The Thief of Bagdad

"Very Good"

The Thief of Bagdad Review


Newly re-released by Criterion, The Thief of Bagdad, a minor classic of early Technicolor artistry, is ready to entertain a new generation of kids who have learned all they know about those Arabian nights from Robin Williams, God help them. Aladdin this is not. The colorful epic is a real exercise in production design, matte painting, and rudimentary double-process special effects that may have wowed the masses at the time but are now simply and charmingly antique.

The overstuffed story begins when King Ahmad (John Justin), who truth be told looks more like an Oxford rower than an Arabian king, is tricked by his evil number two Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) into leaving the safety of his palace to meet his subjects. Once on the street, Jaffar has him arrested and tossed into a dungeon, where he meets Abu the thief (Sabu), a charismatic 15-year-old Huck Finn type who loves the life of the orphan adventurer.

The pair escape down the Tigris to Basra, where Ahmad falls in love at first sight with the local princess (June Duprez), and she goes ga-ga too. But Jaffar wants her for himself, so he magically blinds Ahmad and turns Abu into a dog. Only an embrace from the princess can reverse the curse. That happens, of course, but it will still be a while before the two lovebirds can be reunited.

It's interesting how the film eventually leaves the somewhat sappy love story off to the side and instead follows Abu on a fantastic and magical solo journey of discovery. Shipwrecked on a deserted beach, he finds a bottle, opens it, and in doing so, releases a gigantic genie (played by the very impressive African-American actor Rex Ingram), who first tries to kill Abu but later decides to grant him three wishes. Abu's wish number one: sausages just like mother used to make. Wish number two: to find Ahmad. To do that, Abu hangs onto the genie's ponytail and the two fly around the world to the highest mountain on Earth, where Abu can get a magical stone that will show him Ahmad's location. To get the stone, however, he has to battle a gruesome giant spider, and his adventure won't end until he goes halfway to heaven to pick up, yes, a flying carpet, on which he rides to Ahmad's rescue.

Among the many fascinating things about The Thief of Bagdad is the fact that its London-based production had to be halted due to German bombing. The whole operation moved to Hollywood for completion, picking up a few more directors and a good deal of confusion along the way. The end result is a bit of a mess and a pastiche, but seeing it for the first time, it's impossible not to notice how much of the imagery we associate with "Arabian nights" -- genies, bottles, magic carpets, evil sultans -- comes directly from this film. Kids will certainly appreciate the enthusiasm of Sabu. His Abu is a brave and relentlessly optimistic teen who really knows how to get things done while rejecting authority and any rule or regulation that might pin down his free spirit.

Among the many extras in the two-DVD Criterion Collection set is an audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, surely a must-listen for students of film.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 106 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 25th December 1940

Distributed by: United Artists

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 24

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ludwig Berger, , Tim Whelan

Producer:

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks as The Thief of Bagdad, Snitz Edwards as His Evil Associate, Charles Belcher as The Holy Man, Julanne Johnston as The Princess, Sôjin as The Mongol Prince (as Sojin), Anna May Wong as The Mongol Slave, Brandon Hurst as The Caliph, Tote Du Crow as The Soothsayer, as The Indian Prince

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.