The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980)

PG | 100 mins | Comedy | 8 August 1980

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HISTORY

       A 20 Oct 1975 DV news item announced that producer Zev Braun was in talks with Donald Sutherland and Peter Boyle to star in the film known by its working title, Fu Manchu, with a script by Robert Kaufman. Seven months later, the 14 May 1976 DV stated that Michael Caine had been cast as “Nayland Smith,” Fu Manchu’s arch rival. However, neither Sutherland, Boyle, nor Caine remained with the project.
       It was announced in a 9 May 1979 Var article that John Avildsen would direct the picture with a start date of 15 Jul 1979. Avildsen, in turn, replaced Richard Quine after creative differences erupted between Quine and Peter Sellers over the final version of The Prisoner of Zenda (1979, see entry). A 6 Jul 1979 DV article reported that Quine and Avildsen had dropped out of the production and had been replaced by Piers Haggard with principal photography to start 24 Sep 1979 on the $10 million-budgeted film. The 12 May 1979 LAT article stated that at least six directors, including Roman Polanski, were considered replacements before Haggard was chosen.
       According to the 6 Jul 1979 DV, a majority of the thirteen-week schedule was to be filmed at Boulangne Studios in Paris, France, with the production later traveling to London, England, for exteriors, and various skiing locations to double as the Himalayan mountain range. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that city streets from London’s East End were dressed to resemble 1930s-era England, while a 14 Nov 1979 Var news item stated ... More Less

       A 20 Oct 1975 DV news item announced that producer Zev Braun was in talks with Donald Sutherland and Peter Boyle to star in the film known by its working title, Fu Manchu, with a script by Robert Kaufman. Seven months later, the 14 May 1976 DV stated that Michael Caine had been cast as “Nayland Smith,” Fu Manchu’s arch rival. However, neither Sutherland, Boyle, nor Caine remained with the project.
       It was announced in a 9 May 1979 Var article that John Avildsen would direct the picture with a start date of 15 Jul 1979. Avildsen, in turn, replaced Richard Quine after creative differences erupted between Quine and Peter Sellers over the final version of The Prisoner of Zenda (1979, see entry). A 6 Jul 1979 DV article reported that Quine and Avildsen had dropped out of the production and had been replaced by Piers Haggard with principal photography to start 24 Sep 1979 on the $10 million-budgeted film. The 12 May 1979 LAT article stated that at least six directors, including Roman Polanski, were considered replacements before Haggard was chosen.
       According to the 6 Jul 1979 DV, a majority of the thirteen-week schedule was to be filmed at Boulangne Studios in Paris, France, with the production later traveling to London, England, for exteriors, and various skiing locations to double as the Himalayan mountain range. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that city streets from London’s East End were dressed to resemble 1930s-era England, while a 14 Nov 1979 Var news item stated that the production wrapped a week of filming at Saint Gervais les Bains in the Alps and was set to return to Boulangne Studios.
       According to production notes, Sellers’ Asian makeup was achieved by gluing twelve molded sponge appliances in place, and spraying a compound that hardened to form rubbery facial creases and crow’s feet in daily sessions that lasted a minimum of two hours.
       Filming delays were reported in a 12 Dec 1979 Var news item, when Sellers checked into a Swiss hospital after suffering a heart attack twenty days before the film’s completion. While Sellers recuperated, the production moved to London for ten days to film scenes in which the actor was not needed. It was believed that Sellers would resume filming in Jan 1980 but filmmakers were prepared to use doubles if necessary.
       A 21 Feb 1980 HR brief announced that principal photography would be completed in Paris 22 Feb 1980.
       A 26 Jul 1980 LAHExam news item stated two days after the death of Sellers at age 54 that Orion Pictures would release the film as scheduled in Aug 1980.
       The 20 Aug 1981 DV reported that Zev Braun Pictures, Inc. filed a lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court against Orion Pictures for alleged nonpayment of fees owed. According to co-producers Braun and Leland Nolan, distributor Orion was supposed to pay the team $100,000 upon receipt of the picture. The outcome of the lawsuit is not known.

