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8/10
a repeat viewing after 79 years
Fay Greene24 June 2003
I first viewed this movie in 1924 at age 6 yrs--probably the first movie I ever saw. I thought it was terrific then, and after viewing it again now(2003) I still think it is an exceptionally fine movie. Many special effects without benefit of computers. A very ambitious movie for that time.
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"Happiness Must Be Earned"
lugonian3 August 2002
THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (United Artists, 1924), directed by Raoul Walsh, is an original Arabian Nights fantasy that remains one of the most visually stunning of all silent films with trick photography and lavish sets (compliments of William Cameron Menzies) taking top form over anything else. Considering the time this was made, with musical score and title cards taking place over spoken dialog, this gives the impression of being made decades into the future in the days of advanced film technology. Then again, this is 1924, running 150 minutes (depending on the projection speed), and a small wonder how audiences felt watching this lavish tale during its initial premiere, focusing on mythical events set in "The Dream City of the East." It was quite obvious then this was something never before presented on screen, making the current products of director DW Griffith seem old-fashioned and out of date. Fortunately, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD doesn't fall into that category, and hopefully never will.

It's star attraction, Douglas Fairbanks, having made a reputation for himself in costume swashbucklers, previously appearing as Zorro, Robin Hood and the leader of The Three Musketeers, assumes another challenge, an Arabian Nights Fantasy. Fairbanks is cast as The Thief (no actual name given), in the crowded city of Bagdad. Almost immediately, the Thief, bare-chested and sporting baggy pants resembling the bottom half of a pajama, lives up to his title picking pockets, stealing food from the ledge of a balcony, and living by his philosophy, "What I want, I take." The movie opens and closes with a Holy Man (Charles Belcher) raising his arm towards the glittering stars in the heavens spelling out "Happiness Must Be Earned." In between those words, the moral of the story is told to a young lad how this thief earned his happiness.

Lengthly with some lulls, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD never ceases to amaze. Compared to the 1940 Technicolor sound adaptation starring Sabu, where both versions differ, the sole focus being on fantasy, with highlights being the flying carpet and a nasty villain. The Fairbanks version doesn't include what many would expect to see, a genie from the magic lamp granting three wishes. It doesn't really matter because the 1924 production has enough magic and visual fantasies to go around. Fairbanks excels in his role by climbing a magic rope, riding a winged horse across the clouds, fighting underwater sea monsters, and his battle with the valley of fore. The special effects reaches its climax where the thief materializes his army of thousands, possibly millions, from puffs of smoke, entering the castle by wrapping himself with an invisible cloak, whisking by his enemies. A magical tale, brilliantly told, full of surprises too plentiful to mention here.

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is Douglas Fairbanks' finest hours on screen. Aside from being in a far away land, Doug resumes his athletic skills as in previous films, ranging from visual stunts to his trademark smile. It's unlike anything he has ever done before and something that could only be accomplished on screen once. Reportedly the first million dollar production, every penny of it shows on screen. How fortunate for THE THIEF OF BAGDAD not to have ever been the victim of neglect and put on the list among many titles as a "lost" film? How many lavish film productions such as this will never see the light again? The Douglas Fairbanks legend lives on with films such as this.

A supporting cast of not so famous performers, only Anna May Wong as the Mongol Slave, did make a name for herself in future films up to the sound era. Julanne Johnston, possibly a screen beauty that will never be known considering she spends the entire time with her face covered by a veil. Aside from Brandon Hurst (Caliph), and Noble Johnson (the Indian Prince), Sojin stands out in his spine chilling performance as the evil Mongol Prince.

THE THIEF OF BADGAD was one of 13 feature films broadcast on the PBS 13-week series, "The Silent Years" (1971), hosted by Orson Welles. Before the start of the movie, Welles talks about how the movie influenced him as a boy, having seen it multiple times in the theater. Though its TV presentation runs 132 minutes, missing footage would be restored in later years, including the underwater sequence as the Thief encounters a harem of beautiful maidens; the thief's battle with a prehistoric bird; as well as his encounter with a living statue with foot long fingernails. Video copies since the 1980s were distributed in various ways. Companies carrying public domain titles at bargain prices would distribute this very long movie minus any type of music soundtrack. Other distributors, namely Blackhawk, contained organ scoring by Gaylord Carter, while others had Thames Orchestration. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD has been available at different time lengths as well, with the standard being 150 minutes. There have been others as Video Yesteryear to have distributed a print as long as three hours at correct silent speed. The KINO company includes what's been missing from numerous prints over the years, that being the cast listing of actors in its conclusion. Aside from the wonders of video and current DVD, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, which did get some exposure on American Movie Classics (1997) and Turner Classic Movies' "Silent Sunday Nights," hosted by Robert Osborne with Gaylord Carter organ scoring, since September 10, 2013, it's been presented on TCM accompanied by Carl Davis Orchestration from the Thames Video Collection.

In closing, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is worthy screen entertainment for all ages and future generations to come. The thought of this to still be available and appreciated today would have made Fairbanks proud, thus, the moral of the story, "Happiness Must Be Earned." (****)
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Long before tigers crouched and dragons hid...
tprofumo7 June 2003
...Douglas Fairbanks brought grace and poetry to physical action on the movie screen. Fairbanks essentially invented the action/adventure movie genre, known in his day as swashbucklers.

