror, MANOS, the Coleman Francis movies, Hobgoblins, Starfighters and Incredibly Strange Creatures are in my top 25 episodes and yet Fu Manchu falls flat for me. Ironic, isn’t it?

    But in order to get my RAM chip, here’s a good thing about the episode:
    As I’m a big fan of The Abbott and Costello show, the Joe Besser impression got a kick out of me.


  15. Fred Burroughs says:

    I suspect that by this time they were under pressure from the ‘Network’ to include some backstory during the host segments, since they stay very close to the original premise, what with all the breakdowns from the bad movie and the Mads celebrating their own evil in evil ways. “You fly, I’ll buy!” I do enjoy the courage they show in the face of terrible cinema, trying to make it through their sketches but never making it without tears. Almost like ‘Manos’ when even the Mads were privately sorrowful.

    Fu Manchu IS a tough movie. I saw it the first time (just a few months ago) and the next day, couldn’t remember a thing. It explains a LOT that this was 5th in a series, like we’re supposed to know who any of these people are. (Nayland Smith? why is he such a Top Agent? Why does Fu hate him?) I don’t think its boring; lots of action, yet still uncompelling because we don’t know what is happening, or care.

    With Sampo, I (as an artist) am curious about Joel’s visual aids in the ‘How Fu got his name’ sketch. The art is slapped together, yet quite good. I’d love to have a few oversize prints hanging over my sofa in the family room, excellent use of color. Most of the graphics for the sketches are primitive at best, and therefore funny; but every so often they are very good too.

    ALSO with Crow’s open letter complaining about Caucasian/Asian actors: I remember in George Takei’s book (someone gave me as a joke, but I read it all) –He resented having to work with Alec Guiness playing an Asian when he’s so obviously not. The worst example has to be John Wayne as Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror. Ugh! Although that is the actor’s craft, for the purist thespian; on the live stage, it’s OK, in a feature movie, not. That said, Christopher Lee’s makeup is actually pretty good; he doesn’t look Chinese, but he doesn’t look like Lee.


  16. ServoTron3000 says:

    I first saw it on first run back in the day and hated, hated, HATED it! Pulled out the old VHS last month. It wasn’t as bad, but this was the low point in my book.


  17. Stressfactor says:

    You know, Crow’s reference to “Miss Saigon Syndrome” also might be counted as a ‘then current reference’ since he’s referring to the controversy of having Jonathan Pryce, a British, caucasian actor play the role of the Engineer, a half-French half-Vietnamese character, in the London production of “Miss Saigon” in 1989.

    Obviously the phrase went on to embrace the practice widespread but it started there.


  18. pablum says:

    When you compare Castle of Fu Manchu to some earlier movies like Ring of Terror or Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy you come to realize that this movie isn’t all that bad.

    Its my opinion that Joel and the Bots oversold the awfulness of Fu Manchu and therefore the audience is influenced by this and considers it one of the worst movies ever shown on MST3K. Its not a good film, but its nothing to weep over.

    Perhaps in an in-universe way Fu Manchu was awful in comparison to the relatively easy viewing material the SOL crew saw in season 3, but that’s it.

    On a related note Servo’s little rant at the end of Being From Another Planet shows that Tom really doesn’t remember how truly dull some of their earlier experiments were.


  19. Smirkboy says:

    Top 10 pick. . .



  20. Tom Carberry says:

    The Castle of Fu Manchu is regarded as one of the worst movies the BBI team ever tackled. Released in 1969 in West Germany, it didn’t make it to the English (UK and USA) speaking world until 1972. Was the wait worth it? Not one of Christopher Lee’s better efforts, but Maria Perschy is certainly easy on the eyes. I must admit I have a certain fondness for this episode, and have said so over the years. Frank and Dr. Forrester provide a sage warning about this one in their opening.

    (Dr. F.) “ Well, wiennie buns, I think we’ve outdone ourselves this time. Not only have we found a movie that’ll make your toes curl, but your shoes and socks as well.

    (Frank) “Yeah, I thought the composting toilet had backed up, as it turns out it’s this week’s experiment.

    (Dr. F.) “This film makes ‘The Unearthly’ look like Citizen Kane.”

