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Ali Baba, son of the Kalif of Bagdad is brought up by the 40 Thieves after his father is killed by the soldiers of Hugalu Khan, who received the necessary information by traitor Cassim. Ali becomes the leader of the thieves and they are fighting for the freedom of his land. Per chance Ali captures the fiancée of Hugalu Khan, who turns out to be his girl friend Amara. After a few misunderstandings Ali uses her wedding day with Hugalu Khan as the day for the liberation of Bagdad.Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (Arthur Lubin, 1944) **1/2
The Alexander Korda production of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) - still the quintessential Arabian Nights movie - led to a spate of colorful romps made by Hollywood studios to escape the grim everyday realities of WWII; this may not be the best or even the most enjoyable of the lot but is reasonably representative of this fantasy sub-genre.
Actually, I had intended to watch this over last year's Christmas period as it was shown on Italian TV very early one morning but the transmission started even earlier than expected and consequently I had to abort the viewing; therefore, I am grateful that (in spite of some deficiencies which I'll get to later) I remedied this through a copy of the Asian DVD I've just gotten hold of.
The film obviously deals with the famous tale of the title but here Ali Baba (Jon Hall) is the son of a deposed (and subsequently murdered) Caliph who as a boy (played by Scotty Beckett) found refuge in the thieves' hide-out inside the cave and was raised by their leader (Fortunio Bonanova) as his own son. Meanwhile, Ali's childhood friend grows up to be Maria Montez and is naturally coveted by the evil tyrant now in power at Bagdad (Kurt Katch). Andy Devine is also on hand to provide some mild comic relief as Baba's "nursemaid" and Turhan Bey (like Hall and Montez, also a regular in such diversions) is Montez's only male slave and sympathetic to Ali's cause.
As I said, the film is fairly entertaining and, as can be expected from a grade-A Universal production, handsomely mounted but it mainly survives nowadays on its high quotient of nostalgia both to people of my father's generation (who were around when this subgenre was still in full bloom) and to others who, like me, grew up on these things when they played during the summer holidays on TV. To get back to the presentation of the film on the disc I watched: while the all-important colors were not as vibrant as a full-blown restoration job would have made them look, the print was serviceable all around...were it not for the very odd fact that it omitted the opening and closing credits completely!
In any case, this satisfactory viewing has brought back fond childhood memories of similar costume pictures and has certainly whetted my appetite for more; I also received a bunch of Sinbad pictures at the same time that this disc arrived and I ought to purchase the recently released DVD of ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942) one of these days - although, frankly, I think Universal missed the boat when they didn't release it as part of an Arabian Nights franchise collection which could have also included, apart from ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES itself, any of the following: BAGDAD (1949), THE DESERT HAWK (1950), FLAME OF ARABY (1951), THE PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF (1951) and SON OF ALI BABA (1952). This is not to mention many other such extravaganzas made by other film studios which are still unreleased on DVD like ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (1945), SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947), THIEF OF DAMASCUS (1952), SON OF SINBAD (1955), THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1961; an Italian remake with Steve Reeves supervised by ALI BABA helmer, Arthur Lubin), THE WONDERS OF ALADDIN (1961; another Italian production which utilized the now legendary and multi-faceted talents of Mario Bava), etc. One final thing: I once missed out on a TV screening of the 1954 French version of ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES starring Fernandel and directed by Jacques Becker and, even though it doesn't have much of a reputation (especially within its director's considerable canon), I'd love to watch it for myself one day...
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