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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

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. J Bagels says:

    I always thought Joel doing the Big Head again being like a kid forgetting his homework and just grabbing whatever was around was pretty obvious but maybe because at the time I was a kid who “forgot” his homework fairly frequently. One comment about how poorly this episode is received, I think this is one of those cases where Joel and the bots reactions kinda dictate how people feel about it. It’s an awful movie but the over the top reactions of J&theBs cause some people to remember the movie as worse than it is. If our heroes can’t handle it, how the hell can we? I personally find flicks like The Unearthly or Attack of the the Eye Creatures harder to sit through. That’s just me though.

    That being said this isn’t really one of my faves but I don’t hate it either. One thing you notice in these late season 3 episodes is how drastically the look of the show had evolved from the beginning of the season from the look of the bots and Deep 13 to the shadowrama. Maybe the biggest jump in look of the show from start to end of season besides Season 1 and (obviously) 5 when they change hosts. I’ve said enough, just my thoughts, folks.


  2. Edge says:

    Fezzes are cool but this movie sucks on toes.


  3. Ralph C. says:

    This is an episode that I grew to like more and more. I find that on my many, many viewings of some episodes I am able to either get a reference I didn’t understand before or appreciate a particular line reading or performance by one or more of the cast members. I have a great time with the host segments, especially Crow’s “Miss Saigon Syndrome” essay and Joel’s artist renderings of how Fu-Manchu got his name, including the moaning and groaning by the ‘bots during that presentation. I can’t forget Dr. F & Frank’s attempt at riffing and how funny that was.

    In my opinion, the movie’s awfully dull and I can see why Joel and the ‘Bots were grousing about it. Watching Bob Ross painting was more exciting than this film (“Oh my– where’s he going to paint that tree??? Is that a paint brush he’s using for the leaves???”).


  4. Alex says:

    This movie is sooooo bad. It’s bad in a way that I never saw on any other episode of this show. I fel Joels and the bot’s pain. Doesn’t that pre-credit sequence and credit sequence go on for half an hour?!!!
    This movie is soooo bad! I know I said that already. But man, Manos was more fun than this. How did they get through it? How?

    Seeing Frank and Dr. Forester trying to riff at the end was funny, though. “That’s a car.””I’m walking down the street.”

    Oh man, that end credit sequence from Being from Another Planet was right. Fu Manchu is the worst. It’s sooo bad. I was watching some big budget hollywood film and through out the tedious film they kept going back to the shot of Sydney, Australia’s harbor and it reminded me of The Castle of Fu Manchu. That’s it’ Fu Manchu is a real guy and he made this movie to punish the human race for some reason.

    …and Christopher Lee was in this! It’s a good thing he had a late career explosion with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ll never watch this episode again. I love this show and I want that known. Those Best Brain guys are the bravest people around for doing this movie.

    Good thing it’s sandwiched between Master Ninja 1 and 2.I think I’ll watch those episodes.


  5. JLH says:

    Big Head was in the crowd shot of clutter in “The Unearthly”, actually. So this was #4. It was the one item I would’ve bid on had it been up for auction when the show ended.


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

    Was this episode perhaps made as a response to people asking why Joel and the Bots were always so chipper about movies that were supposedly selected for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of driving them insane? I’m glad they never took it that far again.

    #43: Jess Franco (the European Ed Wood?) + Cinematic Titanic (or, failing that, Rifftrax), an idea whose time has come…


  7. JBagels says:

    oh yeah, and somebody else mentioned the “Gotcha” at the end. I guess that meant all the crying and stuff the whole episode was an act? The Mads can’t win.


  8. lancecorbain says:

    As they say in the episode, “Wouldn’t it be great if we knew who these people were, and what they were doing?” That pretty much sums up my experience watching this one. Frank and Dr. F getting tricked into watching the movie at the end was such a treat back in the day, sort of a precursor to Last Of The Wild Horses. Also, for those of us actually following along with the plot of the show, I remember my buddy Kevin and I being actually concerned that this was the movie that would finally break Joel, but of course, he and the robots breaking down was all a big put-on. Maybe because of the show’s plot, the episodes that really seem to hurt Joel or Mike and the ‘bots are the ones I find the funniest, mainly because they don’t hold back on telling the movie how bad it sucks.

    “You know what would be a miracle?”
    “THE END, really big?”
    -from Lost Continent, I know, different episode, but the sort of thing I’m talking about.
    In my opinion, this is easily the worst movie they ever watched. Horrible color, ridiculous plot, etc. I felt their pain all the way through, as it didn’t even have the “train wreck” charm that Manos or Monster-A-Go-Go had. Just BORING. Painfully dull. It’s still the only fatal sin a movie can have for me, to be boring. :cigarette:


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

    #57: I think that was just directed at Frank admitting that he and Dr. F couldn’t handle the movie either, in contrast to Dr. F’s smug assurance that they could. IMHO Joel’s impassioned “you haven’t won” speech, in which he speaks more harshly to Dr. F than in any other episode, seemed pretty sincere.


