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|Index||14 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After her adoring audience had grown up, they discovered that Maria
Africa Vidal de Santo Silas (born 1920, died 1951) hadn't done her own
singing (she was dubbed), nor her own dancing; her ability as an
actress was also put into question, but her spell was not tarnished...
Maria Montez was still the madly glamorous South American 'Queen of Technicolor'. What her roles (all of them variations of Scheherazade) required were ingredients she had a surplus of: statuesque bearing, regal demeanor, fiery beauty and, best of all, an unassailable confidence in herself When one weighed all the things she couldn't do against the thing she did so well, the balance came out in her favor
Her film, "Arabian Nights," is a well presented oriental adventure which has nothing to do with its source material but entertained multitudes in search of relief from total war and was followed by several vaguely similar slices of hokum with the same stars...
I remember seeing this film when it appeared in 1942, during WWII, a time of tension and uncertainity. It was great escape. The villains were villainous, the heroes heroic. The drama was dramatic and the storyline warm and fuzzy. Seeing it on video has allowed me to revisit that past time when as a child the world was uncertain and it was possible to escape into a costume-splendoured fantasy where the hero gets the girl, saves the kingdom and justice is served. There's nothing ever wrong with that.
Since I've recently written an article on MARIA MONTEZ, let me quote
directly from it to describe this Maria Montez/Jon Hall/Sabu
"The fact that she couldn't sing or dance seemed to be no obstacle to Maria since she was brimming with confidence--although aside from voice dubbing, it was later revealed that a dance double was used to perform parts of her routine.
With Walter Wanger in charge of its lavish production, she was given "Arabian Nights" ('42), a classic fantasy tale that--fortunately--no one was expected to take seriously. As if to make sure of that, the trio of stars were supported by one of The Three Stooges (Shemp Howard) as Sinbad. Another supporting player in the cast was Turhan Bey who would eventually be promoted to co-starring roles with Montez. The boyish Sabu, no longer under contract to Alexander Korda, proved to be one of the most charming ingredients of the film and played a huge role in the story which had Montez captured by an evil caliph and rescued by Sabu who rides through the desert sands to rescue her.
With Montez in filmy silks, gaudy baubles and turbaned headdress looking like a fairy-tale princess and muscular Jon Hall sharing the romantic interludes, audience response was enthusiastic. The lavish production values, exotic settings and personable trio made the tale satisfying for patrons seeking easy-on-the-eye entertainment. Lee Mortimer of the N.Y. Daily Mirror noted: 'After her performance in this opus, Maria Montez climbs several steps in everybody's estimation.'
And apparently, the public agreed because it was a huge hit."
For pure escapism, you couldn't beat these Maria Montez-Jon Hall films with the accent on adventure and romance in exotic settings and all designed to showcase her Latin beauty. More discriminating viewers noted that the acting was on a grade school level despite the big budget of most of the technicolor films she appeared in.
By the way, the article will appear in an upcoming issue of CLASSIC IMAGES.
This ancient fantasy of two brothers who are caliphs-in-waiting is a dazzling, colorful film presented in lush Technicolor. Maria Montez is the beautiful and exotic Sherazade who desires the trappings of wealth and power as she aspires to marry a caliph. Jon Hall is a virile and likable hero and Leif Erickson and Edgar Barrier are also good in supporting roles but it is Sabu who leaves the best impression in this picture. Nature's beauty of deep blue skies, thick white clouds and golden desert sand dunes are well-served in this yarn of palace intrigue and murder as the brothers battle for the kingdom's throne. Chase scenes, sword fights and comedy are sprinkled throughout the story but it is the vibrant color interiors and exteriors that arrest all attention in this film.
Arabian Nights is one of the best early Technicolor efforts out of Hollywood and it really shows. It is great fun with a little something for everyone. The DVD is an excellent transfer and the color is beautiful on my new plasma HD TV. For the kids, its a simple action film with good good caliphs and bad caliphs. For the men, there's the gorgeous Maria Montez (OK, so the boys will enjoy her too.) For the ladies, the costuming will simply amaze you. This film can be watched by everyone except small children (a couple of killings - non graphic and 1 torture scene - also non graphic). Highly recommend for families with children 8 and over yrs old. Us older folks will enjoy it too. You can watch this many times. It won't get old.
