Thief of Bagdad, The (1940) A-
One of the great and most enjoyable films for children (and their parents), “The Thief of Bagdad,” produced by the genius British mogul, Alexander Korda, is still an enchanting fable, supremely mounted in vivid color and design.
In ancient Bagdad, the young thief Abu (Sabu) befriends the deposed king Ahmad (John Justin) as both are imprisoned in the palace dungeon, awaiting execution under orders from the evil vizier Jaffar (German actor Conrad Veidt, in another villainous role), who has seized the throne.
However, they manage to escape and make their way to Basra, where Ahmad, now living as a beggar, meets and falls in love with the Princess (June Duprez), who has been betrothed to Jaffar by her father the Sultan (Miles Malleson)
Their fight for the love of the Princess leads to a series of adventures for the young, goof-natured Abu that brings him around the world and into mystical realms with help from a towering genie (Rex Ingram), brushing up against the gods and transforming the little thief into a hero.
A wide array of characters makes the exotic tale enchanting. Take the gentle Old King (Morton Selten), or the sinister and devious Halima (Mary Morris).
The lavishly designed and mounted sets and set pieces (and special effects) were dazzling back in the 1940s, and some of the effects are still impressive.
The climax is truly memorable: an amazing and suspenseful ride on a magic carpet in a thrilling race against time to save the king.
Three directors are credited for the film: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan, and associate producers Zoltan Korda and Cameron Menizes have also contributed to the helming of this big-budget, lavish production of 1940.
Sabu, with his tiny figure but dynamic energy, is well cast as the street urchin who enlists the aid of a genie to outwit evil.
The ace cinematographer, French Georges Perinal, eho died in 1965, had worked on seminal French films of the 1930s by Rene Clair, Jean Cocteau, and others. He had also shot the 1933 Oscar winning “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” starring Charles Laughton.
Alexander Korda, who’s responsible for many good British picture, died in 1956, but his brother Vincent continued to work on major films of the 1960s, such as “The Longest Day” in 1962 and “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” in 1964.
Oscar Nominations: 4
Cinematography (Color): Georges Perinal
Interior Decoration (Color): Vincent Korda
Special Effects: Lawrence Butler, Jack Whitney
Score: Miklos Rosza
Oscar Award: 3
The winners of the Original Score Oscar were Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, and Ned Washington for “Pinocchio.”
Running time: 106 Minutes.
Released:December 25, 1940 Wide
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