"Thief of Bagdad" was made in 1924 when Fairbanks was half way through the heyday of that part of his career. He already had "Zorro" "The Three Musketeers" and "Robin Hood" behind him. "Thief" was something of a departure, however, for it depended less on Fairbanks ability to dance his way though physical stunts than it did on the Arabian Nights tableau it presented on the screen. And frankly, nothing like it has every been done since. Only Griffth's "Intolerance" created the same kind of feel, and it was gritty and warlike, where as "Thief" was a sort of wondrous dream about what it would be like to live by your wits, go off and slay dragons and eventually, win the hand of a princess by saving her father's kingdom.

Fairbanks was over 40 when he made this film and yet seems so perfectly suited for it that we forget his age. He is the embodiment of the dashing hero.

But what almost overshadows him are the sets themselves. Designed by William Cameron Menzies, they are beyond spectacular. Almost every frame of this film is a work of art and of course, the amazing thing is, this was not done through computer animation. So skillful are the designs and the camerawork, that it is almost impossible to tell where the sets stop and the matt paintings begin.

Credit for all this must also go to Fairbanks,who wrote the script and produced the film. Raoul Walsh's direction is also great, although the film is a little long in some spots and would be aided by some skillful editing.

Fairbanks acting style seems today very much of the silent era, yet at the same time, there is always the feel of joyous celebration to it. He was always something of the happy rogue or perhaps, a guy who realized he was getting to make a living by playing in the world's most wonderful sandbox. He was blessed with good fortune and he knew it.

Of the others, Julanne Johnston, who plays the princess, probably comes off the worst of the main characters. She is beautiful,but comes off as little more than window dressing. But cudos to the incredible Anna May Wong who plays the treacherous Mongol slave girl. Wong's great beauty and strong screen presence allow her to steal almost every scene she is in. That Wong never got the chance to play many lead roles is one of the great tragedies of Hollywood history.
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10/10
Douglas Fairbanks' Arabian Nights Extravaganza
Ron Oliver16 February 2000
A beautiful princess, courted by royal suitors, is desired by a powerful Mongol magician. There is none in the kingdom wily & cunning enough to thwart the evil one's wicked plots - no one, that is, except THE THIEF OF BAGDAD.

This is another wonderful Douglas Fairbanks silent adventure epic. The world of the Arabian Nights springs alive before our eyes, with Fairbanks as all its fantastic heroes rolled into one. His athleticism is here perfectly at home in a realm of flying carpets, magic armies & undersea battles.

Director Raoul Walsh & Art Director William Cameron Menzies have created a realm of domes & towers, turrets & great halls, bazaars & souks - all the perfect backdrop for Fairbanks & the plot's sinuous action.

In the supporting cast, Sojin makes an excellent villain, the mysterious epitome of evil. Look for Anna May Wong as a palace maid & versatile African American actor Noble Johnson as the Indian Prince.

Both versions of this film now available on video feature scores based on themes from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, which exquisitely conveys all the allurement of the Thousand and One Nights.
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9/10
Fun '20's swashbuckler, starring Douglas Fairbanks!
Boba_Fett113816 July 2007
This movie is great fun to watch, like you would expect from a genre movie such as this one. It has all the typical adventurous, action and comedy elements present to make this a great swashbuckling movie. Add to that Douglas Fairbanks in good shape and you have a classic unforgettable genre movie!

Douglas Fairbanks is totally great in this one. He looks, acts, breaths, eats like a real superstar. He handles all of the athletic action in the movie really well. It's not hard to see why this man was THE swashbuckling hero of the '20's.

The movie is really great looking, with many grand looking sets. Really great looking stuff! (though obviously all fake.) Something you would normally expect to see in a D.W. Griffith movie. The movie also has some silly looking but yet great early special effects, toward the ending of the movie.

The story has all the ingredients needed for such a genre movie as this one; an heroic main character, a love interest, stereotypical villains and lots of fun and action. Especially toward the ending the movie starts to become greatly adventurous after a sort of slower middle and good first part. It's of course all rather simple and formulaic but this is also what makes the genre so great. You just always know what to expect. It's good simple fun that's professionally and well made, that's also beautiful to look at.

Also definitely fun to see how much of this movie was later used again in Disney's "Aladdin". Some, mostly action sequences, are obviously almost directly copied.

A great fun movie, from swashbuckling-specialist director Raoul Walsh.

9/10

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8/10
New Kino version infinitely superior to previous DVDs
ricknorwood24 April 2004
There are very few silent films that I enjoy as much as a modern film. In fact, the only silent film that I would rate as a 10 is Buster Keaton's The General. But Douglas Fairbanks is certainly worth watching, if you have any real interest in film. He has so much charm, and moves so fluidly, that he captivates even when the special effects are, well, very 1920s. Fairbanks does not so much act as he dances the role. The costumes and sets, by William Cameron Menzies, are also spectacular. I have watched this movie in the earlier DVD version, and frankly it put me to sleep. First, a great deal of it was missing, and so the story was choppy and hard to follow. Second, the print quality was poor. But the new Kino Fairbanks collection is a miracle of film restoration. There is one section on this DVD that is poor quality, compared to the others. But since this is a section that I have never seen before, to see it at all is wonderful.
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Lots of Fun
Snow Leopard25 June 2002
With Douglas Fairbanks, an entertaining story, and all sorts of interesting sights, this classic is lots of fun to watch. The settings, costumes, and story put you convincingly into a fantasy world, and Fairbanks gets plenty of help both from these and from Anna May Wong and the rest of the supporting cast in making the characters come to life.

