Theatrical Release: September 18, 1932
Blu Ray Release: August 23, 2016
Director(s): William Cameron Menzies and Marcel Varnel
Review by James Klein
Based on the popular radio show in the early 1930’s, Chandu the Magician is a supernatural adventure film in the vein of Indiana Jones which that was based on old serials such as Chandu. And like Indiana Jones, Chandu the Magician is a fun and exciting film.
Chandu the Magician tells the story of Frank Chandler aka Chandu (Edmund Lowe of Dillinger and Cisco the Kid fame), an American who’s mastered the ways of the yogi, using Eastern mysticism and hypnotism for the good of mankind. We are introduced to Chandu as he walks on fire and performs a magic trick by magically raising a rope into the sky where one can climb up and then disappear. For a film made in 1932, these special effects actually hold up for the most part and are very entertaining to watch.
Scientist Robert Regent (Henry B. Waltham from Devil Doll) is creating a death ray which causes him to be kidnapped by the evil Roxor (Bela Lugosi) who wants to use the death ray in hopes of using it to degenerate humanity, thus allowing him to become the ruler of the world. Forced to hand over to Roxor his invention and its secrets, Regent’s only hope falls on his brother-in-law Chandu to save him and humanity.
Chandu takes on Raxor and his henchmen in various action sequences that were both entertaining and thrilling. The effects are fairly decent and even a little unnerving (for those that hate bugs, watch out as its evident Spielberg / Lucas saw this movie before they worked on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). The film rarely slows down and thanks to a likable cast and exciting story, Chandu the Magician is an exciting adventiure, one that film fans need to see as these special effects for the time are quite astonishing.
If I had a complaint it is the rather dumb and unnecessary comic relief character of Miggles (Herbert Mundin, best known for playing Much in The Adventures of Robin Hood) who promises Chandu he will quit his drinking. Chandu promises Miggles that anytime he drank, he would see a small version of himself. Well, needless to say Miggles likes to drink and constantly sees a tiny version of himself, lecturing him. While the joke was cute at first, the little miniature Miggles pops in constantly and the gag becomes old almost immediately.
Kino Lorber’s blu ray looks as good as this film will ever look. Due to it’s age, the print has some wear and tear with scratches and jump cuts popping up from time to time. Film historians won’t be bothered but regular schmucks who happen to watch this movie and not some superhero piece of shit will probably complain. The film looks very clear and the picture gets soft only during some of the special effect sequences. The 2.o DTS sound isn’t all that great but again, it is the film source and probably not something Kino could avoid. When turning up the volume to hear the actors speak, be warned as the music can get pretty overpowering once the action picks up. In it’s defense, one of the special features on the blu ray is about the restoration process Kino performed on Chandu that may silence its critics. There is an all too brief 15 minute featurette on the making of Chandu and an informative but rather dry audio commentary by Bela Lugosi biographer Gregory William Mank. Mank’s commentary provides lots of great insight on the making of the film along with each actor and directors history but listening to him speak was a bit of a bore to say the least.
I had a lot of fun watching Chandu the Magician and was thoroughly entertained by its wondrous adventure. Kino’s blu ray does the film justice. This is definitely worth checking out.
Blu Ray Rating: