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A. Edward Sutherland
A thief falls in love with the Caliph of Bagdad's daughter. The Caliph will give her hand to the suitor that brings back the rarest treasure after seven moons. The thief sets off on a magical journey while, unbeknownst to him, another suitor, the Prince of the Mongols, is not playing by the rules... Written by
Erik Gregersen <email@example.com>
The beginning point of the modern action-adventure film...
"The Thief of Bagdad" was my first introduction to Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and, as first impressions go, I've not been this impressed with an old-time film star since I watched Fairbanks' cinematic successor, Errol Flynn, begin creating his own legend in "Captain Blood".
The imagination and power of the visual design of the sets by Raoul Walsh make a nice complement for Fairbanks' script. Having read some of the original material from Sir Richard Burton's unexpurgiated translation of the Arabian Nights (that is, the uncensored, unwatered-down version that most of the general public is familiar with), I can honestly say that, while this story is in none of the tales I read, it would have been a perfect fit within Scherazade's many fantastic tales of moral instruction. The language, the situations, the magical artifacts, the transformation of a callow youth into a great (if still wily and underhanded) hero...they all so accurately reflect the atmosphere of those wondrous tales that I have read and enjoyed.
As for Fairbanks himself, well...is there any red-blooded American boy who HASN'T wanted to be like him? Maybe the boys of today wouldn't recognize the name, but five bucks says that they would definitely recognize the attitude and the style. Charming, smart, irresistable to women, tough enough to take on the bad guys, gifted with a physique that borders on the unbelievable...he's every boy's greatest heroic fantasy come true.
All that said, another reason "The Thief of Bagdad" is important AND fun is because it really marks the starting point for the modern genre of action-adventure films. The use of humor is extensive (my favorite bit being Fairbank's method of "touching" a particular bush), helping keep things from becoming TOO serious for it's own good. Then there's the use of special effects, some very hokey by today's standards, but probably state-of-the-art for it's time and still very impressive, considering the time period this film was made. There's also the touch of romance that helps sweeten the tone. Though subsequent offerings have not had as deft a touch as this film does, this would be a logical beginning to that tradition. Finally, there's the final confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist, but I truly doubt that anyone has ever come up with a showdown that relied more on brains than brawn as this one.
Don't let the age of this film offput you. Like it's inspiration, it weaves Scherazade's song with a melody that has yet to be outdone (though it has been matched during subsequent decades).
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