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
I actually have no problem at all with the slow tempo of this movie. But given all the black-and-white sections needed to complete a print of this film, you do have to use a little imagination to realize what this looked like when it was first released, and how early-cinema audiences must have reacted to it.
The purpose of a lot of Mèliés movies is using the medium of film to show off spectacle. And this film is truly visually spectacular. Even in the 21st century I find myself awed by the fantastic coloring on this film. If you've never seen any of it in the kaleidoscopic colors it was painted, you really need to get the Flicker Alley 5-dvd set of Mèliés films and see this. I was flabbergasted to see the minute detail of sumptuous coloring in the crowd scene at the beginning. One-by-one various incredibly-costumed performers march onto the stage until it is absolutely filled with characters, costumes and color. Unfortunately, only a black and white print today exists of the very first minute or two of this film, after which the color explodes. Some day someone will restore the black-and-white sections and the poor-color sections of this film well enough to justify re-coloring it so we can have a complete print looking the way Mèliés intended.
You will have to use your mind's eye, then, to imagine this movie in pristine form. The multiple fantastic characters (even though they don't do much), the sets and the costumes, the pyrotechnics, the treasures and the overall pageantry give much to look at, and I can easily see how this would have been an audience pleaser back in 1905.
The story mixes together all sorts of Middle Eastern and Eastern, and even European story conventions, into a very amusing hodgepodge (the main character, not Mèliés by the way, is even named "Prince Charming" instead of Aladdin). Mèliés' narration makes complete sense out of the action, so you really need to either read his text first, or see the movie with the narration in the soundtrack (see Flicker Alley).
I admit that this is not the very best Mèliés film (like the action-filled "Trip to the Moon" or "The Impossible Voyage"), but there is always so much to see, so much beautiful hand-made stylized decoration, and so much going on with so many characters in every shot, that I never find myself bored watching a Mèliés spectacular like "The Palace of the Arabian Nights". Robert Israel's excellent music in the Flicker Alley release completes the enjoyment of this movie.
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