Thief of Baghdad, The (4 stars)

Thief of Baghdad,

(U) 106min (Network DVD retail)


Two decades before Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad indelibly imprinted the Arabian Nights fantasies upon the minds of film lovers, the sword and sorcery adventures were being realised on the silver screen under the all seeing eye of London-based movie mogul Alexander Korda. Marshalling some of the finest craftspeople working in wartime British cinema - most notably one of the film’s three directors, Michael Powell - Korda created an awe-inspiring adventure (with then groundbreaking special effects which, amazingly, hold up today) that hasn’t been surpassed for its sense of wonder and undiluted romanticism. Not bad for a production that was forced to close during the Blitz and re-start in Hollywood with a new crew.

Conrad Veidt makes for a masterful villain, and Sabu a marvellous, titular hero. The set pieces, including the giant genie set free from his bottle, are tremendous. And if the film comes across as very pink on hindsight, then that’s less to do with queer cinema’s re-readings and more to do with the sheer joie de vivre that permeates this once in a lifetime production. Sadly, the only extra is the original trailer.

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