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

    (oops, stopped too soon)

    So it was only Frank’s admission of defeat (after about a MINUTE or so) that enabled Joel and the Bots to snap back so quickly.


  11. Seneca says:

    Christopher Lee is a fine actor on occasion, but in this film he can’t even use his best instrument — his voice! All in all, this is a decent experiment, but not one that I watch very often. The episodes where everybody plays up the “badness” of the movie always seem to go a little over the top in that regard — which makes this a little distasteful to me, along with HOBGOBLINS.


  12. EricJ says:

    How many remember that Joe Besser/Stinky jokes in S3 were poking at the then newly-rededicated “Comedy Central” reduced to showing Abbott & Costello reruns from the 50’s for programming?
    Seems almost nostalgic now, to think of CC consisting of weird PD reruns of Supercar and Lance Link, rather than…whatever they’re showing now, I stopped watching after Carlos Mencia got a series.

    And @61, Hobgoblins and Eye Creatures were fun, but this is one of those “ultimate” bad movies in the Red Zone Cuba and Mighty Jack camp that even Sampo’s Theorem can’t save.
    The whole “revenge” segment at the end with the Mads trying to riff was clearly putting out a pre-emptive message to any fans writing in: “Well, YOU try it!”
    (Even in the more diligent and less lazy Joel era, we still got some veiled messages that it was impossible to expect the riffing to be wall-to-wall: “Oh, hey, look, we could say something about these Commando Cody credits!”)


  13. senorpogo says:

    Completely off topic: I just read a review for the new movie “Anonymous” which is all about Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford AKA “Action” Oxford, Tom’s invention exchange in the Monster A-Go-Go action-figure contest. He writes. He’s got a great fencing arm and he embodies that enigmatic sadness that was prevalent among late renaissance intellectuals and courtesans.


  14. GregS says:

    I couldn’t agree more: painful movie, one of our favorite episodes!

    My wife and I are huge Christopher Lee fans, and you can’t help but wonder if he sits there and says “what was I thinking….”

    Yeah, Jess franco is a world-class director – NOT!

    We love the riffing on the opening credits alone, not to mention the rest of the episode.

    Just keep repeating: “Harry Alan Towers, Harry Alan Towers, Harry Alan Towwwerssssss…”


  15. JJK says:

    My wife and I are huge Christopher Lee fans, and you can’t help but wonder if he sits there and says “what was I thinking….”

    He was thinking nice paycheck for very little work. Think of the later Hammer Dracula movies he did. Very little screen time but top billing and a good check because his name could carry a film.


  16. Seneca says:

    Franco has a “cult” reputation among the sort of people (us, I guess) who write reviews of videos on their own personal web sites. But honestly I’ve never seen a good movie made by him. And the bad ones aren’t the kind of bad movies I enjoy watching (which are usually funny or campy or whatever).


  17. mst3m1 says:

    Haven’t seen this one in quite a while but one thing near the end ripped me up. There was an action sequence and the camera zoomed in on a statue of a gargoyle, lion, or some animal with it’s mouth wide open and one of them says, “Yawn!”. It was perfect, quick and extremely funny to me.


  18. Sam Scratch says:

    “Even in the more diligent and less lazy Joel era” – EricJ

    You never quit, do you?


  19. Shark says:

    Sampo: The whole “fronzen ocean/ship sinking/Fu getaway” beginning of this movie was spliced in directly from The Brides of Fu Manchu.


  20. JeremyR says:

    What I find amusing is that the author of the Fu Manchu books, Sax Rohmer, died from the Asian Flu. One of the more ironic deaths in history.


  21. Slartibartfast, maker of Fjords says:

    What do you expect from us. We’re evil! EEEVVIIIILLLLL!!!!

    I have seen more Jess Franco movies than I wish to admit (collections), and feel that he was one of the worst directors ever. He made one good film and that, I think went to his head. Never again did he rise to the same level.

    That said, I do not mind Castle of Fu Manchu, or at least those times I actually stay awake for the whole movie.


  22. Sitting Duck says:

    Out of curiosity, what is that one good film?


  23. Miron says:

    Just a minor nitpick (because this is for the ages, after all): it’s spelled “Doogie Howser”.


  24. Cornjob says:

    I’ve been waiting a while to get my Jess Franco rant off my chest, and it seems that opinion is pretty unanimous that he is unforgivably boring. And what was the good one? Justine maybe? I admit that one sucked a little less than his others.


