The Return of Chandu (1934)

Article #1609 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-10-2005
Posting Date: 1-7-2006
Directed by Ray Taylor
Featuring Bela Lugosi, Maria Alba, Clara Kimball Young

A magician uses his powers to protect an Egyptian princess from being kidnapped and sacrificed by the dread cult of Ubasti.

The reputation of this serial precedes it; in fact, I’ve heard this one described as well nigh unwatchable. I think that all depends on your expectations; if you’re looking forward to Republic-style action, you’ll definitely fall asleep during this deliberately paced entry. Me, I appreciate the novelty value. Next to THE PHANTOM CREEPS, it’s the Lugosi serial with the most Lugosi in it, and that’s a good thing. I also like the fact that our hero is a magician rather than a fighter; the use of magic rather than fisticuffs adds a different dimension to the story. Unfortunately, the serial makes a mistake at the halfway point when it temporarily strips Chandu of his powers; he spends most of the second half of this serial wandering about a cave, talking to a white wizard, visiting the captive princess (though never rescuing her), and trying to save his family and himself from dying. Quite frankly, this gets pretty repetitive; the feature version of the last half of this serial actually did a good job of pruning the fat from it. Incidentally, the serial seemed to be designed to be broken up into feature versions; the first four episodes is set up almost like a self-contained story with a definite ending, and the other feature version of this serial used those episodes. Oddly enough, though the first half of the serial is more consistent, the cliffhangers are fairly lame; in the second half, the serial loses steam but the cliffhangers improve. Well, you can’t have everything.


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