The world thought it had seen the last of diabolical villain of the East Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee), but they were wrong, he is back in business with another scheme to take over the planet. Currently he has kidnapped around twenty young women, daughters and wives of prominent industrialists and scientists, with whom he plans to implement blackmail to ensure his latest plans come to fruition. To demonstrate how serious he is, he takes one daughter, Michel (Carole Gray) and has her kill a fellow prisoner under hypnosis in front of her boffin father Jules Merlin (Rupert Davies), thus strongarming him into carrying out orders...
This is obviously a job for Nayland Smith, but while Fu Manchu remained unchanged from the first of Harry Alan Towers' adaptations of Sax Rohmer's classic potboilers, Smith had had a head transplant and now Nigel Green had bowed out to be replaced with Douglas Wilmer. Wilmer was a decent enough actor, but he wasn't really up to Green's standard, and his hero came across as if he was less in control, seeming as though he would grab random Chinese gentlemen in the street and demand they give up information rather than use his keen deductive powers.
This time around Fu Manchu had a sonic weapon up his sleeve, well, not literally, he had made a small, pocket sized version but now he really wanted a great, big one to wipe out buildings and kill lots of innocent people. If he gets his way, he will be able to hold whole cities to ransom on threat of their destruction and he's such a persuasive chap that he might just pull this one off. Naturally it is London which is bearing the brunt of this terror, for that is where Smith lives and the British forces are the only ones who can truly stop him, or so we're meant to believe.
With a title like The Brides of Fu Manchu one might expect a sexual frisson, but no such element is introduced. The bad guy has nothing to do with his prisoners, preferring to leave them to be hypnotised by his daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin), who has survived the end of the previous film as well, but otherwise they don't get much to do in spite of being the title characters. There's a feeling of the old serials about this instalment, complete with over the top antagonist and cliffhanging thrills, yet because of that the overwhelming sense of cosiness about the suspense doesn't do much for potential levels of excitement.
Lee provides compensation, giving it one hundred percent even if he is dressed up as a racial stereotype though thankfully not resorting to putting on any Benny Hill-style accents, but he's not in the film enough, meaning that he may be top-billed but the lion's share of screen time goes to some seriously stuffy Brits, along with a supporting cast of Germans as this was a co-production between the United Kingdom and the erstwhile West Germany. The business with the sonic weapon is amusing and does nudge this into science fiction territory, while the horrors are fairly standard, with a spot of light torture for anyone crossing Fu Manchu. Towers ploughed ahead with sequels for the rest of the decade, as we are treated to the famed line, "The world shall hear from me again!" at the end, and we did. Just nothing too recently. Music by Bruce Montgomery.