Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chandu the Magician (1932)

Impulse pickup at the library. The DVD cover shows a closeup of Bela Lugosi. I wasn't familiar with it. Bela did so many crappy movies. Chandu the Magician was based on a popular radio program of the day.

Chandu is Frank Chandler, a retired army captain who studied to be a Yogi in the orient. Think The Shadow. The movie begins with Chandler in, I'm guessing, India, taking his final exam. He demonstrates all of the Yogi tricks that he will need in this film. He can mesmerize people by doing a Little Rascals style eyes-wide stare. He can walk through fire, or between two lines of fire when the camera angle is low. And he can do this astral projection thing, which totally comes in handy. He also hears a weird sound when danger is near. Not too handy as everyone else can hear it too.

Chandler is given the Yogi name of Chandu by his Yogi teacher, who for some reason uses King James (thou shalt ...) language. He tells Chandu that he must do battle with the Evil Roxor (Bela). Why must Chandu fight him? Because when looking into his crystal ball he sees ... Dorothy! No, not that Dorothy, Chandler's sister. Roxor has captured Chandu's brother-in-law. Robert Regent created a super powerful death ray that Roxor wants to (somehow) use for evil. Hey, this was before atomic weapons. Personally I think Yogi was just trying to ditch the white dude.

Chandu pays Roxor a visit and rescues old flame Princess Nadja (Irene Ware). Rather than offing o'll Roxor right then and there, he grabs the hot princess and sets the place on fire, so that he can walk through the fire, or between two lines of fire when the camera angle is low.

There is a scene where Regent's daughter is captured. Dad still refuses to tell Roxor how to switch the death ray on, so he is forced to watch as his totally hot daughter is sold into slavery. When brought onto the trading block, she appears to smile and strike a sexy pose, her awesome figure on full display for all. I guess if you are going to be sold into slavery, you want to go for top dollar. Human slavery is such a horrible thing, and all, but if I'm there and that's what's for sale, I'm sorry honey, but I'm emptying the bank account!

I checked online to see what else June Lang/Vlasek has been in. Not too much, but I notice she was born in 1917. Let's do the math, shall we? When the movie was released she was .... fifteen?

Unclean ... unclean ... unclean. Depending on when the scene was filmed, she could have been fourteen. Yikes.

This was a cool action/adventure story. The Yogi magic was silly, and Edmund Lowe made for a very unheroic heroic character (he is downright silly trying to communicate with Robert through a mini travel-sized crystal ball like it was a radio), but the story was cool, the special effects were ahead of their time, and the sets were great. Bela Lugosi was absolutely brilliant as the most evil of villains. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I insisted my sons give it twenty minutes. If they didn't like it, I'd turn it off. But they loved it. Even my wife liked it. A little. AMRU 3.5.

There was a sequel called The Return of Chandu with a totally different cast. Except they promoted Bela from villain to hero. I believe it is a twelve part serial, but I'm not exactly sure. It appears to be in the public domain so I should be able to watch it.

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