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MST3K 323 - The Castle of Fu Manchu

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323 - The Castle of Fu Manchu
Air Date January 18, 1992
MST3K Director Jim Mallon
AKA Sax Rohmer's The Castle of Fu Manchu (UK)(USA);
Assignment Istanbul;
Fu Manchu's Castle;
The Torture Chamber of Fu Manchu
Movie Director Jesus Franco
Year 1969
Cast Christopher Lee, Richard Greene
Preceded by 322 - Master Ninja I
Followed by 324 - Master Ninja II

“Look at this shot. They should never have let Shatner direct!”

The Movie



Christopher Lee in Castle of Fu Man Chu

England, 1969. Faux-Asian fiend Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) is at it again. He demands "obedience to his orders". What are they? We never find out exactly, but you can bet it's the standard "Bow down before me, Son of Jor-el" package.

"Kool Fu Mo Gee"'s got a device/weapon/thingy that, far away, in tropical waters creates an iceberg and makes an ocean liner run into it. You see, Fu has captured one "Professor Heracles" inventor of a super weapon - crystals made from opium that can, depending on plot requirements, render people unconscious and/or turn the entire ocean into ice. Yes.

Fu broadcasts his demands to the world. Scotland Yard intercepts the message and puts agent Nayland Smith (the very bland and doughy Richard Greene) on the case. Smith opines that Fu must be stopped or "mankind will be obliterated". Really?

To get opium, Fu prepares to capture the governor's mansion in Istanbul, where there is a huge supply. He joins forces with drug kingpin Omar Pashu after sending daughter Lin to arrange the deal. Their men storm the castle and behead the governor. Fu then double crosses Pashu by machine-gunning his men and taking his Russian "girlfriend-who-fights-like-man" "Lisa" hostage.


Meanwhile, Professor Heracles lies abed afflicted with what appears to be congestive heart failure, sweating under a polychromatic light show caused by bad film processing. He's dying, but hasn't surrendered the formula for the crystals, so he must be kept alive a while longer. Fu decides to get Heracles a new heart, so he procures a donor and kidnaps Heracle's doctors Kestler and Ingrid to do the transplant. 

Fu commands Kestler do the transplant or Ingrid will die. To show he means business, he causes a dam located in another movie right next door to his castle to collapse, and he makes Kestler watch. Kestler submits.

Luckily the mansion either came with what is supposed to be a fully supplied operating room, or Fu had it built in the half hour he has occupied the castle. The operation begins.


This heart transplant is performed by just two people - Dr. Kestler, with Dr. Ingrid assisting. The operating field is illuminated by a single ordinary overhead lamp purchased at Wal-mart. They use only liquid ether as anesthetic. There is no intubation to support respiration, no administration of intravenous fluids, no heart-lung bypass machine, no electronic blood pressure or other monitor and no device to start the new organ. They open the chest with a screwdriver and a small hammer and use hemostats to hold the chest cavity open. Heracles' diseased heart is the size of a large prune. Remarkably, the doctors do not get one drop of blood on their scrubs during the operation. In every other aspect the procedure is chillingly realistic. Operation over, the doctors are then confined to a dungeon.

Omar Pashu goes to Fu's castle to rescue Lisa where Lin dispatches him with a knitting needle (she clearly enjoys her work), but not before Fu reveals his grandiose escape plan, complete with the "Entrance to Eternity" - a tunnel with a mechanism for releasing Fu's water-freezing weapon. You must be this tall to enter the Entrance to Eternity.


Agent Smith swims up to the castle and races up the stairs and down to the dungeon. Breaking into the control room, he signals London to send a warning to the Bosporus (which Fu has threatened to freeze), whereupon Fu releases the crystals and torrents of water into the escape tunnel. The water does not freeze solid, for some reason. Exhibit under repair.

Kestler blows open his cell door with "explosive acid" he found in the operating room (along with a piece of string and a picture of Eve Arden). Smith storms the dungeon, liberating Lisa, and together the two of them seize Heracles and drag him out the front door. Although his chest was cracked open and a new heart sewn into place just a few hours ago, he does not wince as he is being manhandled, nor does he tear open all of his stitches and bleed out on the spot.

Doctors Kestler and Ingrid race out the escape passage. Lisa runs back inside the tunnel to rescue the now-dead Pashu and is drowned in one foot of water as ivory-soap-bar-like crystals float sadly about.


Somehow Fu's weapon "system" is "reversed" (I suspect polarity may have been involved), blowing up the castle with multiple, sequential, widely separated but picturesque small explosions. Fu's face dimly registers "dull surprise" as the castle crumbles around him. He leaves us with a voice-over warning that he'll be back.

He was wrong. This was the last Fu Manchu / Christopher Lee film.

Widely considered one of the more "difficult" movies taken on by the Brains.


  • The last feature of Howard Marion-Crawford
  • The dam bursting scene is footage taken from the Dirk Bogarde film Campbell's Kingdom (1957). Bogarde is in the green checked shirt and Stanley Baker in the red shirt, both are recognizable in this footage.
  • The fifth and final Christopher Lee Fu Manchu film.
  • A sixth film was contracted but due to this movie's dismal box office performance and even worse critical reaction, it was swiftly canceled.
  • All of the footage at the beginning of the movie featuring a large ocean liner striking an iceberg and sinking is all stock footage from the famed 1958, British Titanic film, A Night to Remember (1958).
  • Although credits state that locations were "filmed in Istanbul and surroundings", most of them correspond to Barcelona (Spain).
  • Richard Greene's second appearance as Fu Manchu's nemesis, Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard.
  • Christopher Lee (Dr. Fu Manchu), Tsai Chin (Lin Tang) and Howard Marion-Crawford(Dr. Petrie) are the only actors to appear in all five "Fu Manchu" films.

