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This has to be one of the finest comedies to feature Donald O'Connor that didn't feature him dancing or with a talking mule. When you look at it, he really isn't the smooth teen idol type that was portrayed in the classic animated feature that came out several years later, O'Connor played Aladdin more like an ordinary guy who gets involved in very unusual situations. Too bad this is rarely shown on television anymore, it is definitely a treat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think this is an enjoyable movie if you keep it in its proper context. In other words, it's a good movie for its time (1961), and by today's standards, it's suitable for kids and families. The casting is good, and the acting is decent. This movie came out 10 years before I was born, but I saw it on TV when I was about 5 years old (circa 1976). The only thing I really remembered about this film was Aladdin's girlfriend, played by Noelle Adam. What a gorgeous lady she was! She had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen on an actress. Plus she played a very convincing and lovely damsel-in-distress. Her character is strong and stubborn, but at the same time feminine and vulnerable. I don't think this movie is shown on TV anymore, and it's hard to find a copy of it in the store. But I recently purchased a VHS copy of it on e-bay, saw it again, and fell in love with the story all over (especially with Ms. Adam)!
This movie has a high '60s camp factor. The Arabian Nights theme of movies certainly opens itself up to it, with its navel-jewel-wearing harem girls and all. You can tell the dubbing's not up to par (and it seems like Donald O'Connor was the only one speaking English on the set). But it does entertain as much as any goofy Italian movie can.
Years ago when the first Ninja Turtles movie made its way to VHS, my
five-year-old neighbor girl (who liked coming by to play with my
toddler), knocked on my door, pressed her copy of the movie into my
hands and said, "You've *got* to watch this. It's the *best* movie ever
made." When I first saw "The Wonders of Aladdin," I thought it was the
best movie ever made. I was eight. My favorite thing in the world at
that time was listening to the Broadway cast album of "Kismet" (the
movie of which I didn't see for many years) and reading 1001 nights
tales in picture books. When I saw "The Wonders of Aladdin" on
television with my family, I remember being absolutely enthralled. (I
remember my mother being surprised that Vittorio de Sica was in it.) I
loved every plot twist. The genie appearing in a matte shot, smaller
and smaller with each appearance, made perfect sense to me. I rooted
for Donald O'Connor. I was thrilled when he won the princess (who I'd
thought was Annette Funicello).
When I saw it again, about age 12, I was appalled. What a cheesy picture, I thought. The wink-wink-nudge-nudge joke of O'Connor (but not the audience) accidentally seeing the princess (not Funicello after all) nude seemed embarrassing. The "special effects" were just cheap.
When I caught the movie again at college age--after several years of reading about films and seeing films of all eras--I was ready to forgive "The Wonders of Aladdin" its failings and enjoy it again.
If you like 1001 nights type stories and you appreciate films of different eras, "The Wonders of Aladdin" is an enjoyable B-movie fantasy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have seen several film adaptations of Aladdin (from Soviet
live-action to Disney cartoon), but this weird little thing beats them
all. The genie (charming Vittorio de Sica) has much less screen time
than elsewhere, which is a pity - I would have liked to see more of
But besides, the plot was extended in so many ways. The mechanical dolls (or robots, as we would call them these days): he a dancing flute-player, she a deadly embracer. The amazons who save their victims from thirst, but later have very cruel and unusual plans for them. The scenes where Aladdin's girl is tortured... the baby switch... the trap-door to the lions' den...
All in all, a surprising weird yarn, enjoyable, bewildering, a very different experience. Terence Hill (as he later called himself) played the prince, but I didn't recognize him. Thrilling fun, and certainly not just a kiddie movie.
When I was a boy I saw this a bunch of times in the theaters. I've been
looking for a good widescreen DVD for years. I've even written to TCM
to broadcast it to no avail. In fact it's way too adult for little kids
with ample but suggested nudity and hot girls running around in a comic
book Italian-style world. Great soundtrack as always by Lavagnino and
direction by Bava although Henry Levin gets screen credit. Intense
color, the kind not used anymore in this dull digital age. O'Connor was
great in this, a departure from his usual yet not a departure, An odd
choice for a lead in an Italian fantasy yet he makes it smoke like a
genie's lamp. Noelle Adams steals the show, of course.
Can the ten lines of copy be decreased in the future?
adventures, Arabian Nights, game with a fairy tale, Vittoro de Sica as charming genie and childish joy . nothing new, nothing special. but a nice work. for the spirit of a time. for nostalgic memories. for a young Terence Hill as prince. for the love story. for bad guys. all at perfect place. like a summer afternoon in park. games, laughter, ironies, pleasure as only rule. a comedy like an old picture. the dust of time, the figures of few people, the air of a beautiful past, the image of childhood. so, it is not a bad or good film. it is. like a sign of a form of art. or passing years. like a circle of dust and voices. like need of a form, not very complicated, to escape from present. imagination of director is part of your vision about lost heroes and strange adventures. so, it is not a great error to see it.
THE WONDERS OF ALADDIN is an Arabian PEPLUM adventure which makes
little sense. The screenplay, by Bava and others, is point blank
terrible. I'd like to write a comprehensive review of it but the story
is near incomprehensible that I can't review it because I still don't
know what the story is about. It meanders here and there with no
semblance of a cohesive storyline or logic.
