Review by Brian Koller|
1½ stars out of 4
"The Thief of Baghdad" was an elaborate technicolor
remake of the 1924 silent classic. Producer
Alexander Korda struggled mightily to make the
film, going through six directors, and he was
forced by the war to move the final production
from North Africa to the U.S. The expenses
associated with the enormous sets and the early
color cinematography made "The Thief of Baghdad"
one of the most expensive films ever made to that
point, costing more than "Gone With the Wind".
The story is greatly changed from the 1924 version.
Douglas Fairbanks' character is split into two roles,
a love interest (Ahmad, played by John Justin) and
an adolescent thief (Abu, played by Sabu). Ahmad is
the puppet prince of evil magician Jaffar (Conrad Veidt).
Jaffar conspires to kill Ahmad, who is saved by
the ever-resourceful Abu. Ahmad soon falls for
a foreign princess (June Duprez), who is the daughter
of a foolish, toy-obsessed king (Morton Selten, who
is also credited as one of the writers). Jaffar
also wants the lovely princess, who in turn pines
for Ahmad. Ahmad and Abu spend the rest of the
film trying to pry the princess from the clutches
of evil Jaffar, frequently performing brave and
heroic deeds in the process. These deeds are aided
by a bombastic genie (Rex Ingram), an all-seeing eye,
a magic bow, and a flying carpet. Many of these
story elements later found their way into Disney's
"Aladdin" (1992) animated feature.
"The Thief of Baghdad" was nominated for four
Academy Awards, including Best Color Cinematography
(George Perinal), best sets (Vincent Korda, the
producer's brother), Best Special Effects (Lawrence
Butler), and Best Original Score (Miklos Rozsa).
"The Thief of Baghdad" is highly regarded today.
No amount of web-surfing could come up with a
negative comment about the film. But my experience
with the film was different. I found the soundtrack
blaring, the special effects cheezy, and the entire
story was implausible (admittedly from an adult's
point of view). I am aware that the film is a fantasy,
but then there is the instant, mutual love that
Ahmad and the princess have. There is also the
obsession that Abu has for Ahmad, and that Jaffar
has for the princess. I can accept that there is
an all-seeing eye, but not that flinging it against
rocks will send you to a sky palace where elderly
sultans will greet you as a hero. I can accept
that enormous genies can be trapped inside a bottle,
but not that they are so stupid as to go back inside.
I can accept that Abu must kill a giant spider to
steal the all-seeing eye, but the eye's 'guardians'
seem thoroughly confused.
And, personally, if an evil magician made me blind
or turned me into a dog, I wouldn't mess with him
anymore. Hey, you can have the princess. It's
just not worth it.
Copyright © 1995 Brian Koller