Lugosi was a mainstay of the horror movie industry, but The Missing
Link explores Chandu, one of his lesser known horror film appearances.
(1932/Twentieth Century Fox) 74mins. BW. US.
Credits: Dir: Marcel Varnel & William Cameron Menzies; Sc: Philip Klein &
Barry Conners; Ph: James Wong Howe; Ed: Harry Schuster; Art: Max Parker; Electrical Fx: Kenneth Strickfaden; Mus: Louis de Francesco.
Based on the radio play by Harry A. Earnshaw, Vera M. Oldham & R.R. Morgan.
Lugosi, Edmund Lowe, Irene Ware, Herbert Mundin, Henry B. Walthall, June Lang, Weldon
Heyburn, Virginia Hammond, June Vlasek, Nestor Aber, John George, Dick Sutherland.
Chandu originated from a children's radio programme in 1931 and was
brought to the silver screen by Fox after they obtained the rights, hoping the film would
appeal to a ready-made audience.
Frank Chandler, (Lowe), better known as Chandu the Magician, fights with the evil
Egyptian villain known as Roxor, (Lugosi), who has kidnapped Chandu's brother-in-law,
Robert Regent, (Henry B. Walthall--an actor with a prodigious output beginning with a
screen appearence in 1909), an inventor who has developed a death ray with a range that
covers half way round the world.
Chandu, played rather limply by Fox's long-term leading man Edmund
Lowe, seems powerless against the evil Roxor, and despite his
possession of supernatural Yogi abilities, Chandu's sweetheart Nadji is kidnapped while
Chandu is placed in a sarcophagus to be buried alive. However, true to serial formula,
Chandu escapes, mesmerises Roxor to the spot while the death-ray mechanism whirrs to life.
The machine explodes destroying Roxor's stone temple and all those within. Naturally
Chandu and Nadji escape harm and end the film with a screen kiss before a gathering throng
of press cameramen who are amazed when the couple mysteriously disappear before they can
take any pictures.
The film's saving grace is co-director William Cameron Menzies' superb set suggestions
and excellent camera trickery. Menzies had become one of the most sought after art
directors after his impressive work on Douglas Fairbanks' ROBIN HOOD and The Thief of Bagdad spectacles. He went on to direct Things to Come (1936), Invaders
From Mars (1953), and the 3-D frog extravaganza The
In addition, without Lugosi's contribution the running time of 72 minutes would have
seemed like an eternity. As it is, the dialogue is fairly trite, but Lugosi is fortunate
to deliver most of the choice lines.
Frenchman Marcel Varnel later came to prominence as a director of British comedy
classics starring Will Hay, Arthur Askey, The Crazy Gang and George Formby.
Chandu would return once more in 1934's The Return
of Chandu serial, this time with Lugosi in the non-villainous role, a distinct
improvement over Lowe's portrayal.
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Poster and lobby card stills courtesy of Ronald V. Borst
Visit the official Bela Lugosi website.
On DVD in the US. click here