A freshly minted master of magic must test his new found skills against an evil mad man(like there is another kind) intent on destroying the world in this adventure classic .
Our story begins with Frank Chandler facing his final challenges in the mystic arts. These include the old disappearing rope trick, shuffling across hot coals sans footwear, and hypnotizing a crowd. Luckily his training which has gifted him with the power of hypnosis as well as danger detector which results in his hearing a gong whenever he is in peril. He passes with flying colors and is rechristened ‘Chandu” by the master Yogi.
He is then summoned to a crystal ball where he is greeted by his first challenge, Roxor. This oddly named nut job is no barrel of laughs. He intends to get his hands on a death ray to destroy mankind and make the ragtag survivors his slaves. Turns out this sinister plot lands right at Chandu’s feet. Seems his brother in-law, Robert Regent, has gone ahead and built such a machine. Ironically this warning has come too late for our mystic.
By the time Chandu gets to his sister’s house her husband has already been snatched. Meanwhile Roxor is about to entertain princess Nadji at his hideout. He wants her in on the scheme but she balks at his evilness. Chandu fails to rescue Regent but is able to get Nadji out of harm’s way by torching the place and walking out over the flames while carrying the Princess.
Nadji has a romantic history with Chandu and gladly joins in his quest. They enlist a second banana ,with a drinking problem, purely for comic relief and head out for Roxor’s other hideout. Along the way a servant tries to poison Chandu but the “gong sense’ rings in and he is able to rescue himself.
Roxor figures out that Chandu is powerless without his eyes so he has him jumped and then blindfolded. This leads to your typical bragging scene wherein Roxor boasts to Chandu about his plans for world conquest. Chandu seizes the moment and dares Roxon to match wits with him. Our villain succumbs to his arrogance and lifts the blindfold. What follows is poetic justice as only Hollywood can deliver it with Chandu helping his friends escape while a mesmerized Roxor can only watch as his death ray overheats before exploding all over him.
This is fun stuff that gives you an idea of where Marvel Comics came up with Dr. Strange. It is pure adventure with colorful costumes, lots of fighting, and several feats of magic. Acting wise this belongs to Bela Lugosi as Roxor (though he would return in a few years to take over the role of Chandu).
This film was one of many bequeathed to me by my older sister Peggy who passed this year after a protracted battle with cancer. I credit her with my love of monsters as well as comics (she bought me my first stack). In our house there were many children fighting over our one television so democracy ruled. Peggy was a sharpie who enlisted my aid to form an alliance which voted to watch “Chiller Theatre” every Saturday night. Inheriting her collection has been an eye opener for a kid who came of age during the ‘slasher” cycle and had yet to revisit the classics.
Best lines: “This death ray in the hands of Roxor means the death of all goodness.”
“Men shall return to savagery following only one supreme intelligence, me!”
“I love the look of the desert but not the taste of it.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.