Chandu the Magician
Directors: WIlliam Cameron Menzies
& Marcel Varnel

Director: Ray Taylor

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Return of Chandu IIt was a basic method of maximizing profitability of cliffhanger serials to re-edit them for nearly simultaneous release as theatrical feature films.

The twelve-chapter serial The Return of Chandu; aka, The Return of Chandu the Magician; aka, Chandu's Return (1934) had its beginning chapters cut down for a feature film also called The Return of Chandu (1934) followed by a "sequel" made up of ending chapters, as Chandu on the Magic Island (1935).

The earlier Chandu the Magician (1932), based on a radio serial, was a short feature with a different actor playing Chandu (Edmund Lowe). Bela Lugosi played the villain, Roxor, trying to take over the world with his death-ray.

The Return of ChanduBut when a matinee serial was made as follow-up to the 1932 film, Bela had migrated from villain role to hero, playing the mystic yogi Frank Chandler aka Chandu the Magician. He has the power of invisibility, telepathy, scrying, & hypnotism; & Bela truly has the gaze to play a hypnotist.

The short feature version of The Return of Chandu is barely over an hour long, such "features lengths" being part of larger packages for down-market cinemas showing doublebills plus cartoons, newsreels, musical shorts, the amount of entertainment making up for the brevity of the parts.

The first spun-out feature has our mystic protecting the Egyptian Princess Nadji (Maria Alba) from powers that would like to sacrifice her to a dark Goddess.

The Return of ChanduThe complete serial barely made logical sense, & the pared-down version has even bigger lapses in continuity. It would probably still be very convincing to eight year olds.

The second feature to be spun out of the serial is a whole lot busier. Some of the set designs are very beautiful for the island society of Lost Lemuria in Chandu on the Magic Island, & why not, they're recycling sets from King Kong (1933).

Chandu's magic has for some while protected Princess Nadji from powers that would like to sacrifice her. But when she is teleported to Lemuria, Chandu must use his powers to rescue her.

He takes his whole family on the journey foolishly enough, as though he thought he was going to Disney World. His sister, niece, & nephew added child appeal in a more innocent age of ten cent movie matinees.

A gruesome Goddess is venerated on Lemuria in a black magic cult. Chandu must use yogic good magic to counter the bad.

Despite some colorful imagery here & there, it's just about as unwatchable as bad movies get unless you can overlook the nonsensicality of the story & laughable acting. But if you're already an old-time serial buff, you'll definitely find this one absorbing, as serials really can be much worse than this.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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