The Wizard of Baghdad (1960)

Article 2229 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-23-2007
Posting Date: 9-19-2007
Directed by George Sherman
Featuring Dick Shawn, Diane Baker, Barry Coe

A genie has his powers taken away when he fails to prevent the assassination of a sultan, which results in the separation of two children who are supposed to be pledged in marriage. In order to get his powers back, he tries to reunite the children (who have now grown to adulthood), but he can’t find the man, and the woman has been promised to marry a usurper to the throne.

I’ve always assumed that the rash of Arabian Nights movies during the forties and fifties was fallout from the popularity of the excellent THE THIEF OF BAGDAD from 1940. Though any one of these movies may be acceptable on its own terms, taken as a whole, the lack of imagination and the endless regurgitation of the same plot make them for repetitive viewing nowadays. Now, if I had to make an Arabian Nights movie with the same recycled plot, here are some of the things I would not do.

1) Get budget-conscious Sam Katzman to produce it.

2) Turn it into a musical comedy.

3) Add a Mr. Ed-style talking horse.

4) Have some of the action take place in the world’s biggest outhouse.

All right, Disney managed to do number 2 with their animated version of ALADDIN (and possibly 3; I can’t remember whether the genie turns into a talking horse at some point, but he turns into so many things I wouldn’t be surprised if he had). Also, I’m not sure a movie with only two songs can be called a musical, but the opening one ( called “Eenie Meeny Genie” ) is horrendous enough to give me nightmares for a week. Also, I’m exaggerating about the giant outhouse; it’s actually a tavern of some sort, but any place with a big wooden door that has a crescent moon on the front is bound to to be mistaken for one. Dick Shawn ( who is perhaps most famous for playing the lead actor in “Springtime for Hitler” in the original version of THE PRODUCERS) is a good actor / singer, but the songs and the jokes he’s given here just don’t cut it. The action sequences are fairly decent, and, despite the very wooden acting and low energy, it occasionally sparks some interest in the dramatic moments. Incidentally, Sinbad, Omar Khayyam and Aladdin (played by Bill Mumy) pop up for short cameos. Still, with all the Arabian Nights adventures out there, there’s little reason to settle for this one.



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