      The following acknowledgments appear in the end credits: “The producers wish to thank The Musée Christofle Paris and Cartier Paris for their assistance” and “Filmed at Studio De Boulogne, France, and on location in Paris, London, and the French Alps.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
14 May 1976.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jul 1979.
---
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1980
p. 3.
LAHExam
26 Jul 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Aug 1980
p. 1.
New York Times
8 Aug 1980
p. 3.
Variety
9 May 1979.
---
Variety
14 Nov 1979.
---
Variety
12 Dec 1979.
---
Variety
13 Aug 1980
p. 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Warner Communications Company Presents
An Orion Pictures Release
A Zev Braun Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Unit mgr
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
Asst unit mgr
Unit mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
In Association with Playboy Productions Inc.
WRITERS
Scr story and scr
Scr story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Video tech
2d unit cam
Still photog
Key grip
Gaffer
Processing by
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Paintings
Sculptures
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Mr. Sellers' cost
Ward mistress
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Electronic eff
Titles
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Asst makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Casting, London
Casting, Paris
Asst to the prods
Accountant
Prod secy
Unit pub
Loc mgr
Post prod exec in London
STAND INS
Mr. Sellers' double
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Prints by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer.
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Rock A Fu," music by Marc Wilkinson, lyrics by Marc Wilkinson, Piers Haggard and Leland Noland, orchestrations by John Coleman.
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Fu Manchu
Release Date:
8 August 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 8 August 1980
Production Date:
began 24 September 1979 at Boulange Studios in Paris, France
ended 22 February 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Company
Copyright Date:
26 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PA81092
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Paraflex Camera by Panavision®; Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1933, in a castle located high in the Himalayas, master criminal, Dr. Fu Manchu, celebrates his birthday by demanding a vial of “elixir vitae,” a fountain-of-youth potion responsible for his 168 years of life. When a follower presents the elixir, his clothing catches fire from the candles on the birthday cake, so he douses the flames with the elixir. Fu Manchu orders the follower tortured and killed, then announces to his other bandit followers, the Dacoits, that they must carry out several international robberies to gather the precious ingredients for more elixir. In America, a Dacoit is sent to a Washington, D.C., museum, where he observes the Star of Leningrad diamond, and learns that Czar Nicolai presented an identical canary diamond to his cousin, King George V, that is on display in London. At night, the Dacoit steals the jewel. In London, FBI agent Giuseppe “Joe” Capone and his assistant, Pete Williams, visit Commissioner Roger Avery and his nephew and assistant, detective inspector Robert Townsend, at Scotland Yard to discuss the case. When Commissioner Avery is shown a clue, he immediately recognizes it as belonging to the Si-Fan, the dangerous, secret Asian crime organization headed by Fu Manchu. The FBI agents ask to speak to Inspector Nayland Smith, an authority on the Si-Fan, but learn that he is retired. When Scotland Yard police and special agents journey to Smith’s home to coax him out of retirement, the retired Inspector examines the evidence and corroborates that the robbery is the work of the Si-Fan. Although Joe Capone believes that Fu Manchu died in 1890, Smith claims that the criminal is alive and well. Just before Smith's retirement, Fu ... +