The first thing which stands out is that Aladdin is played by a 35 year old Donald O'Connor. I don't need to say anything more about this.
Aladdin still lives with his mother who one day buys a cheap lamp which 'makes noise'. Now who would buy a lamp or even sell a lamp that makes noise? This 'noisy' lamp is meant to be funny but it's just the beginning of a series of comedic touches or jokes which aren't comical or funny in any way, shape or form.
Now Aladdin accidentally rubs the lamp while scratching himself because he has fleas (!!!). Like the 'noisy' lamp, the scenes featuring fleas go one endlessly and never illicit any laughs. I've never thought of seeing a movie waste 10 minutes of film on stupid fleas. It's overkill.
The film continues on here and there with nary a story. Now the lack of story could be fine if the direction and pacing and dialogue where amusing but it's not. There are aspects of this story which beggars belief: such as Aladdin NEVER knowing how to summon the Genie (played with complete indifference by Vittorio De Sica). Once Aladdin figures he can summon a Genie he never asks for money, love, etc. It never dawns on Aladdin to ask the Genie to grant him all of his wishes. The Genie is simply there like a prop whenever Aladdin is in a predicament. At one point, Aladdin tries to summon the Genie but since he doesn't remember how he did it the first time (see above i.e. fleas) in one scene we have to endure O'Connor goofing around, rubbing his stomach and such. A-ha! Again not funny. Just stupid and forced. This moment happens 30 minutes into the film and we still can't see any semblance of a storyline. Aladdin and his slave (Milton Reid) are stranded in the desert after a battle. The two end up being captured by desert Amazons who want to mate with them and kill them afterwards but Aladdin figures out how to get the Genie to get them out of there and bam they're back in the desert, walking in a chain-gang. The entire scene with the Amazons, who look like Las Vegas showgirls, was pointless. They could cut it out and go from the scene before and then to the chain-gang moment and it wouldn't make any difference. It's inconsistent and padded and nonsensical as that.
O'Connor was a talented and his artistry does shine through from time to time but for the love of God he was totally miscast. Terence Hill is in this and he's wasted in a pointless role. The whole project feels aborted and misconceived. Steve Reeves was supposed to star in this and the European film company LUX changed their minds as Steve was going to star in a couple of other productions, including the much better and more successful THIEF OF BAGHDAD. So they cast O'Connor instead of Reeves. How does one go from Steve Reeves to Donald O'Connor is a total mystery.
So to recap:
The bad: unfunny jokes, lame action scenes, terrible meandering script, padded. The complete total lack of any sense of wonder.
The good: locations, great score by Angelo F Lavagnino and a scene or two showcasing O'Connor's talents.
Agreeable, colorful fantasy adventure about Aladdin (O'Connor), a boy from Bagdad, who discovers a genie inside his oil lamp and travels to a wedding, which an evil schemer (Tozzi) intends to foil. Interesting for the involvement of Mario Bava, who gave the film a nice look. O'Connor is quite funny but one wishes this was a little more serious and less whimsical. Still, quite violent for a kiddie film. All in all, **1/2 stars (of four).
While I could only get my hands on a French-dubbed version of this costumed romp (without even the benefit of any subtitles), I admit to having enjoyed it quite a bit indeed, more than I anticipated! Bava's involvement notwithstanding, I had long wanted to check this one out, in view of a movie poster of it kept in a scrapbook by my father back from the time of its local theatrical release. I have watched many an Arabian Nights fantasy in my time, so that there was very little novelty in the way of plot here but the cult director's hand definitely benefited the look of the film with sets, costumes, special effects and overall color scheme all coming across as rather splendid within their modest confines. Apart from the obligatory Hollywood veteran brought in to act as 'supervisor', we also get an American lead in Donald O'Connor: his comic shtick may be an acquired taste, but the actor's irrepressible energy served the role well in action highlights (not to mention a dance sequence towards the end in which he assumes the garbs of a mannequin imbued with life by the villain's sorcerer!). Also exposing the movie's Italian/French heritage is the fact that the supporting cast is peppered with many an established and upcoming presence from both these countries: Fausto Tozzi as a particularly flamboyant Grand Vizier, Terence Hill (still bearing his pre-stardom name of Mario Girotti) as the romantic second lead, Vittorio De Sica as the ubiquitous genie-in-a-lamp, and a typically flustered Aldo Fabrizi as the Sultan; Michele Mercier, then, is Hill's regal intended and Fabrizi's daughter (naturally also coveted by the dastardly Tozzi) and Raymond Bussieres appears as the Sultan's adviser. As expected, the fantasy sequences capped by a desert climax in which O'Connor duels with Tozzi (albeit managing to overcome him only through De Sica's helping hand, just as, at one point his dimensions are enlarged in order for him to turn the tables on some pursuers, with one of them even landing the post thereafter of the hero's servant/sidekick!) prove the film's ultimate mainstay. That said, there are also comedic flashes of eroticism (O'Connor twice discovers his girlfriend hanging naked after being captured by the villain) and a couple more of outright sadism (people falling through a secret panel in the floor of Tozzi's palace are ripped apart by his vicious dogs) which are decidedly incongruous for what is essentially a kiddie film!
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