Thief of Bagdad on DVD & Blu-ray

Monday, 24 November 2014 00:00

Thief of Bagdad dual-format DVD & Blu-rayDouglas Fairbanks ("Robin Hood", "The Mark of Zorro") stars in this lavish movie based on several Arabian Nights tales. Fairbanks plays the titular thief, an egotistical rogue who excels at taking what he wants with scant regard for his victims. When he falls for the Caliph's beautiful daughter (Julanne Johnston), he realises that there is one thing he cannot steal and sets about winning her heart through feats of bravery and cunning.

Featuring magic, monsters and romance, not to mention impressive athleticism on the part of Fairbanks, this film from way back in 1924 will appeal to fans of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", the 'Prince of Persia' video games and BBC's Atlantis. Prolific director Raoul Walsh ("White Heat", "High Sierra") shot the movie and it features a fantastic soundtrack by Carl Davis that contains elements of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

Although the Thief is as arrogant as they come, he is dashing and charming, and instantly wins the audience over as all the best anti-heroes do. His rapscallion accomplice (Snitz Edwards - 1925's "The Phantom of the Opera") helps him out, checking the coast is clear and humorously expressing his dismay when it looks like true love might put an end to their larcenous lifestyle.

The film's production values are quite amazing, with towering sets, exotic costumes and crazily ambitious special effects. Fantastical beats lurk in distant caves and threaten to consume our hero as he swims to the darkest depths of the sea in search of a mystical key. A flying carpet and winged horse sweep across the skies and a miraculous, golden piece of fruit finally proves than an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Fairbanks is in superb physical shape, vaulting over giant pots and scaling palace walls with ease, and he also reveals his mastery of the skills required for acting in a silent movie from the black and white era.

By today's standards there are some slightly embarrassing (and possibly offensive) stereotypical characters such a Mongol prince (Sôjin Kamiyama) who does his best to look permanently shifty whilst plotting to invade Bagdad, and an overweight Persian prince (Mathilde Comont, in drag) who is depicted as being slothful and alternately eats and snoozes. However, it is unfair to criticise a ninety-year-old film for these elements and it should be viewed as a product of its age. Furthermore, most of the other characters are also admonished in one way or another.

The 140 minute-plus running time is not unusual for an adventure film of such grand vision, but from one perspective the tempo of the plot does frustrate a little. The most exciting scenes in the final third zip by in a flash, as the Thief and the three princes go on a quest to find the rarest magical items in all the kingdoms. Were the movie remade today (and the story has already been retold a number of times), I have no doubt that Hollywood would extend it into a franchise to fully explore (and exploit!) every nook and cranny. Having said that, the benefit here is that there is a tangible acceleration of pacing such that the film ends in a nail-biting climax.

A genuine thrill-ride.

Special features include:

  • New high-definition 1080p presentation of the film (Blu-ray)
  • Audio commentary by Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance
  • 40-page booklet including new and exclusive writing on Douglas Fairbanks and Raoul Walsh

Once again, Eureka presents a classic movie with a superbly remastered, high-definition picture. The painstaking detail and craftwork put into the sets and costumes is a delight to behold.

“The Thief of Bagdad” (1924) is out now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray (two discs), courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 140 minutes approx, carries a 'U' certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 11:14

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