Starik Khottabych (1956)

STARIK KHOTTABYCH (1956)
aka Old Hottabych, The Flying Carpet
Article 3497 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-11-2011
Posting Date: 3-12-2011
Directed by Gennadi Kazansky
Featuring Nikolai Volkov, Aleksei Litvinov, Gennadi Khudyakov
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Children’s fantasy

A child discovers an urn which contains a genie who has been sealed up for 1000 years for being obstinate. The genie wishes to serve his new master and make him happy, but his willful nature causes the boy more problems than it solves.

This being a Russian movie, it has a tendency to get a little propagandistic at times; the children in particular seem a little unnatural in their unswerving dedication to the communist cause. That aside, the story takes an interesting tack in that it is really not a story about the possibilities that the genie opens up for the boy (the usual approach). Instead, it is a fish out of water story; the genie’s detachment from the world during his confinement has left him ill-suited to understanding the modern world, and his knowledge is antiquated. To this mixture is added a genuine warmth and affection (the genie and the child truly care about each other), and when the genie’s magic causes things to go awry, he is honestly upset and confused. Nikolai Volkov’s sly performance as the genie is the glue that holds it together, and this turns out to be an interesting and entertaining children’s fantasy. One of the alternate titles is THE FLYING CARPET, but that item plays a part in only a short segment of the proceedings.

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