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Category:    Home > Reviews > Serial > Adventure > Mystery > Return Of Chandu (VCI)

Return Of Chandu (VCI/serial)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Chapters: C+



Though he was only a supporting character in the original 1932 production, Bela Lugosi was elevated to the title role of the popular radio and stage play magician Chandu in the 1934 serial The Return of Chandu.  Instead of the abbreviated two B-movies cut from the serial, VCI is now offering all 12 chapters on a single DVD and it is a pleasant change of pace to see Lugosi trying to save the world for a change.


Once again, the cast travels to yet another secluded location, this time an island, of natives and ballet black magic with Chandu’s supposedly white magic.  This gets trickier when the actual natives a) have darker skin than usual and b) are constantly referred to as “half human” in a way that exceeds political incorrectness.  It is ironic this plagues the one time Lugosi is a good guy, but at least in most serials, the racist undertones usually stay implicit.


Director Ray Taylor does an odd job of juggling a few action scenes, some unusual acting and keeping an atmosphere going that is more moody than is usual for a serial.  The chapters still drag a bit and it shows its age outside of any racism, but it actually seems more interested in the supernatural action than action.  This does not mean we see much real magic or magic tricks, but they are scattered here and there.  And yes, that is Iron Eyes Cody, from the famous U.S. Government anti-pollution add (now on the DVD set HIT CELEBRITY TV COMMERCIALS, reviewed elsewhere on this site) as the Catman.


The image quality varies throughout, which is expected for a chapterplay on its 70th Anniversary, but cinematographer John Hickson can also be credited for the unusual moodiness of the work.  This is all full frame 1.33 X 1 black and white, with some good Video Black and Gray Scale.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is not too bad either, though the material certainly shows its age and the age of the recording equipment of the day.  This has some background noise.  Extras include bios on Lugosi, Taylor and female lead Maria Alba, plus trailers for other serial trailers, including a VCI promo for many of the key serials they have issued on DVD to date.  This one too is key enough, which is why is it worth looking into.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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