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If you like old-fashioned cliffhanger thrills, you'll enjoy CHANDU THE
MAGICIAN. It has everything you could want in a serial adventure- a
hero, a megalomaniacal villain, an exotic setting, and a series of
hair-raising perils that keeps the scenario rolling until the end.
plot which concerns the title character's supernatural efforts to prevent
the fiendish Roxor from taking over the world is trite and simplistic.
However, the story's very triteness and simplicity is part of CHANDU's
CHANDU boasts dazzling set design and fluid cinematography that create a fascinating, mysterious Egyptian milieu with majestic temple sets and an atmospheric desert locale. CHANDU's sense of adventure and mystique is further enhanced by special effects illustrating the powers of both Chandu and a death ray Roxor plans to employ in his world-domination plot. Even by today's Industrial Light and Magic standards, these effects look impressive.
Edmund Lowe is acceptable in the title role of Chandu but Bela Lugosi in the role of Roxor steals the film. Lugosi tackles his part with a demonic zeal, displaying odious glee over his scheme in both his facial expressions and line deliveries. There is little restraint or subtlety in his performance, but Lugosi projects such persuasive charisma that one can forgive his indulgences. Overall, CHANDU is no classic, but it's fun escapist entertainment.
Willian Cameron Menzies does a more than adequate job creating suspense in this early serial-style thriller about a yogi mystic named Chandu protecting the world, his sister and her family, and his Egyptian princess love from the evil megalomaniacal ways of Roxor. Roxor has built a death ray to make himself master of the world. Only trouble is that the inventor will not give him the secret of the ray and Chandu is on to his dastardly scheme. Edmund Lowe makes a dashing, affable hero with his ready wit and his theatrical gestures conjuring magic. Roxor is played with aplomb by heavy Bela Lugosi. Lugosi steals all of his scenes and gives a first-rate performance. Irene Ware as the Princess Nadja makes an attractive, bright leading lady, and the rest of the cast fares well too. A thoroughly nice comedic turn is performed by Herbert Mundin as Mr. Miggles. He is a drunken friend/servant of Chandu and sees himself in miniature every time he takes a drink. The film boasts what must have been relatively high production values for the day. It plays well considering it was made in 1932. There are some great scenes in the film. Menzies, best known for directing Invaders From Mars, uses a very fluid camera. A scene where Chandu looks into a crystal is most impressive as the camera zigs and zags through a Egyptian tomb. Another memorable scene depicts the scientist's daughter, clad only in a tight slip, offered on the slave trading block. The scene was risque for its time to be sure. While Chandu is certainly not a great film, it is definitely a cut above many films made in its time.
Bela Lugosi steals the show of course, but, oddly the lovely Irene Ware
(Miss America of 1929) gives the villainous Bela surprisingly vibrant
opposition, considering this was one of her first films. The rest of the
players (aside from merely adequate hero, Edmund Lowe) are likewise
first-rate. One of my favorite comics, Herbert Mundin, has a wonderfully
meaty part, while gorgeous June Vlasek is just wonderful.
The directors use an inventively roving camera to glide the audience through many a fabulously exotic set. The special effects rate as A-1.
Okay, I'll admit that technically speaking, this film isn't what you'd
expect for a score of 8. After all, this was a very low-budget
production and occasionally it really shows it--though most of the
time, they do make the most of their limited resources. The film does
earn super-high marks, though, for its ability to entertain, as there
is one thrill after another after another--just like a Saturday morning
movie serial condensed into one great package. In fact, it isn't all
that surprising that just two years later they DID make a serial
version of the Chandu character and a couple more movies--though oddly,
he was played by Bela Lugosi in them, while in CHANDU THE MAGICIAN, he
actually played the evil villain!!
Edmund Lowe stars here as Chandu--a Westerner who has "learned the psychic powers of the East". In other words, he spent years with gifted Hindu holy men and learned to use their great powers to control mens' minds. Using hypnosis, Chandu can make just about anyone do or see anything!! This makes him one heck of an amazing super-hero. Some of his tricks involved making men think their guns had turned to snakes, the ability to make doubles of himself to lure away the bad guys and his funny ability to mess with his man servant whenever he tries to take a drink!! Aside from comic heroes such as Mandrake, this is a truly unique character--and a very, very unique one for film. The closest I can think of are films such as THE COBRA WOMAN and ALI BABA, but they really aren't the same. Considering how exciting and fun this film was, I really wished they had made more of them--especially since the writing was so "seat of your pants" good.