  25. Bombastic Biscuit Boy says:

    …nothing but blood, fog, and Christopher Lee’s Face….


  26. Cornjob says:

    Is it just me or does Fu Manchu sound like the name of a Chinese cannibal?


  27. Conception Fragozo says:

    Check out full videos for totally free


  28. goalieboy82 says:

    RIP Christopher Lee.
    my friend got to meet him. did a movie with Lee in it.


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

    For no particular reason, The Speech:

    “You haven’t won, Dr. Forrester, you’ve lost, and I feel sorry for you. You’re nothing but a sad little man in a hole in the ground who can only feel power by hurting others. Well, *we* won, because we *survived*, and we survived because, well, we’re Robinsons, roughly. And that’s what Robinsons do is survive, basically, and well, if you think it’s so easy, well, *you* should try and watch a movie sometime!”

    As noted earlier, that’s probably the harshest thing Joel has ever said to Dr. F. I also think that’s the only time that Joel has counted the Bots as not just his family but as members of the family that he left back on Earth. Sort of.


  30. A.J. (A Jerk) says:

    “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.”

    He’s just scratching his nose, dude. Pull your head out of the toilet.


  31. snowdog says:

    …and again, I flip-flop on my opinion of this episode. Good thing I’m not running for president! The movie is just TOO bad to watch. I agree with Frank’s intro on the DVD that it doesn’t really make good MST3K material because there’s just nothing to latch onto. I did enjoy Kevin’s performance again in the magic carpet sketch.

    This is one of these episodes where the Brains seem to enjoy playing with gay stereotypes. Usually, it’s the Mads, but this time, you have Tom giving back rubs, Joel whipping off his towel and talking about taking a sauna, and Gypsy playing Bette Midler.


  32. Into The Void says:

    “It’s the Castle of Fu-Manchu, he’s the clown in the robe, stands about 6 foot 2″”


  33. Sitting Duck says:

    The Castle of Fu Manchu passes the Bechdel Test. Lin Tang and the fez-wearing cross dresser exchange code phrases when they first meet.

    The actor they have for Dr. Petrie has a bad case of Nigel Bruce Disease (that is portraying the sidekick as an incompetent buffoon). Another point of interest is that the Dr. Petrie of the books was much younger.

    Of course, Alec Guinness’ most famous non-Caucasian character was Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia?

    My main issue with this movie is much like the one I had with Time Chasers. By that I mean the antagonist’s motive makes no sense. In the Sax Rohmer novels, Fu Manchu is essentially an Asiatic Moriarty. In this film (at least from what I can gather from the muddled narrative), he’s attempting world destruction for its own sake. Much like for profit corporations (as I noted in the Time Chasers discussion), a crime lord is going to be mostly concerned with the bottom line. Now it’s possible he’s using the scheme as a ransom threat, but it didn’t come across clearly.

    @ #71: Assuming you’re still around, which Jesse Franco movie is the one you consider his one good one?

    Favorite riffs

    We use children to grind our hops.

    Oh Ricky, I hit an iceberg.

    “What brings you here?”
    My bicycle.

    Meanwhile, in downtown Ames, Iowa.

    “She fights like a man.”
    But she breaks just like a little girl.

    “Where are you going?”
    To Scarborough Fair

    Here, I have everything you’ll need. I threw in the hairy naked man just for kicks.

    “But that man is not dead or dying.”
    He’s only mostly dead!

    This scene is so gross, even the lighting guy left.

    “In four days time, I will bring desolation to mankind.”
    But first a message for Tru Value Hardware stores.

    I’ll take those boots, Mr. Bond.

    “Let her go. She cannot escape.”
    Not in those slacks.

    “A gentleman never takes his clothes off in public.”
    Well you’re no gentleman, and we’re in private.


  34. Bruce Boxliker says:

    There’s something you could really make comments on.


  35. Frederick J. Barnett says:

    A little tidbit of trivia: The ship sinking scene from “A Night To Remember” is not technically from that movie. During World War II, Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels ordered the production of a Titanic movie for use as anti-British propaganda. Despite the director being arrested before it was finished (for making anti-Nazi and anti-military comments. He was turned in by the screenwriter), and committing suicide, it was eventually completed and released to theaters in occupied countries (though not Germany itself. Germans wouldn’t see it until after the war). When the Brits made “A Night To Remember” to save money they just reused the ship sinking footage (uncredited) from this film. The History Channel had a two hour documentary about this “Nazi Titanic.”