I had long wanted to revisit this one since my one and only viewing of
it had occurred long ago (back in the mid-1980s) and given that I am
partial to Arabian Nights extravaganzas. Frankly, I was very
disappointed that Universal decided to issue this one on DVD by itself
a couple of years ago instead of releasing a Franchise Collection
comprising several of its equally colorful follow-ups from the same
studio; in the end, I didn't pick the disc up but, in view of the
problematic copy I eventually ended up with, it would perhaps had been
wiser if I did! In fact, when I first acquired it on DivX, there were
severe lip-synch problems; this was remedied when I eventually
converted it onto DVD-R but then there was intermittent jerkiness to
the picture. Furthermore, when I played it on my Pioneer model, the
picture froze with a loud buzz
thankfully, this was not repeated when I
placed it into my cheaper DVD player and even the jitters were less
Anyway, this movie has a lot to answer for: it was the ideal form of cinematic escapism for WWII picturegoers and reaped big box office returns for Universal which ensured that they went back to the desert of Arabia for many more times thereafter in the next decade or so. Despite the generic title, the film isn't actually a filmic depiction of one of the classic stories but rather Universal's own concoction with every known ingredient thrown into the mix for added value: so it is that historical figures (Haroun-Al-Raschid) rub shoulders with mythical ones (Sinbad, Aladdin, Scheherazade) and are subverted or sanitized into the process. Dashing hero Jon Hall plays Haroun-Al-Raschid as a deposed Caliph seeking to regain his throne usurped by his villainous and seemingly love-crazed brother (Leif Ericson); the object of his unrequited affections is Scheherazade which is actually misspelled in the credits! played by the iconic "Queen of Technicolor" Maria Montez. Sinbad and Aladdin, then, are incongruously but humorously portrayed as amiable buffoons by familiar character actors John Qualen and Shemp Howard respectively; the latter is always on the point of spinning one of his seafaring yarns yet again before being shut up by his ill-tempered circus employer Billy Gilbert! The third lead role is taken by exotic Indian star Sabu who had already visited this territory in the quintessential Arabian Nights tale (and definitive film), the magnificent Alexander Korda production of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940); what the film under review lacks in comparison to the latter is the omission of wizardry and special effects.
As I said, this formula proved so successful that Universal reunited variations of the star combo several times afterwards WHITE SAVAGE (1943), ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1944), COBRA WOMAN (1944; see above), GYPSY WILDCAT (1944), SUDAN (1945; also helmed by Rawlins) and TANGIER (1946). Another measure of its being welcome at the time of release is the fact that ARABIAN NIGHTS was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in these categories: art direction-set decoration, cinematography (this was Universal's first three-strip Technicolor production and, over 60 years later, the colors still leap off the screen), music (Frank Skinner's score is appropriately rousing) and sound recording. In this context, the choice of John Rawlins as director best known for the rather weak SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR (1942) was a curious one but, in hindsight, he conducted the proceedings very capably.
This action-packed adventure film is worth a watch, but it is not
exactly a memorable film, and the story line suffers - secondary to all
of the action taking place. (The basic summary is about a man who ends
up getting revenge and banding together with some close friends,
including a slave girl who is his love interest.) It is a fun film, and
the picture (shot in Technicolour) is beautiful. (Excellent landscapes,
colourful costumes, and much more come to life in the vibrant colour
that this film was shot in.) If you want to watch something fun that
doesn't require much thinking, then this movie won't let you down.
