8 January 2008 | redryan64
"Many men smoke, but Few Men Chew!" The old Doctor was still making House Calls; once a week anyway!
This series was perhaps the most unique set of 39 episodic TV ever produced. The reason is sort of a dubious one, but it counts nonetheless. D'ya give? Ya wanna know the answer? Okay, now-arya ready? Let's see the show of hands, how many of yuz had
. "Becuz it's the only show that had the bad guy as the main character? All right, good job! You can stay after and clean the erasers and blackboard! But seriously, the one thing about having the bad guy in the Star' chair is there is a certain appeal. That is, the bad guys are often time more colorful and interesting than those goodie two-shoes heroic types. In every generation that comes along, there are kids who'd rather be Killer Kane than Buck Rogers, Ming the Merciless than Flash Gordon, Dr. Fu Manchu than Sir Nayland Smith, Frank Nitti than Elliot Ness, Darth Vader than Han Solo, etc.
Beside the obvious point we've just alluded to in such a lengthy manner, there is another category that this Fu Manchu show falls into, and such an exclusive club it is. You see it is one of a handful of series done for TV by good, old Republic Pictures Corporation.
Contradictory as it may seem, Republic with its "Thrill Factory" Assembly Line operation, did not make more than a half of a dozen Television series and we can only count 5 of them. They were: COMMANDO CODY, SKY MARSHALL OF THE UNIVERSE*(1953), ADVENTURES OF FU MANCHU (1956), STORIES OF THE CENTURY (1956), RED RYDER (1958) and FRONTIER DOCTOR (1958). (If we've missed any, please in form our complaints department via the E-Mail. THANX, JTR) It is quite possible that the gang over at Republic were sitting around one afternoon, desperately trying to think of an angle to use on a new TV Detective type of a series. Suddenly somebody had a "Brain Storm" which was at once both simple, yet brilliant. It was a reference of one of Republic's many highly successful Movie Serials. It was THE DRUMS OF FU MANCHU (1940), which starred Henry Brandon, as the evil, East Asian graduate of Oxford (or was it Cambridge or DeVry Institute for that matter!). All the costuming and skull caps were there, so was there the great amount of stock footage. And there's nothing that Republic Pictures loved more than stock footage.
So it was set. All purpose character actor Glenn Gordon was drafted to be in his most visible part as the "good" evil Doctor Fu Manchu, with Lester Matthews cast as Sir Dennis Nayland Smith. The rest of the cast included Clark Howatt, Carla Belenda, John George with Laurette Luez (Woo, woo, woo, woo!) as Fu's Concubine (main squeeze, Schultz!) by the name of Karamaneh.
Though the series was rooted in some stories which were nearing the half-century mark, they did manage to add some modern touches as needed. Much like the SHERLOCK HOLMES Series of Pictures made by Universal in the 1940's, The FU MANCHU Show did not attempt to make the series into a Period Piece, opting instead, as the Universal people had, in making it set in contemporary times.
Hence, we were made a part of the contemporary scene as Fu Manchu's base of operation not only set in Shanghai or Peiping (Peking, or Bejing today) but also having visitations to the then Crown Colony of Hong Kong and the then Portuguese holding of the Colony of Macao.
The series episodes were in a sort of position of being between the rock and the hard place. At ½ hour per episode, there was not a lot of time to develop a plot and characters as would a novel or a feature film. Yet, unlike the 1940's Serial of FU MANCHU, it was not a continued story in the classic Hollywood cliff-hanger sense. So they compromised by coming up with related episodes. That is each story was related to those which went before, yet they all stood on their own as a story unto itself.
We fondly recall one episode in which Sir Dennis and his henchmen were in hot pursuit of Fu Manchu in either Macao or Hong Kong, when the most sly Doctor and exponent of "the Yellow Menace" escaped from them. As the narrator then said,
." So Dr. Fu Manchu slipped across the border and got lost in the teaming millions who make up Red China!"
And they always used the same closing. After Fu Manchu had been beaten back at least for this week, we would see the Doctor back in his lair, with the "Lady Friend", Karamaneh standing attentively by his side, with her Bikini Top and all. With the most awful expression of hate and defeat on his face, the Doctor would pick up on of the chessmen off the board, breaking it in his two hands.
And as this very dramatic, albeit overworked scene was going on, we would hear this from the Narrator: "The Devil plays for Men's Souls! So does Dr. Fu Manchu!"