Friday, March 26, 2010

Chandu the Magician (1932), William Cameron Menzies and Marcel Varnel.

Roxor has his enemy's platinum blonde teen daughter auctioned off in an Egyptian slave market. 

This is the first film I've seen - and I'm including Bollywood features here - where both the protagonist AND the antagonist are wearing turbans!  It's turban time!  Chandu is a mystic, an American acolyte of an eastern religion that has given him powers of hypnosis.  His brother-in-law is a scientist developing a death ray and is kidnapped by acquisitive megalomaniac Roxor, played to the hilt by Bela Lugosi  (who actually looks pretty fantastic sans turban).  Lugosi has a delicious monologue near the film's end in which he imagines wiping out the great cities of western civilization.  This film was based on a popular radio program and in 1934 a film serial followed in which Lugosi actually plays the hero Chandu, rather than the villain. 

Chandu the Magician is comparable to The Most Dangerous Game (1932) or the original King Kong (1933):  adventure story with an exotic setting.  Camera use is innovative and scenes include several little meticulous miniature sets, delightful even to a contemporary eye.  I particularly enjoyed the image of Chandu swimming amongst the construction paper seaweed!

Lugosi's got the death ray trained on YOU!

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