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The Palace of Arabian Knights (1905)

Le palais des mille et une nuits (original title)
A poor but honest young man wins the hand of a beautiful Princess after facing a series of exciting adventures involving apparitions, cartwheeling skeletons, a dragon, and plump dancing ... See full summary »

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A poor but honest young man wins the hand of a beautiful Princess after facing a series of exciting adventures involving apparitions, cartwheeling skeletons, a dragon, and plump dancing girls from the Folies Bergere. Written by wmorrow59

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29 May 1905 (USA)  »

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The Palace of Arabian Knights  »

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(hand-colored)|
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Referenced in Filmstunde: Filmstunde 4 (1992) See more »

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Typical Fairytale Adventure from Méliès
2 February 2008 | by See all my reviews

This is a rather typical fairytale adventure from Georges Méliès, but not a very good one. Two of his better ones that I've seen are "Bluebeard" (Barbe-bleue) (1901) and "Kingdom of the Fairies" (Le Royaume des fées) (1903). The overriding problem with "The Palace of Arabian Nights" is its dawdling pace, which makes Méliès's typical tableau, theatrical style most cumbersome. It seems that Méliès became too caught up in portraying supposed Arabian and Indian designs and magic, but also he relies more here upon theatrical effects rather than on narrative and his usual exuberance and wit. Additionally, the dissolves, which John Frazer ("Artificially Arranged Scenes") suggests were being done now with a printer instead of the old way of in the camera, are longer, and they are, unfortunately, the transition between every scene.

On the other hand, the stage designs are quite good for the time. The Ice Palace is a standout, as is the separation of layers of the jungle to reach the Ice Palace. The poor, fuzzy quality of the Grapevine video I saw, however, didn't allow me to fully appreciate this aspect. I hope that in Flicker Alley's upcoming release they will have a clear and colorized print (one does exist) of the film with narration (which would clear up some ambiguous story details and which Méliès provided scripts for when his films were originally exhibited, although I don't know whether Méliès's original script for this one is still known to exist). Additionally, this time the fairy godmother (the usually designated character who guides the heroes and manipulates the narrative in Méliès's fairytale films) is a female portrayal of the Hindu god Shiva, who at first provides the suitor, or Aladdin (played by Méliès), with a genie dwarf and, later, leads several fairies in presenting Aladdin with the treasure.

EDIT: The Flicker Alley set does, indeed, feature a hand-colored print with narration.


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