Although believed to be dead, the dastardly Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) is actually living in Brazil within a lost city of the Incas with his team of henchmen and his equally wicked daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin), and now has kidnapped a group of young women who are part of his latest scheme. He plans to infect them with the bite of a deadly snake, which will have the effect of making them living vessels of poison so that their kiss will be bad news for any man who happens to encounter it. Fu Manchu has ten men on his hitlist - and one is Nayland Smith (Richard Greene)...
He being Fu's archenemy, and undergoing yet another head transplant for this, the fourth in the sixties series of adaptations of Sax Rohmer's famous (or infamous) tales of the so-called "Yellow Peril". Not that there would be many calling the Chinese that by 1968, but these stories were a throwback to an earlier age that nevertheless emphasised the type of criminal mastermind who the James Bond franchise brought to renewed popularity. You could half imagine Sean Connery's Bond tackling Christopher Lee's Fu Manchu in his first Dr. No adventure, but in this one producer and writer Harry Alan Towers had his hands on the series.
This meant the plot was less defined by Rohmer (who had ended the books during the previous decade) and more by whatever locations Towers could secure for the entry, which in this case were Brazil and Spain, the latter of which was what brought director Jess Franco on board, as he was fast becoming no stranger to low budget exploitation in exotic settings. This was one of the first of the collaborations between Towers and Franco, both of whom went on to have remarkably long careers considering how poor their reputations were amongst those who might not even recognise their names, yet had stumbled across one of their productions on TV or video.
The credit of Richard Greene that denotes him a "Guest Star" will give you some idea of how much Smith is in this effort, which is he shows up at the start to get poisoned by a kissing assassin then the other goodies spend the rest of this trying to secure the antidote and save his life. Being blinded into the bargain means that Smith has even less to do than usual, and it's a bit of letdown for tradtionalists although oddly might not be too hard to tolerate for Spaghetti Western enthusiasts. That's because the lion's share of the plotline is distracted by a bandit leader, Sancho Lopez (Ricardo Palacios), who Fu wishes to team up with to continue his nefarious duties, whether Lopez wants to or not.
There's a few too many characters in this, as if Towers only had the services of his cast for a small number of days and was forced to write individual scenes for them to make up the running time, with every instance of them appearing together in the same shot a bonus rather than what was expected of many a higher budgeted movie. His missus Maria Rohm showed up as the niece of a doctor who was tagging along with an expedition to find Fu's city; the doctor didn't last long thanks to those henchmen but the search leader Jansen (Götz George) offers her a way of getting back at the villain. A few torture scenes added some racy spice, as does a curious bit where the bandits raid a village and rape the women only to have them fawning over their rapists in the next scene, yet there's a "Will this do?" air to this that was a long way from the first in the series - and even that was no classic - with Lee essentially hardly in it. Music by Daniel White.
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.