The Sumuru character was created by the same man who gave us Fu Manchu, Sax Rohmer. There was a radio series in the 1940s featuring the character and then a series of novels appeared in the early to mid 1950s (THE SINS OF SUMURU).
Three films about the character, all produced by Harry Alan Towers, have appeared since. Towers, using his Peter Welbeck beard, is also credited with the script for the Jess Franco version. There are at least three alternative versions of the Franco directed version: RIO 70, the cut US TV version, THE GIRL FROM RIO, already released on DVD by Blue Underground in 2004, which was 94m long.
A shorter version, DIE SIEBEN MANNER DER SUMURU, appeared in German language markets. It contained a new opening credits sequence [see bottom of review], scored by German krimi composer Martin Bottcher (THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY), followed by a reel of footage, set in Barcelona, where Richard Wyler is seen involved with an armored car robbery. This entire sequence was missing from the US/English language prints.
The late Richard Wyler confirmed to me, when I interviewed him in the 1990s, that Franco did shoot these scenes but that Towers and co. edited various versions for different markets. There are also other export versions, including the Spanish release, LA CIUDAD SIN HOMBRES.
HE SEVEN SECRETS OF SUMURU plays with much more dispatch and verve than THE GIRL FROM RIO, opening and closing with dynamic action sequences. It’s also shorter, running approximately 77m. Most of the footage missing here, and included in THE GIRL FROM RIO, is expendable dialogue exposition. It would have been nice it the armored car robbery were included in GIRL… since it starts the film off with a bang and is one of the most amusing and well planned action sequences of the director’s 1960s filmography. Also, a sense of irony and parody is more pronounced in the German version.
Wyler told me that Franco read softcore comics to prepare for the shooting and basically wanted to make an Adult Eurospy type comic book on film. He at least partially succeeded.
The glittering, Op/Pop Art costume design, executed in outre, brightly colored leather cuts, the exotic Rio locations and lounge sci-fi settings make it work, even if Wyler seems emotionally distanced from the proceedings. He told me that he did not get along with Franco or his nephew Ricardo, the assistant director, during the shoot and that production was shut down while everyone awaited completion funding, which finally arrived and was carried onto the set in heavy bank bags! Maybe that’s why the torture ray is actually a decommissioned dental X ray machine…
Shirley Eaton, who changes costumes and hair styles for every scene, appears to be having fun in the role. This would be her last film role to date. George Sanders, whom Wyler told me was severely depressed over financial worries, looks haggard, distracted and ill throughout. Wyler also was not paid in full for his work as the male lead in the film, adding further insult to injury.
The comments by Richard Wyler are taken from my 1999 interview with him, parts of which were published in SPAGHETTI CINEMA magazine in 2001.