In addition to these cool psychic powers, the film features a death ray, kidnappings and an evil cult of followers for Lugosi--what more could you possibly want in an old-time action-suspense film?! This is really great and exciting stuff--much better than the usual film for Lugosi or Lowe--who both do an exceptional job in this film. Too bad they just don't make 'em like they used to.
Based upon the radio show of the same name this film is the story of
Chandu,, real name Frank Chandler, a white man taught the secrets of the
yogis. Chandler has been set loose to save his family who has been put into
peril by the evil Roxor, played by Bela Lugosi (who not long after would
play Chandu himself in a movie serial).
Containing more action than most serials this is a true popcorn movie that moves pretty much from start to finish. There are dangers aplenty as Chandu struggles to save the world.
The film is near perfect, but suffers from a couple of small flaws. The first is the over use of the small man that Biggles sees each time he drinks. Chandu enchants Biggles to prevent him from drinking and its used a couple of time too many. The second is that toward the end the effects look weak. The underwater sequence is terrible, and the use of rear screen as people flee the temple is awful.
Still this is a movie to sit down with a big bucket of popcorn and enjoy.
9 out of 10.
Sixty or more years ago, I saw this movie in Tehran, Iran. I was about ten at that time and there was a huge poster of the movie in the bicycle shop where I took my bike for repairs. The whole poster was the face of Chandu the Magician with his hands and opened fingers in front of him. I was mesmerized by the supernatural powers of that magician, who could make the audience see things that were not there. It was the first movie I fell in love with, but they didn't show the sequels which I now see on this website had been produced. I was waiting in such earnest to see more of my favorite hero. They were innocent times....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow, they really knew how to make 'em back in the grand old days of
Hollywood. This is the sort of film - step up Kingdom of The Crystal
Skull, I mean you - that would be ruined by CGI and uninventive action
these days. But if you leave your cynical side at home Chandu will
astonish and delight you.
And that's in spite of a leaden performance from Edmund Lowe in the title role. Lowe plays Frank Chandler - alias Chandu The Magician, a Caucasian learner of the mystic secrets of Tibetan Yogis. I can't help thinking he proved the inspiration for Marvel Comics' Doctor Strange; Chandu even has some sort of Astral Self that comes in handy during his adventure. An evil scientist named Roxor, played in OPERATIC villain mode by Bela Lugosi, is determined to wrest the secret of a death ray from Chandu's brother, attempting to kidnap his family to force the silly soul (who on Earth would want to invent a death ray in the first place?) into revealing the secret of its operation.
At times this film is almost a lesson for modern-day superhero movies in the imaginative use of powers. In a pre-Hayes Code sequence Chandler's niece is about to be sold into slavery in Cairo (not exactly politically correct these days) when our mystic hero stages a brilliantly inventive rescue. There's a touch of Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and Steven Strange about it all. All I know is that it works beautifully.
Some lavish sets, pleasing miniatures and glossy cinematography only add to the effect. There's a few poor back projection process shots near the end, but this doesn't spoil things. In all this is a terrific adventure movie, with more old-time thrills and serial escapes than many a current blockbuster.
Leave your brain at the door, because Chandu the Magician (utilizing
his Powers from the Mysterious East) is about to enchant you into
believing that trash is pure gold!
This pre-code potboiler from Fox Films introduces Edmund Lowe as Chandu the Magician, an American who has learned almost supernatural powers from the Yogi of the East. He can control men's minds, he possesses powerful protective powers of divination, he can walk on fire or astrally project or perform any number of other miraculous feats.
For reasons that defy logic, Chandu's brother(?) Robert, a Scientist, has been working on developing a Death Ray which can take out an entire city. Just as Robert has finally perfected this project, the evil Roxor (the fabulous Bela Lugosi as "That Monster in Human Form") and his Arabic henchmen kidnap Robert in an attempt to wrest the Secret of the Death Ray from its creator.
