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J. Elder Wills
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Josef von Sternberg
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Ali Baba discovers the treasure cave of robber-baron Abu Hasan, and tells his greedy brother, Kasim Baba, who is posing as a Chinese merchant and entertaining Hasan, where the cache is hidden. Zahrat, acting as a spy for Hasan, is blamed when the robber is almost caught, and Kasim is killed. Zahrat then decides to join Ali and his son, Nor-al-din, who is in love with the slave-girl, Marjanal. During a party, she kills the disguised Hasan, and his men are boiled in oil. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This one works in all departments a 1930's British film of a British stage musical that ran from 1916 to 1920 the sheer artistry involved in this production disguised the staidly primitive techniques. And the production is breathtaking at times it shows just what can be achieved with a little money but plenty of intelligence. George Robey, three decades past his Prime Minister Of Mirth heyday was perfect in the main role of Ali Baba. Just in case you ever wonder: even when young he never had a singing voice, it was his down to Earth silliness playing with words that endeared him to British Music Hall audiences.
It's the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and his sudden rise to wealth and power, from the finding of their cave and robbing the robbers of their treasures. The magnificent Chu Chin Chow of the title and his coterie travelling to Baghdad are reduced to dust in double quick time, leading to the imposture by Abu Hasan and his Thieves at the court of Kasim Baba. The sets are astounding, probably gossamer but believable. Fritz Kortner as Head Thief is suitably savage, and Anna May Wong (again playing the treacherous insider, as in Fairbanks' Thief Of Bagdad) as his slave is in a difficult position for the entire film. Along the way are some lovely songs: The Cobblers Song, the incredibly romantic Corraline (sung in the sparkling "moonlight" to every camera angle imaginable), I Love Thee So (languid and atmospheric photography) but especially the gorgeous Any Time's Kissing Time. Robey and Thelma Tuson gave it their all and succeeded in creating the most delicious idiotic/romantic 2 minutes in film history just look at the slaves laughing in the background!
It's one of the best British films from the decade even so I don't expect UK TV to ever show it again, but it's one I trot out on video to watch every few years with no loss of enjoyment. It might have been better in Technicolor because a lot of people who might have liked it today could be put off by the black and white photography. But if you can sink into the first 10 minutes or so you'll find a little gem worth the taking.
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