Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Thief of Bagdad (1924 and 1940)

In the first of these two diverging tellings of the Arabian Nights tales, Douglas Fairbanks stars as a beggar and master pickpocket in the Bagdad bazar who becomes completely awestruck at the sight of the princess (Julanne Johnston) and seeks to break into the castle at the same time she is visited by an evil Mongolian sultan and two other loutish princes all trying to win her hand. An Alexander Korda produced (and partially directed by Michael Powell) barely related follow-up sees a feckless King (John Justin) overthrown by his iniquitous right-hand Jafar (Conrad Viedt), finding his purpose in the princess (played by June Duprez also targeted by Jafar), and sharing the fate of an industrious street urchin (Sabu) who happens upon an insolent, all-powerful genie. Raoul Walsh’s 1924 treatment of The Thief of Bagdad is a rousing silent entertainment, boasting an exciting story, remarkable sets, and an engaging Fairbanks performance. The 1940 British update, released to a besieged wartime audience, is a fantastic family entertainment featuring state of the art Technicolor special effects that make you lament the current state of the magic-lacking movies. Sabu, Justin, Viegt and Ingram all leave an imprint.
1924 version: *** ½ out of ****

1940 version: *** ½ out of ****