The first half is pleasant, although sometimes rather slow, as it sets up the rest of the story. Fairbanks has a perfect role for him as the good-natured thief who falls in love with a princess and then gets involved in a lot more adventure than he had planned on. His energy and believability, along with the interesting sets, carry the first part of the movie. The second half, when Fairbanks and his rivals are sent off on their quests, is full of adventure and fascinating detail. It's done with plenty of creativity and also many lavish special effects, most of which still work well. The excitement level is built up nicely in leading up to the action-packed finale.

It's a movie that is both enjoyable and skillfully made. It would have to rank among the best adventure/fantasy stories made in the silent film era, and it's still as entertaining as just about anything of the kind being made today.
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10/10
1924's Best and still number one!
JohnHowardReid13 December 2006
I fully agree with the rapturous review by Mordaunt Hall in The New York Times. Hall went on to name the movie as his number two choice for the Ten Best Films of 1924. In this choice, however, he was out of step with the majority of his comrades. 450 American motion picture critics selected The Thief of Bagdad as the year's Best Film!

I have little to add. The only person who has any valid reason to complain is Snitz Edwards. Incorrectly billed in the credits as an "evil associate" (he's nothing of the sort!), Snitz figures mightily in the introductory sequences and the modus operandi of the plot, but then abruptly disappears. The lovely Anna May Wong would also get my vote for more footage, but at least she runs true to form right through the movie.

Some people have complained about "primitive" special effects. Whilst it's true the effects range from the brilliant to the amateurish and even quaint, this is a movie that has an abundance of "heart", a quality that most computer-generated 21st century films signally lack.

As for the stupendous sets by William Cameron Menzies, the superb cinematography by Arthur Edeson (why hasn't someone written a book about Edeson's mind-boggling career? After all, he photographed at least twenty of the current top cult favorites) and the magical acting by the athletic Fairbanks, the scheming Sojin and the entrancing Miss Wong, all not only contribute richly to the film's success, but each actually presents a compelling reason for making this Thief of Bagdad an absolute must-see!
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The beginning point of the modern action-adventure film...
keihan1 August 2000
"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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Long before tigers crouched and dragons hid...
Tony437 December 2005
...Douglas Fairbanks brought grace and poetry to physical action on the movie screen. Fairbanks essentially invented the action/adventure movie genre, known in his day as swashbucklers.

"Thief of Bagdad" was made in 1924 when Fairbanks was half way through the heyday of that part of his career. He already had "Zorro" "The Three Musketeers" and "Robin Hood" behind him. "Thief" was something of a departure, however, for it depended less on Fairbanks ability to dance his way though physical stunts than it did on the Arabian Nights tableau it presented on the screen. And frankly, nothing like it has every been done since. Only Griffth's "Intolerance" created the same kind of feel, and it was gritty and warlike, where as "Thief" was a sort of wondrous dream about what it would be like to live by your wits, go off and slay dragons and eventually, win the hand of a princess by saving her father's kingdom.

Fairbanks was over 40 when he made this film and yet seems so perfectly suited for it that we forget his age. He is the embodiment of the dashing hero.

But what almost overshadows him are the sets themselves. Designed by William Cameron Menzies, they are beyond spectacular. Almost every frame of this film is a work of art and of course, the amazing thing is, this was not done through computer animation. So skillful are the designs and the camera-work, that it is almost impossible to tell where the sets stop and the matte paintings begin.

Credit for all this must also go to Fairbanks,who wrote the script and produced the film. Raoul Walsh's direction is also great, although the film is a little long in some spots and would be aided by some skillful editing.

Fairbanks acting style seems today very much of the silent era, yet at the same time, there is always the feel of joyous celebration to it. He was always something of the happy rogue or perhaps, a guy who realized he was getting to make a living by playing in the world's most wonderful sandbox. He was blessed with good fortune and he knew it.

Of the others, Julanne Johnston, who plays the princess, probably comes off the worst of the main characters. She is beautiful,but comes off as little more than window dressing. But kudos to the incredible Anna May Wong who plays the treacherous Mongol slave girl. Wong's great beauty and strong screen presence allow her to steal almost every scene she is in. That Wong never got the chance to play many lead roles is one of the great tragedies of Hollywood history.
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8/10
One of the Great Films of the 20s!
John W Chance26 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Really a $2 million dollar extravaganza, the film has amazing art direction and production design by William Cameron Menzies that keeps this film visually interesting, and the viewer spellbound, for well over its two hour length! But it's not just the fantastic and virtually non stop special effects that elevate this film. The verve, energy and smile of Douglas Fairbanks anchor the well told fantasy and its action. This was the 20s version of a 'blockbuster' with its editing, scope and scale, continuous action, special effects, and a fine fantasy story--something not seen comparably again until the unleashing of 'Star Wars' (1977).

