The Films (2.5/5 - Million Eyes of Sumuru, 4/5 - The Girl from Rio)
Though the cover artwork might not indicate this to the casual viewer Blue Underground's upcoming double feature Blu-ray release The Million Eyes of Sumuru and The Girl from Rio are actually part of the same series. Both films were produced by EuroCult producer Harry Alan Towers in the late 60's, and continue his work adapting the fiction of Sax Rohmer. Earlier in the decade Towers had brought to the screen Rohmer's most famous creation Fu Manchu to the big screen with Christopher Lee in the lead role. Now he turns to what could be considered the female Fu Manchu, Sumuru for these 2 films starring former Bond Girl Shirley Eaton in the titular role.
The Million Eyes of Sumuru was directed by Lindsay Shonteff who began his career with films like the Curse of Simba, and the British horror classic Devil Doll (coincidentally both Sumuru and Devil Doll appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000). The Million Eyes of Sumuru feels both more in line with the Eurospy fare that Towers was producing in the 60's, but also feels like a sort of spoof of said material. The film starts Shirley Eaton as Sumuru, a woman who runs a terrorist organization called "The Order of the Lady". Her plan to conquer the world involves getting her spies into all levels of government, however when one of her agents breaks their biggest rule falling in love with a man. She has her assassinated. This gets a group of international security people involved, and for some reason a millionaire (played by Frankie Avalon) with some free time to investigate the assassination and stop Sumuru.
The Million Eyes of Sumuru is a fun, but basically forgettable example of late 60's Eurospy cinema. The film hits most of the genres basic notes, and is sure to please fans in that they will certainly get what want out of it on a basic level. Shonteff makes good use of his budget, and the exotic locales (the film was shot around Hong Kong at the Shaw Bros. Studio) are in keeping with other films of its ilk. Performances from the cast are solid, though at times Eaton's Sumuru seems out of place with her deadly serious performance in an oddly campy film.
The Girl From Rio came 2 years after The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the film feels very different. t. Most of this comes from the less restrictive (and that's putting it mildly) direction from director Jess Franco, but also from the change in censorship laws that must have occurred between 1967 and 1969 because sex and nudity is in abundance in The Girl from Rio.
In this film Sumuru has moved up in the world. She is now the ruler of the futuristic city of Femina. She, of course, has not given up her mission of total world domination. So plot isn't this one's strong suit, but the story involves a millionaire playboy named Jeff, who lands in Rio de Janeiro with a suitcase filled with 10 million dollars. This gets back to Sumuru, who kidnaps him for his money, but also to use him as a pawn in her own personal war.
OK, so if there is a reason to pick up this double feature it is this film. As the 60's gave way to the 70's Jess Franco's personal style became much looser, and free, and more in line with his beloved jazz music. The Girl from Rio has enough of a plot to keep the film entertaining, and watchable, but gives Franco enough flexibility to go wild with his sexy and psychedelic imagery. The set design and costumes here are really awesome, and are sort of reminiscent of what he would also do on Blue Rita in the 70's (though that film was shot on a much smaller scale). As a spy film, it is sort of standard material, but Franco and company inject it with enough style to create something infinitely rewatchable.
Audio/Video (3.5/5 - Million Eyes, 4/5 - Girl from Rio)
Million Eyes of Sumuru is presented in a 2:35:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer and generally looks quite good and pleasing to the eye. The Blu-ray has fine color reproduction, accurate flesh tones, deep blacks, and excellent fine detail. There is some minor grain, and some minor noise. The Girl From Rio is presented in a 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer again with excellent color and fine detail, blacks are deep, and there is a healthy, but minimal grain structure at play.
The audio is presented with DTS-HD MA mono tracks in English. Both tracks are quite good with dialogue, and score coming through strongly.
Both films have a poster and still gallery. Million Eyes has a trailer, and The Girl from Rio features a 14 minute interview with Towers, Franco, and Eaton.
Blue Underground's Sumuru double feature Blu-ray release is a solid collection of Eurospy fare. It is also notable as the Million Eyes of Sumuru has never seen a North American home video release prior to this one. Though Million Eyes was a bit unmemorable, and by the numbers, I found Franco's entry highly entertaining, and would recommend on that alone. RECOMMENDED.