Chandu The Magician

Move over Gunga Din:

Based on a popular radio series, “Chandu” could almost be the missing link between the great silent European crime serials (“Les Vampires,” “Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler”) and their more modest American cousins, the Saturday matinee serials of Republic and Columbia. Edmund Lowe stars as Frank Chandler, an American who has spent three years studying the mystical arts in a highly implausible Hindu temple (the first of the film’s many commanding blends of set design and miniature work).

He becomes Chandu, a fighter-against-evil with irresistible hypnotic powers. He needs them all when he takes on Roxor — a red-meat role for Bela Lugosi, here in his “Dracula”-era prime — a freelance madman with plans to destroy the world’s capitals with a giant death ray.

This is nothing recent, mind you, but the directorial fruit of William Cameron Menzies:

a fascinating figure of the classical Hollywood era whose credits range from “Gone With the Wind” to low-budget independent horror movies

including

“Chandu the Magician,” a 1932 production that Fox Home Video recently issued in a set called “Fox Horror Classics 2”

Apparently, there are at least two sequels, The Return of Chandu with Bela Lugosi as Chandu, and Chandu on the Magic Island.

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- September 16, 2008 8:34 PM // Film