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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FU-TASTIC SERIAL!!!
I have two words to all potential buyers of this DVD: BUY IT! It is fantastic! This is probably one of the best movie serials ever made! Fifteen exciting chapters of trains wrecks, chases, car crashes, fights, fights and more fights, featuring one of the best villians in all of fiction, Dr. Fu Manchu. Brillantly played by Henry Brandon, whom most sf/ fantasy fans may know...
Published on April 2, 2003 by SwellBooks

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Memorable Henry Brandon performance distinguishes the serial
Henry Brandon -- a master character actor who usually played villains -- got his only leading role in this 1940 Republic serial, "suggested by" Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories. Brandon steals the film from the supporting players and the squadron of athletic henchmen (who do not speak -- eerie!).
The serial is about par for Republic. The plot concerns an...
Published on January 28, 2004 by Scott MacGillivray


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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FU-TASTIC SERIAL!!!, April 2, 2003
By 
SwellBooks (Park Ridge, IL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Drums of Fu Manchu (DVD)
I have two words to all potential buyers of this DVD: BUY IT! It is fantastic! This is probably one of the best movie serials ever made! Fifteen exciting chapters of trains wrecks, chases, car crashes, fights, fights and more fights, featuring one of the best villians in all of fiction, Dr. Fu Manchu. Brillantly played by Henry Brandon, whom most sf/ fantasy fans may know from John Carpenter's "ASSAULT ON PRECEINT 13". He is perhaps the best Fu in movie history, even better than Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee! He is that good, I kid you not! The serial is not based on the Sax Rohmer novel of the same name, but uses some of the plot of an earlier Fu novel and the Karloff film "THE MASK OF FU MANCHU". Normally this would make me an unhappy camper, but this serial is such a joy to watch and is so exciting, that I can forgive the producers for ignoring Rohmer's great book ("DRUMS" is one of my favorite Fu novels). All of the cast is pretty good. I liked Gloria Franklin as Fu's daughter Fah Loo Suee although she mysteriously disappears from the proceedings after about 12 chapters. And fans of Universal horror films will be happy to see the familiar face of the fly-eating maniac Renfield from the Lugosi Dracula, Dwight Frye in a small role in the 5th chapter. And wait until you see Loki, the lead Dacoit, one of "Fu Manchu's men-of-murder". He's a hoot! The picture and sound on the DVD are very nice and the extra's give a nice history of both Fu Manchu and the serial. There is a nice booklet included with the "HISTORY OF FU MANCHU" by Eric Hoffman and a photo gallery on the dvd and star and director bios and filmographies. Let me close by saying: this is one great DVD. BUY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT!!! - George Bauch.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fu Do Something to Me, July 30, 2003
By 
Loring Ivanick (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Drums of Fu Manchu (DVD)
Well put-together serial, made wonderful by Brandon's believable performance as the villain. We have a host of usual types for this kind of film supporting Brandon: the dauntless young hero, the relentless older law enforcement official, the courageous sweet young thing, her sneaky female counterpart working with the villain, the requisite professors and experts and others, all lining up in a titanic struggle of good and evil to determine who rules India. The cliffhanger endings involve a variety of fiendish plots by Fu Manchu to get rid of one or another of the heroes, so that the good guys are not just saved every episode by jumping out of a car at the last moment before it goes over the edge of a cliff or blows up . The writers actually put together a scenario that goes in one direction from beginning to end. It all comes down to Brandon as Fu Manchu though. His is the only character with any depth and he creates a believable performance. I also own the VHS of this serial and the DVD has been restored to far, far superior quality. I recommend it if you are into this kind of entertainment.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sax Rohmer's villainous character comes to Republic Serials ~ Dr. Fu Manchu", September 6, 2005
This review is from: Drums of Fu Manchu (DVD)
VCI Entertainment and Republic Pictures present "Drums of Fu Manchu" (1940) (digitally remastered), 15 Chapters of fiendish cliffhangers mixed with hair breadth escapes ending each episode...the plot is a dangerous and exciting one as The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world...Dr. Fu Manchu nemesis is Dr. Dennis Nayland Smith, he and his associates fight to keep the evil Fu Manchu from getting his hands on the keys that will enable him to take over the world...will Fu Manchu secure the long lost scepter of Genghis Khan with which he hopes to gain control of various Himalayan tribes which in turn will lead him to eventual world domination...can the his long time nemesis Sir Nayland Smith and his young partner Allen Parker save the day...all this and more is waiting for you to savor.