The Episode

Host Segments


The SOL crew sings the Satellite of Love Marching Song

Prologue: The Satellite of Love crew sings the Satellite of Love Marching Song, a jaunty, cheerful, happy tune about their situation. All is well.

Segment One (Invention Exchange): The crew celebrates their successful performance, the Bots create a new Long-Distance Telephone Transducer when Joel forgets the invention and re-presents the Big Head. The Mads create a Stinky Bomb that turns anyone into Joe Besser and present another stinky bomb...the movie.

Segment Two: Crow tries to present his sardonic editorial on the "Miss Saigon Syndrome", but the pain of the movie makes it very difficult. Crow cannot take the pain any longer and then he and Tom Servo both break down crying. The Mads are delighted with the data.


TV's Frank as Joe Besser

Segment Three: The crew tries to do the "Shriner Flying Carpet" sketch, only for Servo to have another emotional breakdown; he bursts into tears. The Mads order out for a victory dinner.

Segment Four: Joel tries to cheer up the extremely depressed Bots by explaining who Fu Manchu really is via artist renderings, only for Joel to succumb to the horror of the film and have his own emotional breakdown and he and the Bots then burst into tears. The Mads celebrate with pie.

Segment Five: The spirit of the SOL crew is utterly broken. In an attempt to read a fan letter, the pain is so appalling that Joel and the Bots have yet another emotional breakdown. In a show of power, the Mads toast to their triumph. Joel then challenges them to riff the film themselves, and the Mads fail miserably. The SOL crew wins again!


Crow reads his editorial

Stinger: A castle guard falls to ninja-like guys.



Obscure References

  • "Kinda like a Corvair, huh?"

The Chevrolet Corvair massively declined in popularity after Ralph Nader singled it out for criticism in his book Unsafe at Any Speed.

  • "Oh, he's Kool Fu Moe Gee!"

A reference to old-school rapper Kool Moe Dee.

  • "Castle of Fu Manchu, where you eat square hamburgers with chopsticks!"

The fast food chain White Castle specializes in small, square hamburgers.

  • "Titles by Peter Max!"

Peter Max was a commercially successful pop artist during the 1960s.

  • "I'm here for the 'Old Gringo' audition!"

Old Gringo was a 1989 film about the Mexican Revolution, featuring Gregory Peck in one of his last roles.

  • "It kinda looks like a 'NOVA' special on conception, doesn't it?"

NOVA is a science documentary series broadcast on PBS.

  • "Istanbul was Constantinople..."

Quoted from the novelty song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", which was re-popularized by They Might Be Giants.

  • "Oh Mrs. Peel, we're needed!"

John Steed's catchphrase from the 1960s British TV series The Avengers.

  • "Bob Hope IS The Mechanic!"

The Mechanic was a 1972 thriller film starring Charles Bronson as a hit man.

  • "Anatolia!" "East of Java!"

A play on the movie Krakatoa, East of Java.

  • "Would you like one of our Watchtowers?"

A reference to The Watchtower, a magazine published by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

  • "Miss Jane Pittman!"

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a novel in which a 110-year-old African-American woman recounts the events of her life, and was made into an acclaimed made-for-TV movie in 1974.

  • "David Bowie! From 'The Hunger'!"

The Hunger was a 1983 horror film in which Bowie played a vampire.

  • "What is this? Kirlian photography?"

Kirlian photography is a photographic technique that some people believe constitutes proof of the existence of auras.

  • "You must kill Kurtz. Terminate with extreme prejudice."

The order given to Martin Sheen's character in Apocalypse Now.

  • "Frank Booth".

The name of Dennis Hopper's character in the movie Blue Velvet.

  • "They're snipe hunting!"

A snipe hunt is a type of practical joke that often involves sending the person on the receiving end to "find" a nonexistent animal or object.

  • "Like the ninja version of 'Days of Heaven'!"

Days of Heaven was a 1978 film directed by Terrence Malick.

  • "Yes, dear! I'm doing it, dear!"

An impression of John Cleese's character from Fawlty Towers.

  • "Don't smoke."

A reference to an anti-smoking PSA that actor Yul Brynner filmed shortly before his death from lung cancer and had aired posthumously, in which he said "I'm dead now. Don't smoke."

  • "This is the trickle-down theory of plots!"

A reference to trickle-down economics, a controversial theory that formed the basis of President Ronald Reagan's fiscal policies.

  • "Fu Manchu will be back in 'Sweet Sweet...', oh, who the hell cares?"

A reference to the "James Bond will return in..." taglines that frequently appear during the closing credits of James Bond movies, and to the blaxploitation film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

  • "It's Audrey Hepburn in Charade."

Charade was a 1963 movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

  • "Women, children, spacemen, Indians, and sort of idealized representations of 16th century Flemish merchants first."

A reference to a Monty Python skit, where the crew of a sinking ship don whatever costumes they can find in an attempt to sneak onto the lifeboats, forcing the captain to constantly revise the list of what is allowed on board.

Video Release



Commercially released on DVD by Shout Factory in March 2012 as part of The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume 23, a 4-DVD set with King DinosaurCode Name: Diamond Head, and Last of the Wild Horses.

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