Concluded

The penultimate episode of THE RETURN OF CHANDU is called The Upraised Knife and the final episode is called The Knife Descends which, given all that’s gone before, suggested to me an entire episode devoted to a knife being raised and one that’s all about it being lowered again.

Which isn’t what happened — the shows were slightly more eventful than that. The most surprising moment was when Princess Nadji was called upon to renounce her love for Chandu in exchange for him and his family/chums being freed — and she does. And so they just walk away. It feels really weird, like the makers decided not to have a climax at all, and just have everyone decide to live and let live (except the princess, who is to be merged, soul-wise, with the body of the late Lemurian cultist Ossana).

Then somehow or other the heroes get attacked by savages by the white witch with the white beard saves them, and now they go right back to the Ubasti temple to sort things out. As part of the ceremony, Nadki and Ossana have been dressed identically, so white beard man just waltzes in and swaps their prone forms around when nobody is looking. The ceremony starts and the wrong body — Ossana’s — is consigned to the sacrificial fire (the one Uncle Frank Chandu saw visions of previous episodes in. Are you getting all this?

A short while before, Uncle Chandu had a discussion with his discorporeal yogi about the possibility of invoking some kind of ultimate spell — one that dooms the speller if he acts selfishly. In order to circumvent this, Frankie C. renounces Nadja, then casts the spell and the roof falls in. The good guys escape, the bad guys don’t. The big stone statue of the cat-god Ubasti slowly topples forward, another Crushing Rock.

Then, having renounced their renunciation, Francis and Nadja can be together. I thought it was going to be like The End of the Affair, and they’d never be allowed to see each other again. But no: for perhaps the only time in screen history, unless you know of another case, Bela Lugosi gets the girl.

I believe THE RETURN OF CHANDU stands as an important example of how music can be used — slow music during fast scenes, to make them more slow and boring, and fast music during slow scenes, which has the counter-intuitive effect of making THEM more slow and boring. The fast music emphasises how slowly the action is progressing.

Of course, if things are in danger of getting too exciting even when the music has been larded on, you can always bring in Uncle Frank’s nephew and niece, who make everything tedious.

2 Responses to “Concluded”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    In my experience a lot of serials end lamely: An offhand wrap-up of the plot, an unfunny gag with a sidekick, and just maybe the hero smiling at the heroine (Flash Gordon and Dale clinching was a singularity). My theory is that they were consciously lowering the bar for the next serial, usually a product of the same studio. Evidently some theaters would debut the first chapter of the new one on the same bill with the last chapter of the old one. An otherwise lively Dick Tracy serial spent much of the final episode with Dick walking a prisoner across a desert.

    A favorite bit of serial music: Just after the credits with their hugga-bugga savage jungle theme, we get stock footage of Nazi Germany with a snip of wonderfully inappropriate music:

  2. Chandu has this strangely undramatic belly-dancer score over the main titles — a rephrasing of the exotic bit from The Nutcracker Suite, I’d say, intended to sound mystic and eastern. Just as the name of the episode is announced it goes all genteel and afternoon tea-like.

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