Under director's John English and William Witney with stories suggested by Sax Rohmer...an Asian mysterious screenplay by Franklin Adreon and Morgan Cox...the cast include Henry Brandon as Dr. Fu Manchu (appeared in "The Searchers" as the villainous Indian Chief "Scar"), William Royle as Sir Dennis Nayland Smith (Scotland Yard), Robert Kellard as Allan Parker (the hero), Gloria Franklin as Fah-Lo-Suee (daughter of Fu Manchu), Olaf Hytten as Dr. Flinders Petrie, Tom Chatterton as Prof. Edward Randolph, Luana Walters as Mary Randolph, John Merton (Republic henchman & all around villain) as Loki, George Cleveland as Dr. James Parker and Dwight Frye (from the "Count Dracula" and "Frankenstein" films) as Prof. Anderson...another great serial provided by Republic Pictures during their heyday of the early '40s...contains the superior Republic stuntwork and action sequences that the studio was noted for. check out Robert Kellard the action sequences...Kellard resembled Republic's ace stuntman David Sharpe, and this my friend was no coincidence...Sharpe visibly doubled Kellard in the action scenes, many are still classics in my book.

Chapter Titles
1. Fu Manchu Strikes
2. The Monster
3. Ransom in the Sky
4. The Pendulum of Doom (from Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum")
5. The House of Terror
6. Death Dials A Number
7. Vengeance of the Si Fan
8. Danger Trail
9. The Crystal of Death
10.Drums of Doom
11.The Tomb of Genghis Khan
12.Fire of Vengeance
13.The Devil's Tattoo
14.Satan's Surgeon
15.Revolt

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Video Commentary by Scarlet Street Publisher Richard Valley
Cast Bios for
WILLIAM WITNEY
HENRY BRANDON
WILLIAM ROYLE
ROBERT KELLARD
GLORIA FRANKLIN
Photo Gallery: include great stills from "Drums of Fu Manchu"

Check out other VCI Cliffhangers of: ADVENTURES OF THE FLYING CADETS (Bobby Jordan & Jennifer Holt), ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Don "Red" Barry), BUCK ROGERS (Buster Crabbe), DICK TRACY & G Men (Ralph Byrd), JUNGLE JIM (Grant Wihers & Raymond Hatton), KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Allan "Rocky" Lane), LAST FRONTIER (Lon Chaney Jr), MIRACLE RIDER (Tom Mix), THE PHANTOM (Tom Tyler)...if you crave action, drama and plenty of adventure then this is the place for all of the above.

Great job by VCI Entertainment and a special thanks to Ray Faioloa for supervising the digital transfere with a clean, clear and crisp print, Eric Hoffmann (film collector & historian) for writing the liner notes and a very special thank you to Richard Valley (publisher of Scarlet Street Magazine) for his excellent and enlightening commentary...a spectacular train wreck, a giant realistic looking octopus and the swinging pendulum torture device borrowed from Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum"...looking forward to more of the same from the '40s vintage...order your copy now from Amazon or VCI Entertainment, stay tuned once again with a top notch serial from VCI...just the way we like 'em!

