Five Golden Dragons (1967) ***

Producer Harry Alan Towers, himself something of a legend, had put together a quite superb cast – rising Eurostar Klaus Kinski (A Bullet for the General, 1967), Hollywood veterans Robert Cummings (Dial M for Murder, 1954), George Raft (Scarface, 1932), Dan Duryea (Black Bart, 1948) and Brian Donlevy (The Great McGinty, 1940) plus British horrormeister Christopher Lee and Rupert Davies (television’s Maigret). Throw in Margaret Lee (Secret Agent, Super Dragon, 1966) and Austrians Maria Perschy (Kiss, Kiss, Kill, Kill, 1966) and  Maria Rohm (Venus in Furs, 1969).

And all in aid of an enjoyable thriller set in Hong Kong that dances between genuine danger and spoof. I mean, what can you make of a chase involving rickshaws? Or a race over bobbing houseboats parked in a harbor? There’s a Shakespeare-quoting cop (Davies) whose sidekick often out-quotes him. And there’s British-born Margaret Lee, a cult figure in Italian circles, belting out the title song and just for the hell of it Japanese actress Yukari Ito in a cameo as a nightclub singer.

A newly arrived businessman is chucked off the top of a building by an associate of Kinski  but not before leaving a note that falls into the hands of the police. The note says, “Five Golden Dragons” and is addressed to Cummings’ character. No reason is ever given for Cummings involvement. No matter. He is soon involved via another route after falling for two beautiful sisters, one of whom (Perschy) turns up dead but also not before springing a bit more of the plot which is that the titular dragons are the heads of an evil syndicate that is meeting for the first time in Hong Kong.

In a nod at the spy genre, there are secret chambers opened by secret levers. There are double-crosses, chases, confrontations, and lots of sunglass removal. Apart from breaks here and there for a song or two, director Jeremy Summers (Ferry Across the Mersey, 1964) keeps the whole enterprise zipping along, even if he is stuck with Cummings. In truth, Cummings is a bit of a liability, acting-wise. While the rest of the cast takes the film seriously, he acts as if he’s a Bob Hope throwback, cracking wisecracks when confronted with danger or beautiful women, or, in fact, most of the time, which would be fine if he wasn’t a couple of decades too old (he was 57) to carry off the part of a playboy and if the jokes were funny. 

Towers (under the pseudonym Peter Welbeck responsible for the screenplay, loosely based on an Edgar Wallace story) was a maverick but prolific British producer who would graduate to the likes of Call of the Wild (1972) with Charlton Heston but at this point was churning out exotic thrillers (The Face of Fu Manchu, 1965) and mysteries (Ten Little Indians, 1965) and had a good eye for what made a movie tick. This one ticks along quite nicely never mind the bonus of a sinister George Raft and the likes of Margaret Lee and Maria Rohm (Towers’ wife).

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

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