In 1933, in a castle located high in the Himalayas, master criminal, Dr. Fu Manchu, celebrates his birthday by demanding a vial of “elixir vitae,” a fountain-of-youth potion responsible for his 168 years of life. When a follower presents the elixir, his clothing catches fire from the candles on the birthday cake, so he douses the flames with the elixir. Fu Manchu orders the follower tortured and killed, then announces to his other bandit followers, the Dacoits, that they must carry out several international robberies to gather the precious ingredients for more elixir. In America, a Dacoit is sent to a Washington, D.C., museum, where he observes the Star of Leningrad diamond, and learns that Czar Nicolai presented an identical canary diamond to his cousin, King George V, that is on display in London. At night, the Dacoit steals the jewel. In London, FBI agent Giuseppe “Joe” Capone and his assistant, Pete Williams, visit Commissioner Roger Avery and his nephew and assistant, detective inspector Robert Townsend, at Scotland Yard to discuss the case. When Commissioner Avery is shown a clue, he immediately recognizes it as belonging to the Si-Fan, the dangerous, secret Asian crime organization headed by Fu Manchu. The FBI agents ask to speak to Inspector Nayland Smith, an authority on the Si-Fan, but learn that he is retired. When Scotland Yard police and special agents journey to Smith’s home to coax him out of retirement, the retired Inspector examines the evidence and corroborates that the robbery is the work of the Si-Fan. Although Joe Capone believes that Fu Manchu died in 1890, Smith claims that the criminal is alive and well. Just before Smith's retirement, Fu Manchu was responsible for three unrelated diamond robberies. Smith explains that all three jewels represented key ingredients of the elixir vitae that Fu Manchu needs to maintain eternal youth. Later, Smith agrees to work on the case when he deduces that Fu Manchu is assembling a fresh batch of elixir, and will strike next to obtain the George V canary diamond displayed in the Tower of London. There, museum director Sir Nules Thudd assures Commissioner Avery that the jewel is safe behind bars, guarded by a sophisticated alarm system with several guards standing duty. Meanwhile, as Fu Manchu’s strength diminishes, he receives electric jolts that temporarily restore his vitality. At lunch, Smith shares his theory that Fu Manchu will kidnap the royal couple and demand the jewel as ransom instead of stealing the diamond outright. He proposes that Scotland Yard plant decoys to outsmart Fu Manchu. The agents hold auditions to recruit the royal doubles from within their ranks to foil the predicted kidnapping, and Constable Alice Rage is chosen to assume the role of Queen Mary. When Alice, impersonating the Queen, makes a speech at the Botanical Society, she and surrounding officials fall unconscious after breathing the vapors of a deadly plant strategically left by Dacoits. However, the kidnapping plot fails when the kidnappers are unable to move the “Queen” because Smith has handcuffed her to a railing. Soon, King George informs Commissioner Avery that the royal couple plans to attend the theater, so the police alter their strategy. With binoculars, Smith sees several Dacoits waiting to strike, but warns the FBI to wait. When the royal couple appears at their box seats, five sets of identically dressed imposters join them as the national anthem plays. As a result of the confusion, the royal couple is saved and the Dacoits are arrested. Later, Fu Manchu disguises himself as Charles Rotten, an antique dealer that the Queen is scheduled to visit. When Rotten shows Alice some new tapestries, the undercover agent is kidnapped. She is transferred to a secret location in back of a Chinese restaurant, where she informs Fu Manchu and the Dacoits of her real identity. Before she places them under arrest, Fu Manchu serves Alice a glass of rare and addictive wine. Soon, villain and policewoman are singing a music hall duet when a restaurant worker informs Fu Manchu that Nules Thudd is dining at the establishment. Fu Manchu instructs the Dacoits to have Nules tortured by Dr. Arnold Wretch, an obesity specialist. Meanwhile, Alice agrees to play the saxophone as Fu Manchu offers her a lifetime of luxury if she becomes his consort. For treatment, Wretch orders Nules to walk on stilts in a park, where Fu Manchu tempts him with a Chinese banquet. Alice, pretending to be an aristocrat hosting the party, introduces Nules to Fu Manchu disguised as chef Fu. Fu suggests that Nules can enjoy the banquet in return for Fu being allowed to look at the King George V diamond. After Fu Manchu has stolen the diamond and the Crown Jewels of England, he informs Nayland Smith by phone that he has gathered all the elixir ingredients and mayhem will follow. In pursuit of Fu Manchu, Smith and the other agents travel to the retired Inspector’s home, which transforms into a hot air balloon that transports them to Nepal. Meanwhile, Alice has joined Fu Manchu at his castle, where he discovers his freshly made elixir is defective. When the Dacoits surround and shoot at Smith’s cottage after it lands, Smith demands to see Fu Manchu. At the castle, Smith confesses that the police planted a fake jewel and agrees to surrender the real George V diamond if Fu Manchu will return the Crown Jewels. When the other police officers arrive at the castle, Smith admits that he saved their lives by giving the real diamond to Fu Manchu. Drinking the improved elixir vitae shaves years off of Fu Manchu’s life. Alice distributes the missing Crown Jewels to the British officers and the FBI agents receive the Star of Leningrad diamond. For Smith, Fu Manchu has prepared a small bottle of elixir vitae but warns him not drink it until he returns to England. Fu Manchu also suggests that ingesting the elixir will expose Smith to forces he will not be able to resist. When Smith asks for a clue to prepare him for what might happen, the lights dim and Fu Manchu transforms into an Asian Elvis and launches into a rock and roll song “Rock A Fu” with the Dacoits singing backup.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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