Niece of Chandu

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Possibly the most luxurious sight that’s ever met my eyes. The bedclothes, the girl (in reality, actress and gangster’s moll June Lang), the lighting. Too bad she’s about to be kidnapped by the henchmen of the evil Roxor (Bela Lugosi), resulting in a slave-market sex fantasy come to celluloid life:

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CHANDU THE MAGICIAN is enjoyable nonsense. There’s irritating comedy relief, every scene begins with a beautiful miniature landscape, often filmed with a slinky crane-in movement, the situations are preposterous, and the death ray plot was revived by Blake Edwards forty years later for THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN.

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Plus: absurd dialogue.

Roxor has poor old Chandu crammed into a sarcophagus. The spectre of burial alive looms. Roxor’s sidekick Abdullah objects.

“It would be better to kill him now.”

“Why?”

“Yogis have been buried for days.”

“Not underwater!”

At this point I imagine the henchmen in diving suits digging a hole in the bed of the Nile. Lowering the sarcophagus into the pit, they turn to the earth-mound to fill in the hole, but find that every last shovel-load has drifted off. What to do?

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17 Responses to “Niece of Chandu”

  1. Hot white blondes in negligees were very big in the 30’s.

    And aren’t we all pleased?

  2. She’s one of the hottest!

    I hadn’t realised quite how early this film is (1931!) It’s incredibly lively, even if it’s not very “good” in the traditional sense. But then I always get thrown off by Frankenstein — I’m tempted to attribute its slightly stiff quality (although I love it) to its being an early talkie, when really it’s down to Whale still feeling his way into moving picture mode. Many other films from that period have a breezy cinematic style that appears effortless.

    Coming soon: William Dieterle’s The Last Flight.

  3. Mamoulian’s Applause is quite breezy.

  4. All three of the above frames look intriguing. I tend to overlook films of this sort but this looks like something I’d enjoy checking out for the visuals alone. I just watched Wilhelm Dieterle the actor in both Waxworks and Faust recently, interesting to me that he went on to become William Dieterle the fairly successful director, I need to learn more about his career. Here’s something unrelated to the post, but I thought you might want to see what your friend’s avatar looks like:

  5. Oh yes, Mamoulian is breezy from the get-go. Dieterle has tendencies both to zippiness and lethargy, it seems.

  6. A Midsummer Night’s Dream co-directed by Dieterle and Max Reinhart, is a thing of wonder.

  7. Happy Returns to Patrick.

    Also RIP Forrest J Ackerman. He will be missed.

  8. Absolutely. I’m going to talk about that one a little. Need to get the DVD! (Criminal that Olivia DeH wasn’t pressganged into doing a commentary for it.)

  9. Guy — I think Chandu is available nationwide in America’s bargain bins. It’s worth a look for its fantasy and pace and design. The comedy relief is awful, but appealingly strange, and the dramatic bits are funny, and also strange.

  10. Also Nina Foch.

    They’re dropping like flies!!!!

  11. I like strange, strange is good. And I think Chandu was recently released in some sort of deluxe format, as opposed to the standard public domain product. Bargain bins are good for the pocket book, but can be very hit-and-miss, too often miss. What you have here looks great, very sharp and clean. I recall purchasing three different public domain copies of Ripley’s The Chase before I found one that was acceptable. Worth seeing though, Lorre’s very funny in it, and I love the car where you can control the speed from the back seat. There’s much more to the film than this, of course, but I couldn’t resist mentioning those two bits.

  12. Garland, Ackerman, Foch, they say it happens in threes.

  13. Aw, Nina too. I love My Name Is Julia Ross. They used to say that Bing Crosby sang the way all other men THINK they sing in the shower. Joseph H Lewis directs that film the way I sometimes think I’m going to direct something.

    Oh yeah, I have a TERRIBLE copy of The Chase. Good, weird film. I’ve yet to track down the Woolrich book it comes from. But it has a good sense of Woolrich’s narrative delirium.

  14. I have Woolrich’s biography, the big fat one written by Nevins. Which, for all its fatness, has very little in the way of biographical info, most of the book deals with the stories, novels, TV episodes, films, radio shows, etc. that have his imprint. So little is known about the man, but what is known is fascinating, what a tragic, fucked-up life he had. His life and work is possibly the noirest of noir.

  15. THAT’S what it is, Chandu the Magician is one of the films available on Fox Horror Classics Vol. 2, along with Dragonwyck and Dr. Renault’s Secret. Might end up getting this if I can find it cheap enough.

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