Alexander Korda's Thief of Bagdad is a splendid movie which ripens nicely with subsequent viewings. Learning a lot about its origins thanks to a very informative commentary I now know that the movie's weaknesses are the result of a desire for it to be many different things at different times.
The movie at different times was supposed to be an intimate love story, an operatic musical, and still later a sprawling fantasy adventure. That final intention finally took hold thanks to Korda but the other elements still reside inside the tale in some respects. We have a lush, brightly colored fantasy yarn here which takes two attractive heroes -- Prince Ahmed (John Justin) and the titular thief Abu (Sabu) -- and transports them across the landscape as they encounter deadly soldiers, wizards, distant and ancient cults, and ultimately a powerful djinn. Thanks to Abu, wit and smarts are the currency which pays the biggest dividends and the story is more about that than swordplay, which in this movie is pretty paltry.
The villain is an usurper and wizard named Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) who is so magnetic that you almost root for him at times. He wants the love of the Princess (June Deprez) but you know he will never, never get what he wants. His tragic nature is only overcome by his evil intentions and lust for power and willingness to sacrifice almost anyone to achieve it.
The Djinn almost runs away with the movie. The battle of wits between him and his "Master" Abu is probably the most compelling section of the story and the truth is they both win...a little. Rex Ingram as the Djinn is absolutely awesome and his cackling laugh no doubt informed Hanna-Barbera's Shazzan a few decades later.
This is a rousing adventure, full of bright images which hold the eye and the imagination. I highly recommend it. More Arabian Nights tomorrow as Captain Sinbad sails into view.