The Return of Chandu
Cast & Crew
Clara Kimball Young
To protect herself from kidnappers, Princess Nadji leaves her native Egypt and becomes a guest at the Beverly Hills home of Frank Chandler and his sister, Dorothy Regent. Frank, an American reared in Asia who has become a follower of Tyba, a white magic yogi, and has adopted the identity of Chandu the Magician, is returning from Egypt to attend a party given in Nadji's honor. At the party, two mysterious men hypnotize Nito, the Chandlers' butler, and order him to give Nadji a drugged drink. As Nadji is about to drink from the tampered glass, Frank, who has used a magic ring to elude two menacing strangers at the airport, makes the glass fly from her hand and then appears suddenly at the party. Frank hypnotizes Nito and forces him to reveal that Nadji's enemies are followers of Ubasti, an ancient Egyptian tribe who believe that their lost continent will be restored if a living Egyptian princess is sacrificed in their honor. Before Nito reveals the meeting place of the Ubasti, however, he is killed with a poison dart. Soon after, the Ubasti successfully drug and kidnap Nadji from the Chandler's house and carry her to a hideout. Guided by the Yogi and the magic ring, Frank and Bob Regent, Dorothy's son, locate the hideout and, with the help of levitation, retrieve Nadji. Five days later, on a yacht bound for Egypt, Frank struggles to waken Nadji from her drugged trance, unaware that the Ubasti have infiltrated the ship's crew. Nadji is then re-captured by the Ubasti and transferred to another boat. In Egypt, Frank and Bob track the Ubasti to their secret temple, and as Nadji is about to be sacrificed to a roaring fire, Frank, disguised as a Ubasti, sneaks into the temple, fights with Vitras, the High Priest, and rescues the princess. With the Ubasti safely in prison, Nadji returns to Beverly Hills with a loving Frank.
Clara Kimball Young
Bryant Washburn Jr.
In 1932, Fox distributed Sol Lesser's production, Chandu, the Magician, which also was based on the radio serial. This film was edited from a twelve-part serial, The Return of Chandu, which was shown in 1934 in weekly two-reel sections prior to the feature's release. According to news items, Lesser shot the serial with the intention of releasing it in two formats-a regular twelve-part serial and a "feature-serial," compiled from footage from the first four episodes to be shown in a single screening, followed by the final eight chapters to be shown at separate screenings. In the Fox film, Bela Lugosi plays "Roxor," a power-hungry, mad scientist, while Edmund Lowe played the heroic role of "Chandu." The Return of Chandu was not a sequel to the 1932 production. According to news items, the film's yacht scene was shot off the San Pedro harbor, and other scenes in the serial were shot on Lookout Mountain in Los Angeles. A Hollywood Reporter production chart includes Lionel Atwill, Jr. and Tom Moore as cast members in the serial. These actors May not have appeared in the feature, however. Modern sources claim that the feature-serial version of The Return of Chandu concluded with an open ending, in which the "Ubasti" are defeated but not exterminated. In the viewed print, however, the Ubasti are exterminated, and Chandu and Nadji are reunited in Beverly Hills.
Modern sources add the following additional information about the serial: Lesser reshot the "cliff hanger" chapter endings and accompanying expository chapter openers to accomodate smoother feature film transitions. Originally Lesser wanted to force theaters to book both the feature-serial and the last eight chapters, but changed his strategy and released the feature on its own. Lesser used sets from RKO's 1933 films King Kong and The Son of Kong for the island and temple scenes. The set for King Kong's "Great Wall" on Skull Island was shot in daylight to represent the "Ubastis'" fortified temple. Additional modern source cast members for the serial include: Don Brodie (Reporter), Edward Peil (Airline agent), Henry Hall (Curator), Beatrice Roberts (Lady), Iron Eyes Cody (Cat Man), Elias Schaffer (Old man) and Merrill McCormick (Sacrificial aide). A second, sixty-minute feature, based on footage taken primarily from the second half of the serial and called Chandu on the Magic Isle, was also released in 1934. For more information on the radio serial and the Chandu series, see entry above for Chandu, the Magician and consult the Series Index.