    Favorite riffs:

    “…and to transform safety into the deadliest peril.” Kind of like a Corvair.
    We use children to grind our hops.
    They must use Ninja Dolphin Temps.
    [The opening segment of the cruise ship sinking] Well, that made no sense.
    Castle of Fu Manchu where you eat square hamburgers with chopsticks.
    Hello, we are your new neighbors, may we borrow some pesto?
    “Bring them to my father”. And bring me to an orthodontist.
    Just a typical morning for Burt Young.
    “I need Herocles to complete my plans. I need him alive, conscious, coherent.” I wish this movie were conscious and coherent [Tom Servo sobs].
    [Close up shot of a clock] Yes we know how long this has been on, don’t shove it in our face.
    [During heart operation] Look at this shot, they…they should never have let [William] Shatner direct.
    Jelly donut got away from you, heh?
    Hey, just drop the ball and take a stroke…they’ll never find it in that rough.

    A final thought: This is an episode I would never give someone who is unfamiliar with MST3K.


  21. Absorbine Senior says:

    “Stories! Fun! Toys!” is a line of lyrics from “The Funny Company”, animated kid’s show from the early 60’s.
    Marx toys, creator of Rock’em Sock’em Robots was also big into action playsets; Cape Canaveral, Ben Hur, Hiroshima….(OK I’m making that one up) Always advertised with the “..By Marx!” kicker.
    “Moon Base….By Marx!”

    God, I AM old! :cry:


  22. Sampo says:

    Absorbine Senior #21 THANKS!!! I remember “The Funny Company.”

    For those of you younger folks, this is what passed for kids entertainment in the 60s.

    And a little Googling shows that “Warriors of the World” was an apparently extensive line of toy soldiers from all historical eras — by MARX! I don’t recall owning them or seeing adds for them but I guess Joel did.


  23. stef says:

    This movie is bad, sure, but I honestly thought the first time I watched it that it wasn’t bad enough to break Joel and the bots. “King Dinosaur” or “Firemaidens of Outer Space” were definitly worse.

    The host segments are great. I love how Crow tries to bring attention to the awful white people acting asian conspiracy. Joel’s speech at the end of the episode is one of the few times Joel is cool to me.

    Harry Alan TOWERS!!!!!!!!!


  24. Spalanzani says:

    The Fu Manchu movies are based on stories by Sax Rohmer, who’s also the guy who wrote the Sumuru stories, hence the similarities between the two characters. That’s also why Harry Alan Towers produced both the Sumuru movies (including The Million Eyes of Sumuru) and the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu movies.

    As for the episode…eh, I just couldn’t get into it. Usually I like the super-awful movie episodes, like Red Zone Cuba or The Creeping Terror, but this one just didn’t do it for me. I think the movie has a blandness that the other super-awful ones lack, perhaps because it’s the last in a series and everyone’s just coasting. On that note, is this the first episode where they make a big deal about the movie being especially bad?


  25. Cheapskate Crow says:

    I agree with some of the others here that this episode was bad but not as bad as I remembered. I think I’ll still wait another 20 years before watching it though. The movie is dull as dishwater, very little happens and what does is incomprehensible, never mind the poor filming. I was definitely reminded of Su-Muru during this movie, but I remember liking that episode better even though it was KTMA.

    Fave riffs:

    Doing the Witness finale re-enactment for the second episode in a row. I liked Witness but thought the end was a little over the top, I am guessing BBI must have felt similarly because I think they do Witness re-enactments in other episodes as well.

    Monty Python ref: “That’s a rather personal question isn’t it?” when someone is asked how long something is.

    “Pac-Man’s got his own flag!”


  26. Blast Hardcheese says:

    I was thinking at first that Fu Manchu was the first of the really, really awful (as in Coleman Francis awful) movies they tackled, but then I remembered they did Robot Monster in Season One. (Notice, too, that Tom doesn’t mention Robot Monster in his Being From Another Planet rant–maybe he deliberately is not mentioning the real stinkers?) But Fu Manchu is definitely up there with the worst. What puts it in that category for me is the fact that the footage from Night to Remember is in black and white, while the rest of the film is in colour. Did they think no one would notice this? That being said: I, too, find it curious that they emphasise the show’s premise this time–I think if they had done this too often, it would have been very irritating very fast. But it’s funny on occasion–I just watched Hobgoblins again recently, and am always tickled by Mike’s having to stop both bots from leaving the theatre. Nice bit of business which, again, they’re smart enough not to overplay.