Total Time: 269 mins on 2 DVD's ~ VCI Entertainment 8296 ~ (2/25/2003)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Memorable Henry Brandon performance distinguishes the serial, January 28, 2004
By 
This review is from: Drums of Fu Manchu (DVD)
Henry Brandon -- a master character actor who usually played villains -- got his only leading role in this 1940 Republic serial, "suggested by" Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories. Brandon steals the film from the supporting players and the squadron of athletic henchmen (who do not speak -- eerie!).
The serial is about par for Republic. The plot concerns an archaeological search for the artifacts of Genghis Khan, but you won't care much. The story characters are sketchily written and competently if not brilliantly acted (although one must admire hero Robert Kellard's enthusiasm). There are the usual chases, fistfights, and narrow escapes for cliffhanger fans, and a good musical score.
As the treacherous warlord Fu Manchu, Henry Brandon's careful, eloquent performance is a masterpiece of economy. He speaks volumes with a swift extension of the forearm, a slight smirk, a raised eyebrow, a dramatic pause, a sly drawl. He even plays an effective bereavement scene. when he discovers one of his coterie has died. Brandon is far better than his material in this one.
The original negative of this serial was presumably unavailable, so the DVD producers had to make do with a copy. What survives looks like a good to excellent third-generation print in excellent physical condition. The image has more contrast and less detail than other DVDs, but it's certainly watchable and enjoyable.
All in all, a decent show made better by the leading actor.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Series - Disappointing Print., July 26, 2003
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This review is from: Drums of Fu Manchu (DVD)
I admit that if you are a fan of these delightful old series adventures, you'll thoroughly enjoy "Drums of Fu Manchu". The DVD set includes an informative 12 page booklet entitled, "The History of Fu Manchu", written by Eric Hoffman, and also, among other things, a short documentary about the cinematic history of this grand, evil character. It's clear that VCI Entertainment put a lot of effort into this "digitally remastered" video, and I find no fault with that effort.
With that said, I must admit that I was rather disappointed with the quality of the print that VCI Entertainment used, after they had put so much effort into the DVD's "extras". Although this print of "Drums" is clean and well preserved (no scratches or artifacts), it is generally dark, indistinct, and murky with only a very limited gray-scale range. It reminds me of the prints that used to be used for the late, late, late TV movies, before there was cable, that used third and fouth generation prints because they felt no one was watching anyway.
The DVD format has certainly raised the bar for what is acceptable, and not acceptable, when watching films in the comfort of our own homes. I, for one, now demand a crisp, clear, clean print that does full justice to the original. With all sorts of "restorations" now being offered that, in many cases, are better than the original release print of a film, I've become spoiled and quite critical. And a film's age has nothing to do with it. The DVD print of the Republic Serial, "Jungle Girl" (1941), is absolutely pristine! It was made from a 35mm Master Positive Print that is as clear and clean as any I've seen. The serial, "Jungle Jim" (1936), is also clean and clear, although not as sharp and crisp as "Jungle Girl". Both of these serials were issued by VCI, so I suspect that what they used for "Drums of Fu Manchu" was the best they could find. Still, it was disappointing to be expecting another "Jungle Girl", and receive such a mediocre print. By the way, the absolutely worst print of a serial that I've purchased was "The Three Musketeers" produced by the Roan Group, a company that usually does pretty good work. If these companies can't find a good print to work with, why do they even bother to reissue these movies? I, for one, would be willing to wait until the negative was found, a fine grained, master print was discovered (and I "know" they're out there), or the film was properly "restored" (emphasis on "properly").
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Serial Ever!, May 31, 2001
By 
"duckofsteel" (Grass Valley, CA United States) - See all my reviews
If you can handle political incorrectness, you'll agree this serial can't be beat. It has the unspeakable Dr. Fu, his equally loathsome daughter, Fah Lo Suee, plus legions of serpents, insects and dacoits. Fu is a god among bad guys, happy to wreck a crowded passenger train just to kill one person. Even when he commands them to die pointlessly, his minions obey. This movie shows a world in constant motion, without reason or logic. In other words, it's pure fun. And at last it's available to the general public, for the first time since its theatrical release.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much creepier than your average serial!, June 6, 2002
By 
Neal Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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Okay, I think this is one of the great serials. It is much darker than many. Many scenes have the feel of the horror and mystery movies of the times, and these scenes quite distinguish this as one of the more innovative serials.
Obviously, this is villian centered, and what an evil personage we have here! The makeup is superb, and as a personification of evil, Fu Manchu makes the emporer Ming look like a Sunday School teacher. He must have laid awake nights figuring out new and hideous ways to do away with his adversaries. Looks like the daughter is growing up in Dad's footsteps, although she hasn't graduated yet from using poisonous cigarette fumes to overcome her victims.
This is good, old fashioned fun. Anyone who quibbles, as one reviewer did, with petty details like the train engineer hearing a gunshot from several cars back shouldn't be watching serials anyway, because they have never been known for their plausibility.
If you're new to serials, this one should be fairly high up on your must see list. And if you're already a committed collector, this should definitely be in your collection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch serial from Republic's Golden Age, February 15, 2002
By 
George N. Fabian (Mountainside, USA) - See all my reviews
William Witney has stated that of all his serials Drums was his favorite because it was so different from all his other serials in mood and atmosphere. Halliwells Film Guide indicates that Drums of Fu Manchu is a spirited rendering of an ideal serial theme. This is my favorite serial, the one I would take to a desert island. Other serial aficianados may disagree with me but I would guess that it appears on their top five or ten serial lists. Among its many assets: a plot that develops logically from chapter to chapter, a superb bravura performance by Henry Brandon as the villainous criminal mastermind, and a superb musical score by Cy Feuer. VCI's print is good but not great so do not expect a pristine print ala Republic Home Video but it is very watchable. One big improvement over the prints from other previous sources; you can see what's going on in the night scenes in chapters 10 through 15.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars None Better, January 6, 2006
By 
One of the best of all time, if not the very best. It's certainly an all-time favorite of serial fans. Great cliffhangers, intelligent resolutions. Right up there with "Spy Smasher," my own personal favorite.

Fu Manchu, a creation of the great British mystery writer Sax Rohmer, became one of the all-time great villains in print and in the movies. He is played here by the young Henry Brandon ("Secret Agent X-9," 1937). Born in Germany, Brandon had become well known for his part as the bad guy Silas Barnaby (billed as Harry Kleinbach) in Laurel & Hardy's "Babes in Toyland." He made 105 movies, including four serials.

My only complaint is the weak ending, but they had an excuse. Republic obviously intended to produce a sequel, but World War Two intervened. The American government was anxious not to offend China by portraying the Chinese in a bad light, so they "convinced" Republic not to do another "yellow menace" portrayal, and there was never a sequel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars IMAGE QUALITY LESSENED THE ENJOYMENT, March 11, 2012
By 
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This review is from: Drums of Fu Manchu (DVD)
ALTHOUGHT THIS SERIAL BOUGHT THOUGH AMAZON HAD LOTS OF ACTION AND MOVED FAST, THE LOW QUALITY OF THE IMAGES DETRACTED FROM THE ENJOYMENT. USUALLY, VCI PUTS OUT GOOD QUALITY DVDs, BUT APPARENTLY,IT WAS UNABLE TO FIND A GOOD MASTER COPY.
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Drums of Fu Manchu
Drums of Fu Manchu by William Witney (DVD - 2003)
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