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View Diary: Books So Bad They're Good: The Legacy of Sax Rohmer (132 comments)

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  •  The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu (1980) (3+ / 0-)
    His most famous character lived on, with no less than Peter Sellers attempting a high camp version of Fu Manchu and Nayland Smith in his last film.
    I actually like this film a lot.  It wasn't successful when it was released, and most people think of the brilliant Being There (1979) as Peter Seller's last opus.  The Fiendish Plot was widely criticized and protested because of its over-the-top Chinese stereotypes, but I regard these as being an obvious satire of British stereotypes of the time.  However, this sort of second-level satire is lost on a lot of people.

    Peter Sellers is great as the two main characters.  Fu Manchu is based on Sellers' Sidney Wang from Murder by Death (1976): a satire of Charlie Chan and the way he was portrayed by Occidentals.  Nayland Smith is based on Sellers' Group Captain Lionel Mandrake from Dr. Strangelove (1964).  As with Strangelove, he vanishes into the roles.

    Helen Mirren is delightful.  She plays Constable Alice Rage, who goes undercover to foil Fu Manchu's evil scheme to kidnap King George V and Queen Mary.  Helen Mirren impersonates Queen Mary, her first of many portrayals of queens.  She also sings and tap dances "The Good Ship Lollypop" and sings Daddy wouldn't buy me a Bow-Wow with Fu Manchu.  This song was popularized by music-hall singer May Belfort.

    The cast also includes Sid Caesar as an over-the-top brash American intelligence agent, David Tomilson as head of British intelligence, and -- for good measure -- John Le Mesurier in another fine character role, one of his last.

    If you realize the Chinese stereotypes are over-the-top satires not to be taken seriously, it's a lot of fun.  If you find that sort of thing offensive, don't watch it or work your way up gradually with movies like Richard Lester's Help! (1965) and Blake Edwards' The Party (1968).

    Better to hide your tax returns and be thought a crook than to release them and remove all doubt. [Adapted from Abraham Lincoln]

    by Caelian on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 12:53:21 PM PDT

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