The Thief of Bagdad (1940 film): Wikis

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The Thief of Bagdad

Film poster
Directed by Michael Powell
Ludwig Berger
Tim Whelan
Uncredited:
Alexander Korda
Zoltan Korda
William Cameron Menzies
Produced by Alexander Korda
Written by Lajos Biró
Miles Malleson
Starring Conrad Veidt
Sabu
John Justin
June Duprez
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography George Perinal
Editing by Charles Crichton
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) December 5, 1940 (USA)
25 December 1940 (UK)
Running time 106 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Thief of Bagdad is a 1940 British fantasy film produced by Alexander Korda, and directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan, with uncredited contributions by Alexander Korda, his brother Zoltan and William Cameron Menzies. It starred child actor Sabu, Conrad Veidt, John Justin, and June Duprez.

Although the film was produced by Alexander Korda's company London Films in England, due to the outbreak of World War II, filming was completed in California. The film won the Academy Awards for Cinematography, Art Direction (Vincent Korda) and Special Effects. It was also nominated for Original Music Score.[1]

Although this and the 1924 version have some similarities there are also significant differences. The most notable is that in the 1940 version the thief and the prince are separate characters.

Contents

Plot

Ahmad (John Justin), the naive King of Bagdad, is convinced by his evil Grand Vizier, Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), to go out into the city disguised as a poor man to get to know his subjects (in the manner of his grandfather Harun al-Rashid). Jaffar then has Ahmad thrown into a dungeon, where he is joined by Abu the thief (Sabu), son of Abu the thief, grandson of Abu the thief. Abu arranges their escape.

They flee to Basra, where Ahmad becomes acquainted with its Princess (June Duprez). However, Jaffar also journeys to Basra, for he desires the Princess. Her father, the Sultan (Miles Malleson), is fascinated by the magical mechanical flying horse Jaffar offers and agrees to the proposed marriage. Upon hearing the news, the Princess, by now deeply in love with Ahmad, runs away. Confronted by Ahmad, Jaffar magically blinds him and turns Abu into a dog; the spell can only be broken if Jaffar holds the Princess in his arms.

The Princess is eventually captured (but not recognized) and sold in the slave market. She is bought secretly by Jaffar and taken to his mansion, but falls into a deep sleep from which he cannot rouse her. Ahmad is tricked by Jaffar's servant Halima (Mary Morris) into awaking the Princess. Halima then lures the Princess onto Jaffar's ship by telling her that there is a doctor aboard who can cure Ahmad's blindness. The ship immediately sets sail. Jaffar informs the Princess about the spell; she allows herself to be embraced, whereupon Ahmad's sight is restored and Abu is returned to human form. They chase after the ship in a small boat, but Jaffar conjures up a storm to shipwreck them.

Abu wakes up alone on a deserted beach and finds a bottle. When he opens it, an enormous djinn or genie (Rex Ingram) appears. Embittered by his long imprisonment, the genie informs Abu that he is going to kill his rescuer, but Abu tricks him back into the bottle. The genie then offers to grant Abu three wishes if he will let him out again. The hungry boy uses his first wish to ask for sausages. When Abu demands to know where Ahmad is, the genie flies Abu to the top of the highest mountain in the world. On it sits a temple, and in the temple there is an enormous statue with a large jewel, the All-Seeing Eye, set in its forehead. The genie tells Abu that the Eye will show him where to find Ahmad. Abu fights off a giant guardian spider while climbing the statue and steals the gem.

The genie then takes Abu to Ahmad. When Ahmad asks to see the Princess, Abu has him gaze into the All-Seeing Eye. Ahmad despairs when he sees Jaffar arranging for the Princess to inhale the fragrance of the Blue Rose of Forgetfulness, which makes her forget her love. In agony, Ahmad lashes out at Abu for showing him the scene. During the ensuing argument, Abu unthinkingly wishes Ahmad to Baghdad. The genie, freed after granting the last wish, departs, leaving Abu alone in the wilderness.

Ahmad appears in Jaffar's castle and is quickly captured, but seeing him restores the Princess's memory. The furious usurper sentences them both to death. Abu, unable to watch his friend's impending doom, shatters the All-Seeing Eye and as a result is transported to the "land of legend," where he is greeted by the Old King (Morton Selten) and thanked for freeing the inhabitants, who had been turned to stone. As a reward, he is given a magic crossbow and is named the king's successor. However, in order to save Ahmad, he steals the king's magic flying carpet and rushes to the rescue.

Abu's marvelous aerial arrival (which fulfills a prophecy often cited in the course of the story) sparks a revolt against Jaffar. Abu kills the fleeing Jaffar with his crossbow, and Ahmad regains his kingdom and his love. However, when Abu hears (with growing alarm) Ahmad tell the people of his plan to send him to school to train to become his new Grand Vizier, Abu flies away on the carpet to find his own fun and adventure.

Cast

Alexander Korda had intended to cast Vivien Leigh as the Princess, but she went to Hollywood to be with Laurence Olivier.[2]

Reception

New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther enthused that the film "ranks next to 'Fantasia' as the most beguiling and wondrous film of this troubled season."[3] Crowther praised "its truly magnificent color"[3] and the performances of all five main actors.

Roger Ebert has rated The Thief of Bagdad one of his great movies, "on a level with 'The Wizard of Oz'."[4] According to Ebert, "it maintains a consistent spirit, and that spirit is one of headlong joy in storytelling."[4] He praised the performances of Sabu and Veidt ("perfectly pitched to the needs of the screenplay"), though he was less impressed with the chemistry between Duprez and Justin ("rather bloodless").[4]

Like its 1924 predecessor, The Thief of Bagdad has a 100% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

Influence

Although it borrowed many ideas from the earlier silent version, this film has been highly influential on later movies based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. For example, the Disney film Aladdin borrows freely from it, particularly the characters of the evil Vizier and the Sultan, both drawn with a marked similarity to the characters in The Thief of Bagdad. The thieving monkey Abu in the Disney cartoon is obviously based on the boy played by Sabu.[6] Richard Williams, speaking about his film The Thief and the Cobbler, said that one of his interests was in creating an Oriental fantasy that did not copy from it. The Prince of Persia franchise also shares similar characteristics with the film.

Home media

The film was released on DVD by MGM on 3 December 2002. That version is now out of print. The Criterion Collection released a two-disc DVD release on 27 May 2008 that includes a commentary track by filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, who are both longtime fans of the film (their comments were recorded separately and then edited together).

References

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Bibliography

  • Leibfried, Philip; Willits, Malcolm (2004). Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad, An Arabian Fantasy. Hollywood, Calif.: Hypostyle Hall Publishers. ISBN 0-967-52531-4.  
  • The Great British Films, pp 55–58, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 080650661X

External links


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