There are a couple of slow spots, the Thief's repentance scene and his first time alone with the Princess go on a little too long, but so much else happens in the film that these momentary slowdowns are easily overlooked. The Princess herself (Julanne Johnston), far from being the entrancing mystical vision who captivates and transforms the Thief is, unfortunately, almost a cypher, since her face is hidden behind a veil for much of the movie, and she's not staggeringly beautiful. And why does it take so long for the Thief to ride to the rescue when the Evil Mongol Prince has taken over Bagdad when he could have flown there on Pegasus, the Winged Horse? To heighten the dramatic tension of course!

We also get the bonus of seeing Anna May Wong, in her first 'big' role, so beautifully slinky as the evil Mongol slave / spy. Her major silent film was the British 'Piccadilly,' (1929). Sojin Kamiyama played the Evil Mongol Prince with great menace and evil eyes. You can see him in 'Seven Samurai' (1954) and the first 'Musashi' movie, 'Mushasi Miyamoto' (1954) with Toshiro Mifune.

What really impresses is the ending in which the Thief uses his magic dust to create tens of thousands of soldiers out of the earth to defeat the Mongols' take over of Bagdad, as he then sweeps up the Princess in his invisible cloak, and flies off on the magic carpet with her to live happily ever after. This is the kind of Saturday afternoon at the movies ending that would get audiences cheering even today. Film histories note that after the end of the premiere showing of the film in New York, Fairbanks, as the producer, writer and star, leaped up on the stage to thunderous applause. Well deserved!

This film passed my test of time test as my 8 and 10 year old grandchildren thoroughly enjoyed watching it. They clearly recognized its similarity to their Disney version of 'Aladdin' (1992). The great DVD KINO version has a new soundtrack (with hints of 'Scheherazade') that adds to the thrills of this wonderful movie. Old silent movies are boring? Not this one! I give it an 8.
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Remember when you saw Star Wars for the very first time???
VICB310 March 1999
The acting is corny. The sets are strange. The special effects are crude as hell. (You can even see the wires.) And you sit there for 138 minutes totally entranced.

Seeing this is like seeing Star Wars for the very first time. Honestly. And seeing Fairbanks do his stuff (he really does hop from pot to pot in one scene) drives home exactly why he was a superstar. Talk about presence; This guy owns the screen!

If you care about movies, then give this one a try. (the HBO restoration with the London Symphony Soundtrack is the best.)
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9/10
From Out Of Nowhere
bkoganbing2 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I happened to see The Thief Of Bagdad on a VHS that had a narration by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He said that of all the films that his father did this was the junior Fairbanks's favorite. Although the senior Fairbanks in closeups might have looked a little long in the tooth to be playing the young thief who wooed and won a princess, he hadn't lost a bit of athleticism that his films were known for.

The Tales of the Arabian Nights was the inspiration for this The Thief Of Bagdad and the more familiar sound version that Alexander Korda produced and shot here in the USA as well due to wartime conditions in Great Britain. Here Douglas Fairbanks essentially plays both parts of the two heroes that Sabu and John Justin play in the Korda version. Fairbanks is the professional thief who can steal just about anything, big or small. When he steals a magic rope and climbs into the Caliph's Palace and beholds the sight of the princess Julanne Johnston, there will be no other woman for him.

But the Bagdad Caliphate is not an upwardly mobile society, not for the poor, but honest and not for a criminal. Still he tries to pass himself off as a prince and he's in competition with three other princes for her hand.

One of them, Japanese actor Rojin is the Mongol prince and if he can't woo the Caliphate in alliance, he'll steal the kingdom with his army which he starts infiltrating in Bagdad. Fairbanks ultimately can't go through with the deception though he charms the princess. She sneaks him out of the palace before what happens to upwardly mobile aspirants in that society happens to Fairbanks.

But holy man Charles Belcher says that Fairbanks has a future with the princess and he's put through a lot of tests before he can wed. And of course in typical bravura Fairbanks style, he puts the Mongols to flight with an army created out of nowhere.

By this time Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith had gotten United Artists up and running as the production company for their films which it was primarily doing in those early days. Producer Fairbanks spared no expense in creating the sets for The Thief Of Bagdad, the sets look like something Cecil B. DeMille or D.W. Griffith might have done. I wouldn't be surprised if Griffith took an unofficial hand here.

The sets were created of course by young William Cameron Menzies in one of his earliest films, costumes by Mitchell Leisen, and the director was Raoul Walsh, all of them getting big boosts in their careers from Douglas Fairbanks. With all that legendary talent in its salad days no wonder The Thief Of Bagdad holds up as well as it does today.

I also must comment on the orchestrations of themes of Rimsky-Korsakov by the London Symphony Orchestra. Theater organs are usually good for silent films, but this one really calls for an orchestra so vast is the sweep of this silent classic.

