In Bagdad, the young and naive Sultan Ahmad is curious about the behavior of his people. The Grand Vizier Jaffar convinces Ahmad to walk through the city disguised as a subject to know his people. Then he seizes the power telling to the inhabitants that Ahmad has died while he sends his army to arrest the Sultan that is thrown into the dungeons and sentenced to death. Ahmad befriends the young thief Abu that helps him to escape from the prison. They flee to Basra and plan to travel abroad with Sinbad. However Ahmad stumbles upon the beautiful princess and they fall in love with each other. But the evil Jaffar has also traveled to Basra to propose to marry the princess. When they see each other, Jaffar uses magic to blind Ahmad and turn Abu into a dog. Is their love doomed? Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Still a Solidly Wonderful Fantasy After Sixty-Plus Years
The story of the boy thief of Bagdad (as it was once spelled) has attracted filmmakers from Raoul Walsh in 1924, who starred Douglas Fairbanks in the first, silent, rendering of "Thief of Bagdad," to less imposing, more recent attempts. The best, however, remains 1940's version which for its time was a startling, magical panoply of top quality special effects. Those effects still work their charm.
No less than six directors are listed for the technicolor movie which starred Sabu as the boy thief, Abu, John Justin as the dreamily in love deposed monarch, Ahmad and June Duprez as the lovely princess sought by Ahmad and pursued by the evil vizier, Jaffar, played by a sinister Conrad Veidt. The giant genie is ably acted by Rex Ingram.
Ahmad is treacherously deposed by Jaffar and when later arrested by that traitorous serpent, he and the boy, Abu, suffer what are clearly incapacitating fates. Ahmad is rendered blind and Abu becomes a lovable mutt. Their adventures through the gaily decorated Hollywood backlots are fun but the special effects make this film work.
Two men were responsible for everything from a magic flying carpet to the gargantuan genie who pops out of a bottle with a tornado-like black swirl: Lawrence W. Butler and Tom Howard. (Howard, incidentally, did the special effects for the 1961 version of this film. Both men had long and distinguished careers in technical wizardry.)
Duprez is outstandingly lovely while little called on for serious acting. Justin's Ahmad projects a driven but dreamy romanticism untouched by erotic impulses. Sabu is really the central actor in many scenes and he's very good. For a movie meant for kids as well as adults there's a fair amount of violence but of the bloodless kind. Still, I don't think anyone under eight ought to see "Thief of Bagdad."
This film makes periodic appearances on TV but today my teenage son and I saw it in a theater with quite a few youngsters present. It was great to see computer-besotted kids in an affluent community respond with cheers and applause to special effects that must seem primitive to them.
"Thief of Bagdad" is a pre-war Hollywood classic from a time when strong production values often resulted in enduringly attractive and important releases. This is one of the best of its kind.
64 of 73 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this