    @ Fred Burroughs: John Wayne as Genghis Khan is pretty bad, but I think even worse is Alec Guinness as Professor Godbole in David Lean’s otherwise magnificent “Passage to India.” What makes it bad is that he is trying to look and act Indian around a number of real–and very fine–Indian actors (of whom there is no shortage–why not use a real Hindu for Godbole? This was two years after “Gandhi,” for heaven’s sake!), and he comes across as a goofy comic stereotype (even Peter Sellers did a better Indian in “The Party,” where he was trying to be goofy). Plus, “Passage to India” isn’t a stinkbomb like “The Conqueror,” so Guinness’ grating performance stands out all the more. At least Lee isn’t pretending to represent anything authentically Chinese here, so it doesn’t really matter to me much that he comes across as ridiculous.


  27. Thomas K. Dye says:

    As #2 (and perhaps others), the sinking ship footage is from “A Night to Remember.” The funny part is the same footage was used for a Monty Python skit in season three about a sinking ship — which Crow makes a reference to! (“Women, children, red Indians, spacemen, and sort of idealized versions of complete Renaissance men first!” is the correct quote.)

    This isn’t the first and last bad movie Christopher Lee would be involved with. Considering how many films he’s been I’ll bet his list of turkeys numbers in the thirties. “The Howling II” anyone?


  28. monoceros4 says:

    Ah, this episode. I knew everyone would go on about how horrible it was but I think this episode is easily far more entertaining than some. In a show that gave us episodes like Sidehackers and The Mole People there’s no call to give this one such a poor rating.

    Weirdly the director of Castle of Fu Manchu, Jess Franco, might just be one of the best-regarded directors ever to be featured on MST3K. Look him up and you’ll find lots of praise for some of his horror movies. I’ve got no idea if the praise is deserved or not; certainly there’s scarcely any evidence of talent in this stinker.

    Of course the movie is wretched, but incoherent? Actually the plot is pretty straightforward, partly because there’s very little to it. The most confusing thing is…just why does everything start blowing up at the end? Presumably it was something that Nayland-Smith did, but all we see him doing is try to use the radio. (Tom Servo’s rage is very fine here: “Things are blowing up that weren’t even in this picture!!”) The borrowed dam-busting footage is incongruous but why it happens when it does in the movie is plain enough.

    I don’t think Franco could possibly have put less effort into this movie. It isn’t just that he stole stock footage from two movies; it’s that the stolen scenes could be excised completely without really losing anything. They’re pure padding. And boy, Franco really loves his zoom lens, doesn’t he? Half the movie consists of sitting around, everyone talks really slowly, the music is a joke, and everything’s confined to rooms and caverns so we don’t even get the pleasure of location shooting in exotic locales. (Well, there’s a little.) Christopher Lee’s wasted since mostly he just stands or sits somewhere looking smug (“he’s not really evil, he’s just dull! He’s like some twisted bureaucrat in silk ‘jamas.”) But the riffing fills the time well, which isn’t always the case with these dull, padded movies. I particularly like the riffing during the interminable surgery scene (“first we split the top and pour in real butter!”)

    Another complaint I’ve seen is that all of Servo’s and Crow’s crying and whimpering gets old after a while. I can see the point in that although I happen to think it’s funny and actually paced fairly well, with stretches of blubbering spaced out with passages of straightforward riffing. Servo’s always funny when he melts down (“There’s something wrong with me! There’s something wrong with me!”) but Crow takes the prize when he breaks down during his “Bad Actors, Bad Decisions” editorial, starts ranting about Joey Bishop and Regis Philbin, and ends with the despairing cry that “it hurts too muuuuuch.” The weakest of the host segments is Joel’s little picture essay on Fu Manchu’s Hollywood career–wasn’t this the last one of these he ever did on the show?

    I love Joel’s defiant monologue at the end. It almost defines his character and why the Mads will never beat him down.


  29. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Sometimes it’s better to come in in the middle of a franchise, though. Did you know that in the first film of HIS franchise, Deathstalker (of Season Seven’s “Deathstalker III: The Warriors from Hell”) was a rapist? I have no idea if the Brains knew that or not, nor if it would have made any difference if they had.

    In case anyone was wondering, Deathstalker made it to IV, but that was it.


  30. Dan in WI says:

    briizilla #13> The old I completely forgot to do my homework and am trying to cover up ploy. I hadn’t thought of that but now that you mention it I can see it. I guess since the big head just never resonated with me I’m not going like this gag no matter what. But at least that is an explanation.