At two and half hours plus, The Thief Of Bagdad runs longer than most silent films did by far. Still even today it casts a spell over the viewer.
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10/10
Perfect Fantasy Film
flapdoodle647 April 2010
This is certainly one of the best examples of the greatness of the medium now called 'silent film.' There are truly wondrous moving images here, created by means of human actors, stage techniques, and primitive FX, made to tell a very satisfying mythic story. If you could add audible dialogue to this movie, it would only be a detriment.

Douglas Fairbanks was the top heroic movie actor of his day, and he made this at the peak of his powers. He studied ballet for some months prior to the filming, and you can see the result in his leaps and other characteristic feats. There musical quality to his body movements that make the action sequences in this movie unlike anything else, and it goes well with the facial pantomime of the silent cinema.

I saw a restored cut of this film on PBS TV in the late 1980's, with the original color tints and an orchestral soundtrack composed of rearranged bits of Rimsky-Korsekov's 'Scheherazade.' The Scheherazade material works perfectly with this material, not only because it helps establish the magical world in which our story transpires, but because it goes perfectly with Fairbanks' ballet-style action sequences. Also, Scheherazade is one of my all time favorite pieces of music. Over 20 years after seeing this film, Scheherazade still conjures up images from this film.

The FX are not, of course, realistic by modern standards. But they nonetheless produce amazing and memorable moving images and have a magical or dreamlike quality that is better suited to this material than CGI. In fact, the primitive FX have a hand-crafted feel, complimenting the physicality of Fairbanks' performance and serving as a tonic to the rubbery CGI that contaminate so many modern films.

This is a good movie to see if you think you have any potential of enjoying a silent movie, and/or if you are fond of fantasy and the mythic. Hopefully it will inspire you to noble things.
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10/10
Silent Fantasy Film Treasure
FloatingOpera725 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Thief of Bagdad (1924): Douglas Fairbanks, Julanne Johnston, Sojin, Anna May Wong, Brandon Hurst, Snitz Edwrds, Toe Du Crow, Noble Johnson, Charles Belcher, Winter Blossom, Sam Baker, Mathilde Comont, Jesse Lasky Jr, Jesse Fuller, Etta Lee, Sadakichi Hartmann, David Sharp, K. Nambu, Charles Sylvester, Charles Stevens, Scotty Mattraw, Jess Weldon....Director Raoul Walsh...Screenplay Douglas Fairbanks, Achmed Abdullah, James T. O'Donohoe, Lotta Woods.

Fantasy films have been around since silent films first took the world by storm. Melies "Voyage To The Moon", "Frankenstein" "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "Call of Cthulhu" "Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari", "Phantom Of The Opera" "Metropolis" "Ring Des Nibelungen"- all fantastical movies dealing with the supernatural, science-fiction, horror and fantasy. In the 1920's, handsome and very physical actor Douglas Fairbanks ranked among the top actors with Lon Cheney and Charlie Chaplin. Fairbanks had played the "heroic" adventurer in "Robin Hood" and "Three Musketeers", all roles which called for physical stamina, stuntwork and charisma. In "Thief of Bagdad" he portrays a nameless devil-may-care thief from Bagdad during the mythical "Arabian Nights" days. Think Aladdin from Disney. He survives life by taking what he wants and living in the streets. Before long, he becomes involved in a quest to win the hand of the beautiful princess (Julanne Johnston). She favors the Thief -when he has disguised himself as Prince Ahmed- but there are other suitors competing for her hand in marriage, among them a Mongol Prince (Sojin), a Persian Prince (Mathilde Comont) and an Indian prince (Noble Johnson). The Princess sends them on a quest to find a treasure so rare and valuable that she would deign to marry he who brings it to her. It's of course, our hero The Thief/Prince who marries the Princess but not after fighting intrigue, baddies and experiencing a fantastical adventures in remote, mythical locations, among them under the sea, where he is tempted by mermaids, and The Citadel of the Moon. This silent film was the first of its kind, not in its theme of adventure but in its stunning visuals and effects. The production and art design is by the esteemed William Cameron Menzies, whose impressive career in Hollywood was long (he would design production for Gone With The Wind in 1939). It's a masterpiece. Every detail brings to life this magical "Arabian Nights" world. This is the most "colorful" of any "black and white" silent film ever made. For night scenes, the color is tinted "evening" blue, casting shadows on palace walls and city alleys. The "underwater" scene is also tinted to stand for the greenish-blue sea. The castle is itself amazing, with huge, flowery doors and walls. Audiences must have been amazed at how realistic everything appeared, even how the Princes are able to fly on a magic carpet or The Thief make himself invisible, or how The Princess could see through a magic globe. As for the acting, it's typical of the silent era school of acting which means exaggerated facial expressions and dramatic body language and while it appears laughable and corny today, it was standard acting in its day. Even so, the plot is strong even if the characters are one-dimensional, good/evil. There is a little more to the acting though, for example Asian actress Anna May Wong in the role of the Princess' traitorous slave girl. Unbeknownst to the Princess, the Mongol slave girl is in league with the Mongol Prince. Obviously harboring hatred for her "conquerors" the people of Bagdad, including the Princess herself, she plots to help the Mongol Prince succeed in becoming King of Bagdad. When Plan A fails, Plan B suddenly takes shape - invasion of Bagdad by the Mongol armies. Because the film is quite long and slow-moving, it has the feel of an epic, another popular genre in silent films (The Birth Of A Nation, The Ten Commandments, Ring Des Nibelungen). This is a treasure of a silent film, often overshadowed by more famous silent films of the 20's but it is a document in cinema of the early 20's and should be studied in film school. Douglas Fairbanks was already well into his middle-age but he was still doing his own physical stuntwork and female-pleasing in his looks and charms. This is a sensational, unforgettable film and a must see for devotees of silent film and fantasy films.
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10/10
My enthusiasm knows no bounds
trudylyn22 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this on cable, AMC, I think, and I loved it. I later acquired a tape. This movie rocks and Douglas Fairbanks is the rock star. The sets are magnificent, the effects fascinating, and all the actors pulled out the stops, many of their performances still remarkable by modern standards. Every cent spent on the production shows up on the screen. You don't know anything about movies if you've never seen this one. It contains comedy, adventure, horror, fantasy, and science fiction. The sets are overwhelming in their size and number. The special effects are amazing even at this late date. For those who have children who love Aladdin, this film has many harbingers, although the 1940 version with Sabu is the direct predecessor.
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10/10
As thrilling today as it was in 1924!
Pat-5424 September 1998
If anyone ever asks why Douglas Fairbanks was such a big star, tell them to view this film. His personality "leaps" off the screen and the film is as exciting as it was in 1924. True, some of the "special effects" are a little corny by today's standards, but the film holds up, nevertheless.

