Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Thief of Bagdad (1940)


“Where’ve you come from?” she asks as he sneaks into her private garden.
“From the other side of time to find you.”
“How long have you been searching?”
“Since time began.”
“Now that you’ve found me, how long will you stay?”
“Till the end of time.”

~ Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad
The Movie of the Summer for our family will undoubtedly be The Thief of Bagdad. Pure romance and pure fairy-tale, it weaves together the classic themes of true love, heroism, and friendship against the back drop of a mythical Near East. It is easy to be swept into the song of the young Thief, who wants nothing more from life than to go to sea.
I want to be a sailor, sailing out to sea
No plough-boy, tinker, tailor's
Any fun to be.
Aunts and cousins, by the baker's dozen
Drive a man to sea or highway robbery
I want to be a bandit, can't you understand it?
Sailing to sea is life for me
Is life for me
.
The cities of Bagdad and Basra figure prominently in the story; it is interesting to see names which we now hear so often used in a context other than the tragic present. Loosely based upon the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights of Queen Scheherazade, The Thief of Bagdad is a great film for children, full of unpredictable whimsy, adventure and magic. According to a recent review in The New Yorker:
The sixteen-year-old Sabu plays the title character, the right-hand urchin of a prince (John Justin), who is forced from his throne and blinded by a Wagnerian villain (the hypnotic Conrad Veidt) who also threatens to wed the prince’s true love (June Duprez). The plot moves in uneven leaps and bounds, but the royal romance is symmetrical; the prince must gain a bride and regain his kingdom at the same time, an aspect of the movie that probably appealed to nineteen-forties lads who dreamed of winning both the Second World War and a woman. (As an inspired extra, the release includes, on a second disk, Korda’s salute to the R.A.F., “The Lion Has Wings,” from 1940.)

But it’s Sabu, not Justin, who acts out the splashiest derring-do, mastering a genie (Rex Ingram) and wresting the All-Seeing Eye from the Goddess of Light. Caught in the Goddess’s palace between a fearsome spider and a gelatinous marine monster, he arouses children’s worst fears of the sky above and the sea below, only to douse those fears with a vengeance. But the film isn’t bloodthirsty, and its more idyllic conceits are as striking as the action. This is one movie fantasy that indulges our childish love of play while warning us against getting lost in playland.
The Thief of Bagdad is an entertaining film, but it is entertainment which inspires both the heart and the imagination, fulfilling the underlying purpose of all good story-telling.
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4 comments:

Alexandra said...

Thanks for these recent movie reviews!

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome!

SF said...

Thanks for recommending, just ordered from the public library!

elena maria vidal said...

You all will love it!