    Others in this thread have pointed out that this movie isn’t necessary terribly evil in so much as just plain boring. I’m coming around to that way of thinking. I’ll point out that the numerous scenes of poor lighting only add to this feeling. Pablum points out in #18 that the host segments oversell the bad of this movie for the sake of the premise of the host segments themselves. He’s right and the Brains do a very good job of this to make these host segments plausible.


  31. Mr. B(ob) says:

    I’m with Sampo on this one, I think the movie is quite entertaining and this is a terrific episode. This one makes me laugh a lot and I’ve never understood why so many fans don’t like it. But then, I don’t care much for Final Sacrifice (it puts me to sleep) and that one is quite popular. I’ll take Fu Manchu over Rowsdower any day.

    Long live Castle Of Fu Manchu!


  32. big61al says:

    Golly gee this movie is just plain bad. I did one complete run through about five years ago and half way through about two years ago. All I remember is the bots totally lost it and the print was so dark you could not see what was happening. Mr. Lee is a fine actor but this film is beyond his talent. The is in my opion the perfect example of movie pain. :poop:


  33. Cubby says:

    I haven’t watched this in a long while, I should give it another gander and see if it has grown on me.

    I remember seeing this one early in the run (perhaps the first time?), and while mostly it was just a draggy movie, I was struck by Joel’s psychic lawn dart, “Meanwhile in downtown Ames, Iowa!”

    “… by Marx!” Not that we’re having a survey and all, but I had three Marx playsets as a child (Fort Apache, Comanche Pass, and Navarone. Those Indians never stood a chance against The Guns).

    “My daughter, as a toddler, fell in love with that song and sang it constantly for about two long weeks.” I feel so very, very, very old now, Sampo. :-)

    Several years ago, I got the un-MSTed version of Castle through Netflix (I was working my way through the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu movies – the first two are better). It didn’t improve, but it had a long interview-filled documentary as a special feature. I can’t recall if Christopher Lee was closer to Franco or Towers, but I do recall that he played a lot of golf during this shoot.


  34. Miss Mary says:

    Didja know…the female lead in this film is called “Ingrid” in the movie, “Anna” in the movie’s press material, and “Maria” in the end credits?


  35. Lee Harvey Osmond says:

    Why do people let the quality of the movie get to them? Don’t you guys pay any attention to the riffing, which I coulda swore was, like, the whole point of the show? Is it really because I have a higher tolerance for horrible movies? Because I’m laughing all the way through this one.

    Yes this is a very dull film, and one that’s very, very ugly looking at that. But my GOD, Joel and the Bots are churning out some top notch riffs! How do you miss out on that? Is it just not that funny to the detractors (which episodes DO you like?!)? Are you all taking the host segments (also very funny by the way) at face value? What’s wrong with you people? Get over it already! This is as funny as any of the supposed great episodes. It’s funnier than Pod People (which is about ten times uglier and depressing as hell) and Cave Dwellers (a fun episode, but not a riot), that’s for sure.

    “Even the riffing didn’t save it” durr hurr hurr, shut up.

    5 stars.


  36. Spalanzani says:

    @Lee Harvey Osmond

    I didn’t think the riffing was particularly good in this one. Different strokes for different folks. It’s nice if you like the episode, but perhaps you could express your opinions without telling those with differing views to “shut up”?


  37. Raptorial Talon says:

    “Yes this is a very dull film, and one that’s very, very ugly looking at that. But my GOD, Joel and the Bots are churning out some top notch riffs! How do you miss out on that?”

    Um, the fact that humor is subjective and not everyone has identical reactions to specific joke formats/reference/etc?

    This episode was a hard slog for me. I know better than to not focus on the riffing -I always tell new viewers not to get caught up in the movie if they can help it – but the riffing here was not notably good for my purposes. In combination with a half-senseless bore of a movie, that makes for a weak viewing experience.

    “Is it just not that funny to the detractors (which episodes DO you like?!)?”

    Correct. It is just not that funny. Different people have different tastes. Which begs the question: Which *jokes* do you find funny in this episode? I’m sure virtually any of us here could elaborate on why we find a particular joke funny or not funny.

    For example, I’m a lot younger than most fans and I have a rather eclectic mix of cultural background, so my reaction to any given reference/style/episode will often be wildly different than that of folks like Sampo (whom, as I’ve read the episode critiques, I have had both many agreements and many disagreements).

    One of my favorite parts of watching MST3k with new people is seeing what they react to. Everybody laughs at different things, and two people can end up loving the same episode for completely different jokes.


