Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


BRING ON THE BAD GUYS! [Top to bottom: Magneto; Fu Manchu; Dr. Mabuse; Fantomas. Not pictured: Diabolik].

This week we look at the wonderful villains who make movies so much fun: the bad guys who make life miserable for our heroes and so many others, but who certainly enliven the film-going experience for all of us. Interestingly, all of these bad guys come from literary sources -- novels, pulps, and comics.

Dr. Fu Manchu
Fantomas first appeared in the novel of that title in 1911. A diabolical criminal mastermind and master of disguise, he starred in many novels, several silent films, and a few ersatz spy-type movies in the sixties. This week you can read a review of the first book, the first silent film, and the first, I believe, of the sixties big-screen adaptations.

Dr. Mabuse
Dr. Fu Manchu first appeared in Sax Rohmer's novel The Mystery of Fu Manchu (aka The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu) in 1913. This was followed by many more books in the series, the Hollywood film The Mask of Fu Manchu, a Republic movie serial, an American TV show that lasted half a season, and a British movie series starring Christopher Lee. The character's nadir, aside from the last Lee film, was the parody The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers' last movie. You can also read about The Blood of Fu Manchu, the fourth of the Fu-Lee movies.

Dr. Mabuse first appeared in the 1921 novel, Dr. Mabuse der Spieler by Norbert Jacques and became a bestseller. The silent and sound films made by German director Fritz Lang made the character even more popular. Mabuse was turned into a Dr. No-type villain in several sixties films, including The Death Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse, and in 2013 there was a terrible film about him, Doctor Mabuse, which starred several original Dark Shadows cast members.

Diabolik was an Italian comic book/graphic novel character who first appeared in 1962, and was in the tradition of Fantomas and Mabuse, especially the former. Danger: Diabolik was, to my knowledge, the only film featuring the character.

Magneto first appeared in the Marvel comic X-Men 1 in 1963. First presented as a one-dimensional villain out to conquer the world for mutantkind (but more for himself) he was made more dimensional in the comics and then in several big-budget feature films made beginning in 1980. Played originally by Sir Ian McKellan, a younger version of the character was later essayed by Michael Fassbender in such films as X-Men: First Class; X-Men: Days of Future Past; and X-Men: Apocalypse.

I had planned on including a recent movie about Sumuru, Sax Rohmer's villainess, so the ladies would have equal time, but ran out of time, although what I've seen so far of the movie did not make me want to rush to see the rest.


angelman66 said...

Takes a great actor to pull off a memorable villain. These guys are all amazing, looking forward to reading about these films...
- Chris

William said...

Thank you!