And to all those who appreciate the male form, Douglas Fairbanks physique is unbelievable!
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7/10
The Thief of Bagdad
Jackson Booth-Millard4 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I found this silent film in the book of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I knew there was a 1940 remake that got much higher ratings from critics, but I was definitely looking forward to seeing this classic original, from director Raoul Walsh (High Sierra, White Heat). Basically in the city of Bagdad lives (Ahmed) The Thief (Douglas Fairbanks) steals anything valuable and to get him by, and he has stolen a magic rope that he can summon to climb high heights, and using this he can sneak into the palace of The Caliph (Brandon Hurst). But his habit for thievery fades away when he sees the Caliph's daughter, The Princess (Julanne Johnston), he is instantly infatuated, but he is forced to escape when spotted by The Mongol Slave (Anna May Wong). The Thief is determined to win the heart of the Princess, and he hears from His Evil Associate (Snitz Edwards) that a princess has been stolen during the reign of a previous ruler, and he gets his chance the next day when it is her birthday. She is given the fortune that whoever touches a rose bush will be the man she married, she is hoping it will not be one of the three princes, Prince of the Indies (Noble Johnson), obese Prince of Persia (Mathilde Comont) and the Prince of the Mongols (Sôjin Kamiyama), they all pass, and the Thief appears in stolen garments, and he only touches the rose bush when his horse throws him into it. The Princess is delighted and chooses the Thief as her husband to be, but he had plans to abduct her and with his great love for her confesses all to her, he is arrested after being overheard by the Mongol Prince's spy, he is punished with lashes, and before further torture he is bribed by the Princess to be let go. She is told she must choose another man to marry, therefore she tells all potential princes that they should find her a gift after "seven moons", and the one she will marry will be the one who has the rarest treasure, the Thief feels despair, but visiting The Holy Man (Charles Belcher) he is directed to a place that great hidden treasures lie. The Indian Prince finds a crystal ball that can show anything you want to see, and the Persian Prince finds a magic flying carpet, but the Mongol Prince has his own plans to take over the kingdom and use the Princess as his incentive, and to help with his plan he has a slave poison the Princess, and he will use a magic apple to cure her. Meanwhile the Thief has had many adventures in the mysterious land, and the treasure he has found include a cloak to turn him invisible, and magic powder that when he sprinkles will turn into anything he wishes, he makes his way back to Bagdad, as do the other princes when they hear the news of the Princess near death. Her life is saved with the magic apple, the other princes besides the Mongol Prince are regarded useless, but she sees the Thief, Ahmed, transformed into a prince, in the magic crystal ball, but before he arrives the Mongol Prince unleashes his army to take over the city, but the Thief uses his magic powder to summon another army to make the other flee. The Mongol Prince attempts to try and kill this new prince, but Ahmed saves the Princess who takes her away on the flying carpet, and he uses the invisibility cloak to defeat the other characters trying to catch them, and with Bagdad saved and the Princess safe the Caliph in gratitude allows his daughter to marry Ahmed. Also starring Winter Blossom as Slave of the Lute and Etta Lee as Slave of the Sand Board. Fairbanks gives one of his best performance as the often grinning and shirtless almost all the way through scoundrel thief turned brave hero, Johnston looks pretty as the princess longing to find the right prince, and the other supporting characters do their parts well also. I can see that this would have been one of the inspirations for ideas put into Disney cartoon Aladdin, obviously it an Arabian Nights story, and with elements like magic ropes, flying carpets and magic powder there is great spectacle, these special effect moments use terrific camera and editing tricks, and the swashbuckling bits with fights and chases are great fun, a splendid silent fantasy adventure. Very good!
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8/10
Enchanting!
Gary17045928 October 2007
I've always loved this version of the ancient Arabian tale, Douglas Fairbanks was at the top of his game, lithe and energetic throughout the 148 minutes. There are various copies available, some better than others overall in various states of decomposition, but I haven't seen one better than the Thames Photoplay issue. A copy I've seen (regurgitated by Elstree Hill) has a whole chapter almost burnt up and a teeth-grindingly awful score, so if you're interested it'll probably pay to be careful.