  38. Fred Burroughs says:

    @Lee harvey O: I didn’t hate Fu Manchu so much, but some movies are funny on their own, like Cave Dwellers. The goofiness and ineptitude lend their own charm to the film before the riffs even start. Fu Manchu has very little charm to recommend it, just the riffs (which are great). OK, maybe COFM has some good wardrobe with all the silks caftans and fezzes and such.


  39. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    This is easily the WORST episode of MST3k since #206 RING OF TERROR. Not only is the movie a true stinker, but the riffing is sub-par at best and the Host Segments, while containing some good moments, can’t save this turkey from a 2/5 rating.

    Worst. Season 3. Episode.

    The movie is mind-numbingly bad, I have no idea what happened in it. Oh, and this is the third time I’ve watched it. I love Christopher Lee, he’s great, but in this movie. . . jeez, all I can recall is his bad mustache. Director Jess Franco is held in high regard by some, although I think your dial has to be tuned to his particular frequency to appreciate his artistic idiosyncrasies. The only other movie of his I’ve ever seen was years ago, OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, which was dull, dull, dull.

    How bad is THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU? Well, all three times I’ve seen it, I’ve found myself SERIOUSLY zoning out during the thing. In fact, in between Host Segments #1 and #2, I somehow got on the computer and found myself on facebook, wasting time. Some point during that, I heard the Callback “time for go to bed” come from the TV and I was all, “oh yeah, I’m watching this..”

    By the way, Host Segment #1 is pretty good, Trace’s performance and puppetry of Crow are top notch.


    Frank: “Hey who’s that guy with the big head?”
    Dr. F: “Cork it, Larry.” – – – – – -Another S3 reference to Dr. Erhardt.

    movie: “it’s very kind of you to come.”
    Joel: “Well, I didn’t mean to, the new seat cover. . .”
    Servo: “JOEL!”

    Servo hums a tune,
    Joel: “Catalina Caper, right?”

    Crow: “Oh, wow, I’m so high.”

    During Host Segment #2, I get a kick out of Joel’s fake legs.

    Servo: “The first color movie that needs colorized.”

    There is a commercial during my copy (from DAP Central) for the “new” episode, BLOODLUST, airing Sat. at 7pm.

    After Joel challenges the Mads to watch the movie and they fail miserably at riffing, Frank comments “we could have made funny comments but the movie wasn’t very good,” to which Joel and the Bots say something to the effect of “GOTHCA!”
    —An hour and a half of my time is a long way to go for that joke.

    The Castle of Fu ManBLEW!




  40. Spector says:

    I don’t find this one too bad, there’s certainly some funny moments and riffs as has been noted in the comments. Unfortunately, there’s lots of sections where it really drags, and you get the sense the Brains really struggled with this one. I give it 3 out of five.


  41. Alex says:

    I’ve watched this only a few times. I’ve actually had thoughts about trying to watch this movie on its own…. that is, if there’s even a real “plot”.

    As for the episode, well the host segments kinda drifted it down with it mostly just being sobs. The riffing is decent though. This episode and Last of the Wild Horses ceartainly proove how bad the Mads are with making fun of those movies, eh? ;)


  42. The Right Oily Drifter says:

    “The Castle of Fu Manchu” is an unpleasant viewing experience.
    There. Now that that given is out of the way, I actually like this episode a lot. There are a lot of memorable riffs in this one, and J&tB get a lot of mileage out of the film’s terrible quality.
    For some reason, I always love the “Meanwhile, in…” riffs. We get a ton here.
    The line from the invention exchange about the unit seeing information as a “series of 1s and 0s” is one of my favorite to use in conversation. Especially to answer rhetorical “How does…” questions.

    You can never have too much opium.


  43. Cornjob says:

    “Weirdly the director of Castle of Fu Manchu, Jess Franco, might just be one of the best-regarded directors ever to be featured on MST3K. … you’ll find lots of praise for some of his horror movies. I’ve got no idea if the praise is deserved or not…”

    It’s not. IMHO Jess Franco is one of the worst directors ever. All his films, despite featuring zombies and other monsters, are boring to the point of violating the Geneva Convention. He even made a movie called Vampyros Lesbos that was too boring to watch. I don’t know how anyone could make a movie this dull with not just lesbians and vampires in it, but lesbian vampires!

    Part of what is so awful is that Jess isn’t really an incompetent director (like Coleman Francis), he just never fails to use his talents to make films that aren’t even “good” bad, just less interesting than the nutrition information on a cracker box.


