20 July 2011 | glofau
Surprisingly Fun and Stylishly Designed
Leave your brain at the door, because Chandu the Magician (utilizing his Powers from the Mysterious East) is about to enchant you into believing that trash is pure gold!
This pre-code potboiler from Fox Films introduces Edmund Lowe as Chandu the Magician, an American who has learned almost supernatural powers from the Yogi of the East. He can control men's minds, he possesses powerful protective powers of divination, he can walk on fire or astrally project or perform any number of other miraculous feats.
For reasons that defy logic, Chandu's brother(?) Robert, a Scientist, has been working on developing a Death Ray which can take out an entire city. Just as Robert has finally perfected this project, the evil Roxor (the fabulous Bela Lugosi as "That Monster in Human Form") and his Arabic henchmen kidnap Robert in an attempt to wrest the Secret of the Death Ray from its creator.
In the meantime, Chandu has fallen in with the beautiful Egyptian Princess Nadji, with whom he has been in love for 3 years... Princess Nadji is also in love with Chandu, but has been sacrificing herself Most Nobly for her People. Will these unusual interracial lovers find happiness at last? (Since miscegenation was illegal in many parts of the U.S. during this period in history, this is actually a genuine question!)
Of course, Princess Nadji falls into the clutches of the evil Roxor, and a great deal of deranged soliloquizing follows in the villain's Super-Scientific Laboratory (filled with the requisite Bride of Frankenstein-like crackling electrical apparatus). Will Robert have the strength to keep his Secret of the Death Ray before Roxor has tortured or destroyed all of his loved ones? Will Chandu be able to find Roxor's secret lair in time to Save the World and rescue Robert and the Princess?
In the directorial hands of Marcel Varnel and the brilliant William Cameron Menzies, this unpromising material becomes a stylish-looking, stunningly photographed and beautifully paced bonbon of pulp-y goodness.
If you are in the mood for a campy, beautifully designed, fast-moving melodramatic kiddie-matinée "thriller", I highly recommend this movie. Yummy, stupid, enchanting... and surprisingly progressive about miscegenation for a 1930's film that otherwise wallows in racial stereotypes!