  36. ahaerhar says:

    and Crow’s got his hand on his arm when he’s dressed as Bela because it itches


  37. goalieboy82 says:

    i have seen the German version of Titanic (Kino put out the dvd of it). it not that bad. knowing it was a propaganda film i look past the anti-British story line. its like any Nazi WWII film, there is a lot of anit-British/Allied parts in the film. basically the story has a German navy officer in it (never was one on the Titanic) and he wants the Captain/ships owners to slow down. the Captain/owners of the Titanic (in the end) doesn’t listen and the ship sinks. in the last part of the film German navy officer blames the owner of the White Star line and the British for quest for money for the sinking of the Titanic.


  38. Juice says:

    “What is this, Kirlian photography??”
    “Yeah, Moe, Larry and Kirlian photography!”

    One of my fave eps.


  39. Prime Minister Jm J. Bullock (pondoscp) says:

    @50 after four years, and an awesome upgrade of this episode from Shout!, Fu has grown on me. Still not a favorite, but I’ve come to accept the deep hurting involved in this one and just enjoy the whole big mess that is Fu.


  40. Juice says:

    Sorry ’bout the 2nd post, but… Christopher Lee in his autobiography mentions this film, as it “introduced me to golf in Barcelona” Mr. Lee was an avid golfer. He also has some info about the actress, Tsai Chin, who played his daughter. Fun, interesting book. He is very gracious in it, with not an unkind word to say about anyone.

    Has there been another ep with such a decisive split in opinion on its goodness/badness?

    “Ain’t that a man!!”


  41. Memorable Riffs:
    Joel: “Call it quits! That pretty much screws up the shuffleboard!”

    Servo: “Woah, somebody wet their bed!”

    Joel: “Good job. You caught a tree with that little fish.”

    Crow: “Staring contest on the left!”

    Crow: “We now return to Those Magnificent Men and their Jaunty Jalopies.”

    Servo: “Oh, I can’t watch this…. I mean, I can’t *see* this!”

    (dam starts breaking)
    Joel: “I suddenly have to go to the bathroom.”

    Crow: “Jelly donut got away from you, huh?”

    Fav. Riff:
    Crow: “Any excuse to get the girl wet.”

    – Gypsy’s lips are still black.

    – In Segment 1, Crow has some tape on his hands to keep his fingers closed while he holds the paper.

    – I *really* don’t get why Joel and the ‘Bots act so traumatized by this film. More evidence of them being harsh towards a film, during the Joel-era.

    – Great line from Frank in the closing segment, while bragging about how funny he is: “My nickname was Zeppo!”

    Best Segment: A pretty good opening segment.
    Worst Segment: Another weak Invention Exchange.

    Overall: None of the host segments are very good, but there’s some strong riffing, for an otherwise dull film. ** 1/2 stars.


  42. Lisa H. says:

    Doogie Hauser

    Howser, innit?


  43. Lex says:

    Yes, I’m in agreement that this an unbearable movie, even with the MST3K treatment. I was watching a big budget movie once that had a big star, but they kept going back to a shot of the bridge and reminded of this horrible…. horrible movie and it’s never-ending credit sequence which seemed to go on for an hour. How can this be? Manos is consistently rewatchable and the Lost Continent was fun even with its padded rock climbing sequenes. how? HOW! Oh, the pain. The term ‘Deep Hurting’ never seemed more appropriate than here.


  44. Cornjob says:

    I still marvel at how all the production value and talent that went into making this movie ended up creating something less watchable than Manos, or maybe even Monster-A-Go-Go. Jess Franco may well be a worse director than Michael Bay. See Post #43 for my last rant on that topic.

    Only Project Moonbase comes close to being as unwatchable, but at least Moonbase has lot’s of vintage misogyny to keep you distracted. Fu Manchu pretty much has a guy dying slowly in a dungeon. Which is a lot like what watching the movie feels like.


  45. Sitting Duck says:

    Juice: Has there been another ep with such a decisive split in opinion on its goodness/badness?

    I have one word for you. Hamlet.


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

    As a supplement to my own post:

    Back in Cave Dwellers, Frank claimed that he and Dr. F had it worse than Joel and the Bots because “we have to watch YOU watching the movie.” If that’s what they usually do, then it must have been the pressure of trying to riff that made the pair snap this time around. Doubtlessly their mirror universe counterparts would’ve fared much better.


  47. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    Sitting Duck:

    Of course, Alec Guinness’ most famous non-Caucasian character was Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia?

    Wikipedia says that: Arabs are classified as white by the U.S. Census, and have been since before 1977.

    And from

    The U.S. Census Bureau must adhere to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity which guide the Census Bureau in classifying written responses to the race question:

    White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.


  48. Flag on the Moon says:

    Sits on top of my f*cking head and crushes it. At least the crossdressing chick is foxy.


  49. Yipe Stripes says:

    Never seen this episode. no comment.


Comments are closed.