  44. Cornjob says:

    That said, the episode goes down hard, but the host segments are fantastic, and given what they are working with the riffers do an admirable job


  45. JCC says:

    I mainly watch MST3k for the theater segments, this one I’ll only watch for the host segments. The movie is just brutal for me, can’t watch it. Love Forrester and Frank trying to riff on the movie at the end though. That is classic.


  46. erasmus hall says:

    Who can tell what makes an episode good?
    Monster-A Go-Go remains one of my all time
    faves-this one I can’t even bother reviewing to see
    if it is as awful as I remember-


  47. Mac aka: afriendlychicken says:

    This is one of those pay no attention to the movie episodes. If you’ve suffered pain watching it, then YOU, my friend, have paid to much attention. ;-)

    As I mentioned last week, the worse the movie, the more I like the episode, and since this is one bad mamma jamma of a movie; the last time I watched it a was going through sinusitis and what a surreal experience I had with it; it’s an episode I like.

    In other words, I agree with Sampo.

    No pain, no gain. :-))


  48. I love this episode! Yes, the movie is one of the worst slogs they ever had to get through.
    The host segments, though, are some of the best ever. And Frank and Clay’s “riffing” at the end is one of the crowning moments of the series. My old videotape copy cut off some of that segment, and it’s been even better to see the whole thing in recent years.

    I don’t think the badness of the movie was oversold at all. Other people are comparing it to movies with terrible production values. It’s a little superior in that sense, but as a movie, it falls apart every time you look at it.

    This episode is pretty much everything MST3K stands for.


  49. Mr. M. says:

    Nice to see some love for this unfairly maligned episode. Not the greatest ever, but certainly not as bad as it’s often made out to be.


  50. pondoscp says:

    The only episode of Season 3 I give a 3 star rating to (all other Season 3 episodes received a 4 star or higher rating from me). It’s because I can’t stay focused on the movie; it always puts me to sleep. I was trying hard to stay awake and pay attention this time. I’m hoping a pristine copy of this episode from Shout! one day will remedy this a bit; the upgrade certainly made “Gamera” more enjoyable for me. And my copy of 323 is pretty horrible quality.

    About the episode: (best moments/highlights):
    -We’re right back into the “Witness” sketch, not even 10 minutes in! This was the first time I watched 322-324 in a row, so the “Witness” sketch popped right out at me. I’ve done the series in order before, but never these three episodes consecutively.
    -“Catalina Caper” callback, Tom hums the song
    -Bots are already losing it at the first Host Segment; me too.

    -“Wouldn’t it be great if we knew who they were, where they are, or what they were doing? Pretty much.” This line sums up the whole episode. It’s funny, Sampo’s Theorem is running all over the map for this episode. The episodes others refer to as being worse than this are all favorites of mine (“Ring Of Terror,” “Sidehackers,” “Cave Dwellers,” “Pod People,” “The Mole People,” “Deathstalker,” “Final Sacrifice,” etc.). But this movie, for me at least, it’s life essence draining. It’s the total cure for insomnia for me. For me, the riffs just slide off this movie like teflon, as I slide off to sleep. And I wouldn’t use this as an intro episode for fear of turning the newbie off MST3K forever. But that’s the beauty of Sampo’s Theorem; the right people will get it. There is no right or wrong, just MST3K. Who knows, depending on the Newb, they might like it even more than you! Even one man’s trash MST is better than most tv nowadays.

    -I had Jello today! (that made me happy, to hear that goofy line again)
    -This movie sucks, Joel! (weeping)
    -The Mads trying to riff is the best part of this episode, wonderfully funny. It really sums up the difficulty of riffing an ugly, dull movie like this. One of my biggest peeves, other than the shots of total darkness, is that the movie appears to have never been color timed. Even “Manos” has a better palate than “Fu-Manchu.”

    After this slog, viewing “Master Ninja 2” immediately after was like a breath of fresh air. It’s funny how “SCCTM” and “Fu,” two of my all-time least favorites, are right next to my two all-time favorites, “MN1” and “MN2.” By the way, I finally posted my review of “Master Ninja 1”; check it out, won’t you? Next week, I’ll have reviews of the other 9 episodes of “The Master” to compliment my review of “Master Ninja 2.” A friend of mine thinks I have a masochistic streak for sitting through all those “The Master” episodes. I think they’re hilarious.


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