Fairbanks spends the first 20 minutes scene-setting with plenty of stealing and acrobatics, then tries to steal from the Caliph of Bagdad but falls in love with his beautiful daughter instead. He then spends the remainder of the film as the Reformed Thief Of Bagdad, trying to win her. In this he's up against 3 rivals and they're all tasked with finding the greatest treasure to decide which one will marry her. The main role was split into two for the 1940 remake – he was certainly more animated than John Justin! Anna May Wong plays an evil traitor but confidante to the Princess, a role she reprised 10 years later in Chu-Chin-Chow the first film version of which appeared the year before this, and which provided some of the story here too. Some of the special effects still look good especially the flying carpet scenes and creating the million man army, but the rest for the main are primitive – however if you're unfortunate enough to see any of the laughable modern versions, maybe some with eye-splitting digital cartoonery too you'll realise special effects do not make a great movie. This has a great story, great sets, great atmosphere, is constantly inventive within the technological limitations and lives in the imagination long after it's finished. However if comparisons are possible between silent and sound films, I think Korda's version was something extra special and on another level altogether.

So if you care, dig out a good non-budget issue of this for a magical night's entertainment.
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9/10
A Stylish Visual Visit to an Other World
LeonLouisRicci20 August 2012
Lavish, incredible, beautiful, and creative cinema of the silent era. One of the best. Every scene is an outstanding, ostentatious, display of a glossy deco-style.

This is a silent film that can be throughly enjoyed by those who normally shy away from the pre-sound era, because it is overwhelmingly a visual visit to an otherworld through fantastic set designs and dazzling special effects.

There is a bit of hammy acting but it doesn't seem objectionable because it is overshadowed by the grandeur and scope of the production. The current video prints are beautiful and allow all the allure of the adventure to paint a pretty picture of a Fantasyland through the early Hollywood heyday of an industry feeling the strength of its powerful productions.
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10/10
Really sensational
TheLittleSongbird22 July 2012
While the 1940 The Thief of Bagdad is one of my favourite films, this silent film from 1924 is every bit as memorable and has much to offer. Visually, it is spectacular especially in the splendid cinematography and the colourful sets. The story is still as magical as ever, with the action witty and cleverly choreographed with Fairbanks doing his own stunts and doing it so energetically, and the fantasy elements from the magic rope and the winged horse to the underwater sea monsters and the valley battle are enough to enchant you. True, the film is lengthy and may contain a couple of lulls in the pacing, but when Fairbanks, the visuals and the adventure and fantasy elements of the story were so good, this was hardly a problem for me. The characters could be seen as genre clichés, but fun and likable ones at that as well as endearingly performed. Of the performances, faring weakest was Julanne Johnston, beautiful but on the bland side. The rest of the cast more than make amends, with Douglas Faribanks really the epitome of dashing, heroic and charming(made even more so with his trademark smile), Sojin deliciously malevolent and Anna May Wong entrancing. Overall, there are a couple of debits, but the great things overshadow those completely and make for a sensational film. 9.5/10 Bethany Cox
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10/10
Great Stunt Work & Impressive Performances & Effects
DKosty12317 February 2010
For those who have not seen a silent film, try this one. Douglas Fairbanks shows off great silent acting & fantastic stunt work in a very entertaining film. This is the type of film that should be pulled out when someone wants to do a theater organ score with a silent movie.

There is a very good reason this film is great visually and clever with special effects. The Director is Raoul Walsh who is one of the great Directors who has gotten more recognition in recent years because of his great body of directing work. This version has been overshadowed by the 1940 version done in Technicolor with Sabu, but once you look at this film, you will realize this film is great in its own right.

Julanne Johnson, a very busy actress in films until she retired in 1934 does pretty well here in the female lead. This is Raoul Walsh's 49th film directing & it shows in how well the cameras are used in this film. Anna May Wong is a great actress in a featured role in this one too.
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9/10
Ahead of Its Time In Ways, and Still Entertaining
D_Burke19 January 2010
It's a funny thing about watching silent movies in the 21st Century, even silent movies that have been well restored. Especially in the case of fantasy films like "The Thief of Baghdad" and others like it that require special effects, it is not just that the special effects look archaic compared to the CGI effects of today. There are a lot of things modern day audiences have to get used to, such as the fact that spoken dialogue doesn't appear in subtitles unless it absolutely has to. If two people are arguing and no words appear on the screen, you really have to make your best guess as to what they could be saying.

There's also the case of timing. "The Thief of Baghdad" runs 2 hours and 19 minutes, and it's safe to say that if the film had sound (dialogue too), the running time would probably be cut down by at least 20 minutes. There are also the other hang-ups of silent movies, such as the movement of the characters being too quick, and how some of the actors and actresses look very strange and out of the ordinary. The lack of color added to the overall darkness of the film due to lack of lighting also is a deterrent to watching these very, very old films that were made when my grandparents were infants (literally).

