Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Five Golden Dragons (1967, Jeremy Summers)

Yet another espionage-sploitation co-production from notorious shady producer Harry Alan Towers (once again writing the screenplay, and probably also writing and singing the 'feem toon', under his nom de plume of Peter Welbeck).  This time round we are in the 1967, wherein Ol' Uncle Harry has somehow schmoozed a co-production deal with Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers which has already yielded such celluloid treasures as The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) - the only one of Towers' tepid Manchu pentalogy to actually film in China -and the Lindsay Shonteff - helmed The Million Eyes of Su-Muru (1967), and so he ropes in Vengeance director Jeremy Summers (who would go on later the same year to direct the Vincent Price - starring House of 1,000 Dolls for Towers) to direct a spy 'epic' (cough) on location in Hong Kong that would inevitably feature Maria Rohm (of the aforesaid Fu Manchu, Su-Muru and Price opuses this same year, as well as sequels to the first two The Blood of Fu Manchu [1968] and The Girl from Rio [1969], and many other Harry Alan Towers productions.  Oh, did i mention that Maria was Harry's wife?  Funny, that) and Klaus Kinski (slumming it in many of Towers' films at the time, including Su-Muru and Circus of Fear [1966]), and would inevitably be touted on its Teutonic release as a krimi based on the works of Edgar Wallace (an assertion that must have had Wallace rotating at high speed in his grave).

My, that was a long sentence.

                                   (Edgar Wallace Presents... Yeah, Harry.  'Course he does.)

What we actually have here is a North by Northwest knockoff plot of an innocent abroad (Robert Cummings, former star of Hitchcock's Saboteur [1942] and Dial M for Murder [1954] but playing his role here like he was still co-starring with Abbott and Costello in One Night in the Tropics [1940].  Perhaps he'd read the script and decided it couldn't possibly be played seriously) drawn in to a web of mayhem and intrigue.  American playboy Bob Mitchell (Cummings) is written a mysterious letter by a murdered man saying simply 'Five Golden Dragons', baffling Bob but arousing the curiosity of the local police including Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies, also of the Fu Manchu parish having starred in Towers' The Brides of Fu Manchu in 1966, and essaying a role presumably named in order to provide a spurious connection with the works of Wallace) and Inspector Chiao (Roy Chiao, of Enter the Dragon [1973] and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom [1984]), who share an amusing bantering relationship of one-upping each other with Shakespeare quotations.

Bob soon finds both himself and a pair of Eurobabe sisters he has been chatting up by the hotel pool (the inevitable Maria Rohm as Ingrid, and Maria Perschy - later star of Towers' The Castle of Fu Manchu [1969], Jacinto Molina's The Hunchback of the Morgue [1973] and Amando de Ossorio's The Ghost Galleon, aka Horror of the Zombies [1974] - as Margret) being pursued by the dastardly Gert (Kinski).  There follows some competently directed action sequences from Summers, including a chase across the junks in Hong Kong harbour, and a scene wherein the waterskiing Ingrid is kidnapped by speedboat piloting henchmen.

 All of this is preamble and prologue of course, to our inept hero finally encountering the Dragons of the title ('Special Guest Stars' Dan Duryea, Christopher Lee, George Raft and Brian Donlevy, sharing precisely two scenes in the entire movie - presumably having both shot in a day by the notoriously budget conscious Towers - sitting around a meeting table wearing preposterous papier mache masks over their famous visages for most of their screen time).  Bob finds his way into this Dragons' Den, but these entrepreneurs of evil wish only to invest in death, being the heads of an international crime cartel.  Bumbling Bob finds himself roped in to posing as the fifth Dragon by shady nightclub owner Peterson (Sieghardt Rupp) and his chanteuse moll Magda (Margaret Lee, of Towers / Jess Franco productions Venus in Furs [1969) and The Bloody Judge [1970]) to entrap the four crime bosses, with Ingrid's life held hostage by the rude Gert (i was trying to make a 'Gert / rude' joke, and there we have it) to ensure his co-operation.

Enjoyable hokum, featuring nice location travelogue footage of colonial period Hong Kong, decent action and characterisation and a leavening of humour, as well as some musical numbers (Margaret Lee sings 'Time Of Our Lives' and 'Five Golden Dragons' to the music of Malcolm Lockyer - he of the jazzy score of Dr Who and the Daleks [1965] - and Japanese singer / actress Yukari Ito performs a song, in the nightclub that cannot decide whether it's called The Blue World or The Happy World depending upon the scene) before Commissioner Sanders arrives for the Poirot-esque 'summing up' scene and Bob and Ingrid go off together.

And, in any case, how many other films can you name in which Klaus Kinski leads a gang of ninjas trying to assassinate an ageing American doing a hopeless Bob Hope impersonation?  Or in which Dracula, Professor Quatermass, Waco Johnny Dean and Johnny Allegro control world crime wearing stupid Halloween masks?  Yeah, none.  Exactly.

It's probably for the best, too.


  1. I cannot name any films like your final summation, so it obviously did something right. Looks interesting, I've seen a lot of Hong Kong hokum in my viewing life, but it's always been Golden Harvest type stuff etc. It's always looked like a fascinating city.

  2. I love the word 'hokum' - it pretty perfectly encapsulates this film. And yes, one of the good things about even odd potboiler movies like this (if there are 'movies like this' besides this one) is the glimpses we get of the locations. Although i don't know if the Hong Kong tourist board was ever very happy about the picture painted of their fair city: 'Beautiful place, with murderers and ninjas lurking in every shadow'.

  3. That's the longest sentence I've ever read in a review.

    London doesn't seem too fazed by Jack the Ripper tourism.

  4. I was almost euphorically proud of the long sentence. I only noticed it afterwards. I tried reading it out loud without stopping for breath and nearly had an asthma attack and blacked out halfway through.:)

  5. Please enjoy sentences RESPONSIBLY. As you've pointed out elsewhere, asphyxiation is a big bag of no fun at all, unless it's auto-erotic. (And even then it's a wee bit daft.)