The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

Article #275 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 12-16-2001
Posting date: 5-1-2002

When a king is tricked by his evil adviser into losing his crown, he befriends a thief and tries to win the hand of the daughter of a sultan.

Though it shares many elements in common with the 1924 movie of the same name, it’s not really a remake; the storyline is entirely different. However, with all the obvious imagination, skill, and care that went into this production, it always leaves me a little disappointed; I guess I never really get caught up in the magic of the proceedings. It may be one of those movies I would just have to see on the big screen to really appreciate, or maybe it’s one I would have enjoyed more if I had seen it when I was a kid. For one thing, the plot has always seemed oddly structured to me; I have trouble adjusting to the plot shifts, especially the fact that the first third is told in flashback from the prince’s point of view, followed by a shift to the present, and then followed by a long sequence where the prince vanishes from the action and we have Sabu’s encounter with the genie and his raid on the temple. All these sequences work well enough individually, but I find the shifts between them somewhat jarring. I also dislike the pastel color scheme in use throughout the movie (I tend to prefer bright colors), but it appears that I may simply not have a good print of the movie.

As it is, despite great performances from all concerned, especially John Justin, Sabu, Conrad Veidt, and Rex Ingram, and a wealth of truly great moments (particularly the temple sequence with the giant spider) I never really get lost in the story. Maybe someday, if I catch it in just the right mood…


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