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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Thief Of Bagdad (1940)

Starring Conrad Veidt, Sabu, June Duprez, John Justin, Rex Ingram
Directed by Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, & Tim Whelan
(actor & director credits courtesy

After Ahmad, the king of Bagdad, is cheated out of his throne and sentenced to death, he befriends a young thief who helps him woo a beautiful princess and confront his usurper, the evil Jaffar.

A top-flight Arabian fantasy film, full of colorful scenery and visual effects that had to have been a marvel at the time, the production remains an entertaining concoction, even if some of the effects show their age.  Following the story template first filmed in 1924 as a vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks, the production splits his role, so Justin can play the romantic hero, while Sabu draws in the young audience with his mischievous adventures.  Veidt offers fine villainy as the sorcerer who covets Ahmad's throne and his love interest with hypnotic eyes, and Ingram plays off Sabu well as a giant bombastic genie, whose attempted crushing of the Indian boy beneath his foot is one of the film's most memorable special effects.  Familiar British character actor Miles Malleson, who wrote the screenplay, is also featured as the comical Sultan, whose captivation at the gift of Jaffar's magical clockwork horse compels him to turn over the hand of his daughter to the wizard.  The real stars of the film however are its art directors, who create a convincing fantasy world and a vividly bright and appealing one at that, for these characters to inhabit.

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