Provided you really don't know or want to know the real tale of
Scheherazade, then you'll no doubt enjoy this film. The actual book,
"The Arabian Nights" (also known as "The Book of One Thousand and One
Nights"), was supposedly written by Princess Scheherazade and consists
of many short stories she supposedly invented each night in order to
save her life from her crazy husband. In this movie there is no
reference to this and apart from some of the names of characters from
the book (such as Sinbad and Ali Baba), there isn't much similarity
between them. Additionally, if you think too much and question the
silliness of it all, you'll probably hate the film since it is purely
an escapist style film--not too much unlike a movie serial condensed
into 90 minutes. As for me, I enjoyed the silly escapism and learned to
ignore all the mistakes in the film and the rather limp love affair
between Maria Montez and Jon Hall . It was nearly non-stop action and
fun--complete with perhaps a bit too much slapstick provided by the
very large stomach of Billy Gilbert. However, I did enjoy the
references to Sinbad and Ali Baba--especially because over and over,
Ali (John Qualen) would grab every lamp he found and rubbed it
furiously hoping for a genie. Also, it was nice to see Shemp Howard in
one of his many appearances before going on to replace his brother,
Curley, as a Stooge.
If you liked this silly adventure film, try watching Hall and Montez in COBRA WOMAN or Sabu in THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD--both of which are better than ARABIAN NIGHTS.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With the U.S.A. having just entered WWII, the people were desperately
searching for something to take their minds off of the horrors of war.
"Arabian Nights" served that purpose. It was successful enough to spawn
a number of similar films throughout the 1940s. Most were shot in the
spectacular three-strip Technicolor process and had similar plots and
Make no mistake about it, "Arabian Nights" is nothing more than a "B" adventure film dressed up in Technicolor with daring heroes, beautiful women and slap stick comedy. The film could have done with out the ridiculous prologue (and epilogue) where a comedic looking sheik or something reads the story to a bunch of giggling members of a harem.
The plot is simple. Caliph Haroun-Al Raschid (Jon Hall) has put down a revolt by his brother Kamar (Leif Ericson) and has him being tortured in the public square. Just as he is about to show his brother mercy, the brother's supporters attack and free him. Al-Raschid and his followers flee and he is wounded near a troupe of entertainers. He is found by Ali Ben Ali (Sabu) who protects his true identity. With Al-Raschid believed dead, Kamar assumes the throne.
Within the entertainment group is the beautiful dancer Sherazade (Maria Montez) whom Ahmad loves and with whom Al-Raschid also falls in love. Sherazade on the other hand seeks power by becoming the wife of the Caliph. Al-Raschid is forced to conceal his identity until he can overthrow his brother. That's basically it.
With Billy Gilbert (Ahmad), Shemp Howard (Sinbad) and John Qualen (Aladdin) around to provide the slapstick type humor, the story becomes a little more than a Three Stooges comedy.
The real villain of the piece is Edgar Barrier as Nadan the scheming "trusted" assistant to Kamar. He is ready to double cross anyone to achieve his goal of becoming Caliph himself. Turhan Bey plays a Captain of the guard who is equally treacherous. A thin Thomas Gomez stands out as the evil slave trader Hakim who tries to sell off the lovely Sherazade as a slave.
Sabu made a career out of this sort of role as the friend of the hero who manages to slip in and out of trouble in a likable manner. Hall, Montez and Bey would go on to make similar such sand and sandal adventure films in the future.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ARABIAN NIGHTS is a rather routine Hollywood adaptation of the Middle
Eastern source material, made with a juvenile audience in mind. I guess
the film-makers were attempting to distract contemporary audiences from
all of the bad stuff going on around the world at the time, hence them
making this very 'safe' piece of entertainment.
Sadly, ARABIAN NIGHTS is simply too routine to be very entertaining. There's a silly, pantomime feel to the whole thing, a campiness that just wasn't there in other contemporary fare from the era. The film also seems to be a bit miscast in terms of the lead actors. Jon Hall is a dullish hero and Maria Montez, while acceptable, suffers from playing a one-dimensional Scheherazade. The romance stuff is sappy and boring.
To my disappointment, there isn't any of the magical/effects type stuff to enjoy here, and nor is there much in the way of action. What we do get are some fun supporting turns from the likes of genre mainstay Sabu (underutilised, unfortunately), Shemp Howard randomly playing a comedic Sinbad, Turhan Bey, Laurel & Hardy comedy actor Billy Gilbert, and Leif Erickson.
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