Terror of the Tongs is another film where it sounds like there might be more to it than you think, a scare here and there to keep one on their toes or a bit of fright to get the blood pumping. Suffice it to say there is no horror present, only a bit of adventure with a good dash of suspense to keep things moving along and a little bit of action to liven things up. The film stars Christopher Lee as Chung King, the leader of the Red Dragon Tong and Geoffrey Toone as Captain Sale, the protagonist of the film who will do whatever it takes to bring King down and he will do so as the man ordered the murder of his daughter. Overall the story by Jimmy Sangster is a decent one, but there are many moments in the film which can only be considered silly.
It is thankful then that this Hammer production, was able to balance its more ridiculous elements out with strong performances from the cast, specifically Lee and Toone. Toone plays the classic hero with a real, over-the-top performance at times which is what he might have needed to do starring opposite Lee. Set in Hong Kong during the early 1900s, Captain Sale has an air of superiority around him, one of entitlement and license who thinks that because he is British and in a British colony he can do as he wishes with everyone around him kowtowing to his demands. His attitude is a little taxing to watch at times, but then you have to remember that his daughter was killed and he is just trying to get to the bottom of it and find some measure of justice. Lee of course is the reason you tune in though and the man delivers a fantastic performance despite the fact that he looks absurd with the makeup he was made to wear. It is a perfect role for the man as he has always had a commanding presence and here, as the leader of the Tong, he uses it to great effect.
The film, though not a horror, is filled with all the things that are best associated with a picture of this sort including murder, torture, and quite a bit of action. While it makes things interesting, the choreography during some of those action sequences is quite terrible. A prime example is the first murder to take place, where a Tong-man attacks a gentleman getting off the boat. Both die, but the victim could have easily stepped to the side and avoided the killing blow and it is there that the film starts to show a few flaws. Why stand as a man staggers towards you intent on ending your life? The rest of the movie is fine with a lot of dramatic tension and while it is fairly exciting to see Captain Sale embark on his mission of revenge, there are just some moments where you cannot help but roll your eyes.
The nice thing about this picture is that it was different than what Hammer had been normally turning out at this point. Though it was similar to their previous film, The Stranglers of Bombay, it was slightly modernized and changed enough that it seemed like an entirely new movie. As with every film, there is good and bad to be found within, but as a whole, Terror of the Tongs is fairly enjoyable if mainly for Lee’s performance.