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The favorite slave girl of a tyrannical sheik falls in love with a cloth merchant, which puts her life in terrible danger. Luckily, she is beloved of the rest of the harem, which conspires to bring the true lovers together, while distracting the prying eyes of the eunuchs who serve as palace guards. Meanwhile, a traveling dancer is eager to become part of the harem, much to the despair of the hunchback clown who is in love with her. Written by
Disappointing. The chief problem, as Lubitsch was quick to acknowledge, is Lubitsch. His exaggerated, hammy acting is one that Lubitsch the director would never have permitted any of his players. In fact, he was so unhappy with his over-the-top histrionics that he vowed never to act again.
Admittedly, there are a few other major faults. All the characters are one-dimensional and the story tends to drag, especially in the comedy relief sequences provided by camera-hoggers Kronert and Graetz, who are just awful. Margarete Kupfer's repulsive old hag is also over-indulged.
On the other hand, the film does provide an almost equal number of pleasures. not only in its exotic sets and cinematography, but in the alluring presence of Pola Negri, who receives excellent support from Paul Wegener who cleverly underplays his ruthless, self-indulgent sheik and thus makes him a really terrifying figure.
And for lessons in how to play comic relief with style, I nominate Jakob Tiedtke and Paul Biensfeldt, who both do amusing wonders with seemingly impossible characters. A slave trader, a comic figure? But that's how Biensfeldt plays this despicable little heap of slime--and it works!
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