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11 user 3 critic

Chu Chin Chow (1934)

Musical retelling of the "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves" Arabian Nights tale.

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(play), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Fritz Kortner ...
Abu Hasan
...
...
Nur-al-din Baba
Pearl Argyle ...
Marjanah, servant girl
Malcolm 'Mr. Jetsam' McEachern ...
Abdullah, Kassim's major-domo (as Jetsam)
...
Rakham, chief henchman
Sydney Fairbrother ...
Mahbubah Baba, Ali's wife
Lawrence Hanray ...
Kasim Baba (as Laurence Hanray)
Frank Cochrane ...
Mustafa
Thelma Tuson ...
Alcolom Baba, Kassim's wife
...
The Caliph (as Francis Sullivan)
Gibb McLaughlin ...
The Caliph's Vizier
Kiyoshi Takase ...
Entertainer at Feast (as Kyoshi Takase)
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Storyline

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 <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

brother | cave | violence | chinese | spy | See All (52) »

Taglines:

Mighty Arabian Nights of Splendor and Adventure! (USA re-release poster) See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 September 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ali Baba Nights  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(reissue) (re-edited)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film's name was Stan Lee's inspiration for the Marvel Comics character of Fin Fang Foom See more »


Soundtracks

Selections
from "Chu Chin Chow"
Music by Frederick Norton
Lyrics by Oscar Asche
Additional Lyrics by Sidney Gilliat
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User Reviews

 
Where the background music eclipses nearly everything else.
20 November 2016 | by See all my reviews

Chu Chin Chow was a well-known stage musical that started during the First World War years and lasted through the twenties and the thirties. Then mention of it suddenly stopped and was heard of no more. Of the songs used in the musical, only the Shoemaker's Song was catchy enough to survive outside the musical, and was covered by all kinds of musicians from trad jazz bands to Paul Robeson.

As others have said, the musical is set in Baghdad and is a variant of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The costumes are exaggerated, with grotesque turbans and fezzes.

What is unusual for a British film is that the background music is almost non-stop. Often the background music has nothing to do with what is happening in the scene, and is thus more like Muzak in a supermarket or an elevator. This was sometimes done in early thirties films by First National/Warner Brothers. This is the first time I have encountered this in a British film.

The orchestration is adventurous and the higher pitches feature unusual instruments. These include domras that tremolo in the string section, and - soloing in the woodwind - are a sopranino recorder, and even an ocarina, to accentuate clownishness. As big jars, each containing a thief, are rolled into a pit, we hear the timpani making a thunderous noise - inappropriate due to the size of the jars, but unbelievably effective.

With one exception, the singers are not very good. The exception is the Australian basso profondo, Malcolm McEacharn, who is billed as "Jetsam," because he was a member of the Flotsam and Jetsam duo. An exceptionally rich and powerful voice that can reach down, down, down to depths that a basso cantate like myself can only dream about.

I have never seen anything quite like this in a British film of the period.


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