The Thief of Bagdad (1940, Alexander Korda)

Watched again with Katy, three years after buying the DVD intending to show it to her – and she liked it! Watched by myself April 2006, and wrote as my fifth entry for this blog: “Total children’s fantasy with brilliant colors except for the occasional harsh violence (beheading talk, arrows shot into the bad guys’ skulls). Nice to see a British/American movie set in Iraq with good guys named Ahmad and Abu who praise Allah every few scenes. Of course the effects are great and of course the princess falls in love way too easily. Our hero was sorta goofy, but Abu the thief is wonderful. Neat how it begins in the middle (blind Ahmad) then hits the full backstory before proceeding.”

Holy cow. Shot over two years. Remake of a Fairbanks movie. Shot like a silent film, conceptualized as a musical, and directed by six different people. Interrupted by the war, so it was put on hold to make propaganda piece The Lion Has Wings. Constant script revisions. Whole segments excised a few weeks before release. Early scenes with Sabu unusable because he grew so much during the hiatus. Shot in two countries with a relatively new color process and an unprecedented array of special effects. Could have ended up an unsalvagable mess instead of the beautiful-looking smoothly-edited story it is.

I love this giant foot. Of the stars, Sabu was Indian and genie Rex Ingram was black, “born on a riverboat on the Mississippi River,” making this an unusually multicultural film for 1940 Britain.

Young Sabu never gets to be a romantic hero, but the romantic hero is boring. Sabu shoots the villain in the forehead with a crossbow (Jaffar’s mechanical horse then falls to pieces mid-air, a startling scene) and escapes his appointed pink-clothed life as John Justin’s vizier, flying away on the magic carpet in search of adventure.

Princess June Duprez was in other Korda pictures The Four Feathers and The Lion Has Wings, and a Rene Clair movie.

Jaffar was Conrad Veidt. Good at playing a villain, he’d portray the chief nazi in Casablanca the year before he died, and in the silent era he starred in The Hands of Orlac and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (as the somnambulist). Miles Malleson, the old toy-obsessed Sultan, wasn’t really so old – he acted for the next 25 years, including in Kind Hearts and Coronets, Stage Fright and Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles. Cheese-headed stage actor (obviously) John Justin became a Ken Russell regular in the 70’s.