Archive for King Kong

That Chandu That You Do So Well

Posted in FILM, Radio with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2021 by dcairns

THE RETURN OF CHANDU. Episode 5.

A small fire has evidently broken out in the Principle Pictures Corporation titling department but I’m sure everything’s under control…

Now read on…

Yes, but WHY is Frank Chandler known in the orient as Chandu? I get why they call him the magician. But if they can pronounce that, then “Chandler” shouldn’t be too much of a mouthful, surely?

The episode begins, thrillingly, with a stock footage long shot of some exotic clime, perhaps gathered by Tay Garnett on his round-the-world cruise, who knows? Then we get a long exposition/romance scene on garden furniture, in which the sibillance of the soundtrack combines with the Hungarian and Spanish accents of stars Bela Lugosi and Maria Alba to render comprehension null. But we can still appreciate the charm of Lugosi playing a nice guy, getting some romantic interest for once. I mean, he’s sympathetic in the same year’s THE BLACK CAT if you can overlook him flaying a man alive, and he has a wife he loves in that one, but she’s plastinated and suspended from the ceiling, so there’s a limited amount of true warmth in their scenes together.

Anyway. Frank Bela Chandler Lugosi Chandu the Magician goes into a trance while staring at, oddly enough, a photograph of Princess Nadji’s forehead (it’s supposed to be her actual head but for some reason a still image has been substituted). This allows him to get a mental image of the evil cultists and learn some semi-audible stuff about the lost continent of Lemuria.

Lemuria doesn’t get enough love, I feel. They’re just as submerged as Atlantic, but far less acclaimed.

Chandu’s astral vision has a certain grandeur, consisting as it does of a glass painting, a stock shot (double-exposed with the forehead photo — a temple atop a temple, as it were), the gate from KING KONG, a sleeping beauty and a stone cat presiding over a cult meeting. This collage of imagery serves as a siren call, luring Maria Montez to Hollywood.

This fresh, if somewhat muffled, information sends Chandu sailing away to settle the hash of these cultists and their jowly leader once and for all, a plan which allows Bela to don a fetching sailor suit. He seems to have more costume changes in this thing than Liz Taylor in CLEOPATRA. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as he’s gone, a whammy of some form is put upon his love, compelling her to lead her friends into a DEADLY TRAP.

Getting psychic wind of this, Bela promptly turns his yacht around and rushes to the rescue.

The Princess’s whammy causes her to speak in a zombified monotone, but her friends don’t seem to notice, which does not reflect well on the rest of the leading lady’s line readings.

Chandu leads a gang of sailors into a frenzied fistfight with the Ubasti cult’s oiled and stripped-to-the-waist acolytes, and before you can say homoeroticism, the main cultist, cunningly disguised in a pith helmet, has re-re-re-abducted the Princess via the magic circle that gives this episode its name. Is it a portal to Lemuria, or merely, as the title implies, a ring of invisibility? Tune in next time, or don’t.

When Kong comes into the Bedroom, Love Goes out the Window

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on February 9, 2021 by dcairns

Crazy scene. Kong’s demented expressions when he looks in the window. It’s one of the great nightmare images, right up there with the twister from THE WIZARD OF OZ and all that impedimenta sailing past Dorothy Gale’s window.

Both scenes achieved using rear projection, I guess, which is the true medium of dreams. Check out ORPHEE. Cocteau was onto this. Stop-motion animation also has one herky-jerky foot in the unconscious also: Starewicz, Chomon, Svankmajer…

I feel really sorry for the first gal Kong grabs, the one in the nice pajamas. The shock of waking to a huge gorilla bearing down (or gorilla-ing down) on you, snatching you from your warm bed into a windy New York night, and then dumping you twenty storeys down to the sidewalk just because you ain’t blonde. I think it’s fair to say it would be hard to get over something like that.

/.

You know me, anything in a pith helmet.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2021 by dcairns

Episode 4 of THE RETURN OF CHANDU picks up quite a bit. I neglected to tell you that at the end of Ep 3, Chandu and his supporting cast take off on a private sailboat, hoping to escape the evil cult. But the evil cult leader is aboard! Oh no, this is the very thing we wanted to avoid.

Now read on…

The evil cult leader, who is really more of a first officer, disables the boat’s engine’s and attempts to do an Ann Darrow on Princess Nadja, abducting her onto a rowboat under cover of darkness. But Chandu steps in and uses his hypnotic powers, augmented by that special WHITE ZOMBIE lighting around his eyes, to thwart the scheming evildoer, who has to settle for jumping overboard to escape the whammy.

Dissolve to the port sets from SON OF KONG, where a cult member disguised as a colonial cop succeeds in abducting the Princess and her chum Dorothy Regent, who’s played by silent film goddess Clara Kimball Young.

Chandu doesn’t need to use his spiritual powers on this one, he just follows the sound of sinister drumming and is able to interrupt a HELP! style human sacrifice at their temple, in a back room of this dive bar. Having a temple in a bar seems like good one-stop-shopping for all your spiritual needs, however the Bast statue and the altar and sacrificial flame look incongruous in what seems to be another recycled set with an OLD DARK HOUSE vibe. (It’s not literally from ODH though, you can tell by the banisters.)

Oh, we also get what passes in my book for a Special Guest Star: this is Louise Emmons, whose pouchy face I recognized at once from THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, where she plays a comprachico, kind of another cult member, part of Victor Hugo’s fictional tribe of gypsy freakmakers. Nice to see her again, and it feels strange to have such an elderly bit player making the transition into talkies. While gathering nuts for the winter.

She’s no Baby Peggy but I’m grabbing all the star power I can here.

Chandu puts the whammy on an acolyte and enters in disguise (the acolytes wear sort of black pussy hats, or more properly pussy hoods, in which Bela Lugosi looks extremely cute). And then there’s what Scots would call “a big rammy,” a chaotic saloon-brawl punch-up in which inevitably the banisters get the worst of it, and the cult’s deputy leader falls into the flames.

And then, with the ladies rescued, another weird low-tension un-cliffhanger: Chandu is chatting up the Princess and seems to be getting on quite well, and everybody is satisfied that the evil Ubasti cult is no more, and then we cut away to a pyramid-encrusted island and it turns out they’re still out there. But the threat is, by definition, far off… ending the episode here and calling it a cliffhanger is a bit like having your hero spot a cliff through a telescope and say, “What about we hike over there and hang off that thing?” I question whether it really qualifies as a suspenseful finish.

However, the Ubastis have the big gate from KING KONG, so we’re definitely watching episode 5! With no giant gorilla, the gate is merely an excuse to eat up footage, with the vast doors swinging laboriously open each time, just to admit normal-sized dudes. Brilliant.