Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Thief of Baghdad (1924)

Douglas Fairbanks is at his most graceful and charismatic in one of the classic silent films of the 1920s. As the thief of Baghdad, his movements are dance-like -- nothing like the athletics he performed in most of his other films. In this Arabian take, the thief ignores the holy teachings and sneaks into the palace of the Caliph (Brandon Hurst). All thoughts of robbery slip away, however, when he sees the beautiful princess (Julanne Johnston). Princes have come from many faraway lands to win the princess' hand (and it's amusing to watch her face growing ever more alarmed at their arrival, because each one is uglier than the last). The thief disguises himself as a prince and the princess falls in love with him. After having a pang of conscience, the thief confesses all to the Holy Man (Charles Belcher), who sends him to find a magic chest. He braves many obstacles to get it, and when he returns he discovers that the Mongol Prince (Sojin) has taken over the city. Using the chest, the reformed thief creates armies of men out of nothingness and recaptures the city. He then uses the cloak of invisibility to spirit the princess away on a magic carpet. Fairbanks stole some of the special effects for his film from Fritz Lang's Der Müde Tod, which he had purchased for American distribution. The Thief of Baghdad, with its look of unrealistic beauty (courtesy of art director William Cameron Menzies), was not fully appreciated in its day. Because of its huge cost (two million dollars -- a real fortune in those days), it made little money. After that, Fairbanks stuck closer to the swashbuckling persona he felt his audience wanted. Available now on DVD, the remastered film features a new score by Carl Davis. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time:
139 mins The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
I believe this is the first film I have seen of Douglas Fairbanks even though I know the name. He was truly in good shape and I do not know of anyone quite that good of shape physically until people like Arnold came in the 70s. Quite an entertaining film even if a silent film. The thief manages to outwit everyone like stealing a purse in the opening scene and then palm the money in it so that when the police ask the rightful owner what is in it, the victim is wrong about contents. Part mythical and part real life concerning a love story as noted above. The thief steals a climbing rope that gets him into the castle, though some of the guards are completely worthless.

No comments: