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John Phillip Law,
An Italian Eastern with plenty of action and spectacle to enjoy
Imagine a cheap peplum yarn with the loincloths replaced by colourful glittery clothes and what you have is ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS, an often hilarious and entertaining far eastern adventure yarn, Italian-style, which follows as familiar a plot as there is. The good guys get captured, escape, are captured again and escape to triumph. Lots of action punctuates the story whilst characters change allegiance and friendships grow. From the very beginning you know that the bad guys are going to get what they deserve and the good guys are going to live happily ever after, but there's enough going on here to make you forget about the storyline.
It's clear that there wasn't a lot of money around to make this production, so director Emimmo Salvi cuts corners by filming in a quarry somewhere in Italy and on some really cheap sets on occasion. In fact most of the action takes place in one location, a castle and its huge courtyard, so don't expect any lush eastern backdrops as the title might suggest. The different setting is never exploited at all; change the characters and costumes and this might as well be a peplum film, the story is so straightforward and simple. There are even gladiator fights and chariots, so one surmises that the far eastern angle was tacked on to make it a bit more intriguing than your standard peplum film.
The never heard-of Rod Flash stars as Ali Baba, and is about as wooden and uninteresting as you could get in a peplum film; personally I prefer my Italian hero to be a strongman (unless it's Cameron Mitchell) so Flash makes little or no impression. His thunder is stolen by Gordon Mitchell, who gives a fantastically over-the-top performance of scenery chewing as Omar, the evil bad guy. Mitchell delivers his cruel dialogue with relish and really seems to be having the ball, instantly adding to the entertainment value of the film. Also hanging around and looking voluptuous is Bella Cortez, a peplum mainstay and as beautiful as ever here. Amusing supporting characters include a guy with one of the most hilarious depictions of a nervous tic in screen history, and a wisecracking comic-relief dwarf who spends the entire running time crawling around in air vents like some miniature Bruce Willis.
Although the story is less than impressive, the action scenes are fluent and entertaining. Their simplicity gives them a raw power which I liked and you always know that somebody is going to fight in the next five minutes, so things never become boring. The finale involves a huge uprising against Mitchell and his soldiers which ends with a fantastically gory gag, much to the viewers enjoyment. On top of this, there's an over-the-top music score which goes out of its way to be exciting and plenty of bad dubbing to be enjoyed (!). All in all a fun way to spend eighty minutes with a cheesy Italian adventure yarn.
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