In the meantime, Chandu has fallen in with the beautiful Egyptian Princess Nadji, with whom he has been in love for 3 years... Princess Nadji is also in love with Chandu, but has been sacrificing herself Most Nobly for her People. Will these unusual interracial lovers find happiness at last? (Since miscegenation was illegal in many parts of the U.S. during this period in history, this is actually a genuine question!)
Of course, Princess Nadji falls into the clutches of the evil Roxor, and a great deal of deranged soliloquizing follows in the villain's Super-Scientific Laboratory (filled with the requisite Bride of Frankenstein-like crackling electrical apparatus). Will Robert have the strength to keep his Secret of the Death Ray before Roxor has tortured or destroyed all of his loved ones? Will Chandu be able to find Roxor's secret lair in time to Save the World and rescue Robert and the Princess?
In the directorial hands of Marcel Varnel and the brilliant William Cameron Menzies, this unpromising material becomes a stylish-looking, stunningly photographed and beautifully paced bonbon of pulp-y goodness.
If you are in the mood for a campy, beautifully designed, fast-moving melodramatic kiddie-matinée "thriller", I highly recommend this movie. Yummy, stupid, enchanting... and surprisingly progressive about miscegenation for a 1930's film that otherwise wallows in racial stereotypes!
What fun! This is a dandy film of its type.......so corny and the
typical early 30s serial type cliffhanger with lots of dashing around,
ridiculous plot and narrow escapes. The settings with the Egyptian
flavor are simply silly and fake but the special effects are not as bad
as you might expect for an early film.
Edmund Lowe doesn't seem quite right for the part of Chandu.....I would have pictured someone with a little more exotic look to add just a hint of mystery. Ricardo Cortez or Nils Asther, although supporting players, may have been able to pull it off; however, Lowe does a serviceable job. Of course Lugosi went on to play the part later but appears here as the arch-villain who is bent on conquering the world with a death ray stolen from Chandu's brother-in-law. As usual he is over the top which is just what the film needs....a maniacal bad guy with visions of grandeur. He is all ham but of course this was his stock in trade and he pulls out all the stops.
Herbert Mundin is on hand for a little humor which probably wasn't necessary but he is such a great character actor that you aren't too put off by it. If you like Mundin, see "Cavalcade", in which he really gets a chance to show his acting ability which is not all comedic.
If you like films that are camp, don't require you to think too much or try to figure out character's motivations, this is the one for you. Its fast, fun and so dumb that you love it. Great for a rainy Saturday afternoon at the matinée.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Edmund Lowe is the heroic Chandu, a good magician who is determined to stop the evil Roxor (Bela Lugosi) from destroying the world and ruling the ruins he creates. It appears that his brother-in-law has created a death ray and has gone into business with Roxor, eventually being betrayed by Lugosi when he realizes what evil this man does. Well, what else do you think would happen if you invented a death ray? Would that invention ever be utilized for good? Just that ridiculous premise alone leaves a big hole in this plot line, especially when brother-in-law ends up imprisoned in Lugosi's compound with wife, daughter, son and a beautiful exotic princess on Lugosi's lists of ways to get the inventor to comply. Lugosi, of course, gets to chew up the scenery, especially as he envisions the destructions of the world's biggest cities. Some truly horrific moments includes Lowe being buried in a coffin alive under water and the floor of the prison cell slipping open as his prisoners try not to fall to their deaths in the same water where Lowe is trapped. Certainly not as offensive as the same year's "The Mask of Fu Manchu" (with Lugosi's rival Boris Karloff in one of the tackiest of all villain roles), it's one of those ridiculous adventure tales that dominated the best and worst of the serials, even if it is relatively short. Ironically, Lugosi would later play Chandu in a serialized version where you at least know that the narrative will be silly. Given the fact that Lugosi's abode reminds me of the witches' castle from "The Wizard of Oz" makes me praise it instantly for its art direction and photography, but lacking in much of anything else except some good old unintentional laughs.
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