If you are not a fan of old movies, you really have to keep those things in mind when watching "The Thief of Baghdad" for the first time. The fact is that this film's audience was probably people who didn't go to the movies often, and were still amazed by the novelty of moving pictures.

Keeping in mind all I said about why most silent films have not exactly stood the test of time, is "The Thief of Baghdad" a good movie? For many reasons, yes, and it should be watched by people who are fans of action and fantasy movies, because this really paved the way for what CGI and other special effects sciences only made better in the years to come.

The movie tells a good story, although one that sputters and stalls a few times in the first 30 minutes. Douglas Fairbanks, the epitome of the ultra masculine hero, plays the thief here who goes by no other name. You see him steal to make a living in many clever ways. In fact, the first five minutes of the film are incredibly entertaining the way he manages to pickpocket wealthy patrons, and effortlessly fling his way up to a balcony with just a long rope and a donkey.

The story really begins, though, when the thief disguises himself as a prince, and attempts to woo the princess. He does successfully, though he is filled with guilt about deceiving her. Long story short, he is put on a quest to obtain a rare gift for the princess, in competition with three other princes with whom the princess wants no company. Whereas the three actual princes rely on their servants to get them their gifts, the thief goes alone on a long journey. He has help along the way as to where to go, but he really does the grunt work himself.

Of course, the filmmakers did nothing to make Fairbanks look Arabian or Iraqi, but that's just one of the ways you really have to suspend disbelief in this film. Fortunately, "The Thief of Baghdad" didn't make the same mistake that "Birth of a Nation" did in portraying racist stereotypes (whether or not that was a mistake really depends on the viewer). Instead of making white men and women into embarrassing stereotypes, this film used actual actors of Asian, African, and (I'm guessing) middle Eastern descent. They probably had the artistic liberty to make such politically incorrect assertions about those in the Middle East, but they thankfully avoided it in this film.

Being a moviegoer who you could say has been spoiled by CGI special effects, I actually found myself wondering how some of the special effects in this movie were pulled off. There are scenes where a boy mysteriously reappears on a rope that is hanging in mid air, a giant scorpion attacks the thief as he searches for the lost treasure, and a magic carpet flies over the city of Baghdad. I was amazed to find myself saying, "Given what the filmmakers had to work with, how did they do that? How did they edit the film so that that particular effect worked?" If you have that sort of wonderment out of a moviegoer who just went to see "Avatar", you've got a good movie.

The movie was also probably shot on a studio lot, but the set design is so detailed with its tall buildings and plants carefully placed in the makeshift Baghdad that there are few indications of such a location. The movie was probably a big hit at its time because so much artistic effort was put into bringing this Arabian Knights tale to life. These scenes within Baghdad made me wish more that the film was in color, but I would not settle for colorization. That process would have ruined the film.

So "The Thief of Baghdad" is a bit slow at times, and some scenes require the point of view of someone who has never heard of television. Still, the movie told a good story, the special effects were awe-inspiring considering its time period, and the message of the film is something to take away: "Happiness Must Be Earned". These words are written in the sky as an old man is sitting in the Arabian desert presumably telling a young boy this story. This scene, identical in the beginning and end of the movie, go against the traditional rule of "Show, don't tell", but the scene is still a very artistic and beautiful way to bookmark such a film.
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9/10
Magic Carpet Ride
wes-connors5 April 2008
In Bagdad, Douglas Fairbanks (as "The Thief") is a carefree crook, proclaiming, "What I want - I take. My reward is here. Paradise is a fool's dream and Allah is a myth." All that is thrown asunder when Mr. Fairbanks lays his eyes on veiled, but pretty Julanne Johnson (as "The Princess"). In order to win her hand in holy marriage, Fairbanks must successfully maneuver increasingly dangerous and incredible feats...

This is an unnecessarily slow-paced, but very much worth the time, "super-production" from Fairbanks and company. The sets and photography are extraordinary; and, the overview shots of Bagdad not only are, but also look - futuristic. Director Raoul Walsh, photographer Arthur Edeson, and designer William Cameron Menzies create a wonderful "Arabian Nights Fantasy World" for the ever-exuberant Fairbanks to inhabit. Anna May Wong (as The Mongol Slave) steals the acting honors; otherwise, the arm-flailing acting of the cast is outrageous, but... it fits the mood of the film. Hang in for Fairbanks' magic carpet ride near the film's end. Like John Kay sang, "Fantasy will set you free."

********* The Thief of Bagdad (3/18/24) Raoul Walsh ~ Douglas Fairbanks, Julanne Johnston, Sojin, Anna May Wong
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7/10
Action at its best
intelearts26 December 2007
There is no denying that for its day and age this is wonderful.

Given that it is nearly a century old it holds up very well.

Though slow in places and long at 2 hours and 19 minutes I can imagine the original audiences must have blow away by the special effects, action, and story, costumes and sets etc;

If course, the real selling point is Fairbanks who truly lights up the screen. Yes, its hammy even for a silent movie, but what comes across is his boundless energy, his enthusiasm, and the love of what he does.

Recommended for all those who love swashbuckling adventures!

A treat to go back in time.
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