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There is no question in my mind that THE THIEF OF BAGDAD ($15) is one of the greatest fantasy films of all time- it also ranks as one of the most gorgeous British Technicolor movies ever made and it did win an Academy Award for Georges Périnal's exquisite cinematography. Therefore, it should also come as no surprise when I say that the 1940 production of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is one of my favorite movies of all time. Featuring enchanting visual effects, this sumptuous Alexander Korda production continues to delight movie buffs some sixty plus years after its release by creating a genuine storybook sense of wonder.

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is adapted from The Arabian Nights and tells of a King named Ahmad (John Justin), who is tricked by his Grand Vizier Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) into relinquishing his throne. Once this evil sorcerer seizes power for himself, Jaffar has Ahmad thrown in prison, where the dethroned king meets a resourceful young thief named Abu (Sabu). Forming a fast friendship, Ahmad and Abu are able to escape from prison and make their way to the Kingdom of Basra where they encounter the toy loving Sultan (Miles Malleson) and his beautiful daughter. Of course, Ahmad falls in love with the Princess (June Duprez) and she with him. Unfortunately for the young lovers, Jaffar has his own plans for the Princess, and through black magic Jaffar blinds Ahmad to keep them apart. What follows is a magical encounter with Genie (Rex Ingram) that ultimately returns both Ahmad and Abu to Bagdad for a final showdown with the evil Jaffar.

MGM Home Entertainment has made THE THIEF OF BAGDAD available on DVD in a marvelous full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. I must commend MGM for producing a nearly pristine presentation that dazzles the eye with the rich saturations of an IB Technicolor print. Reds and blues are especially glorious, while the flesh tones take on the consistent cast that can only be found in a makeup man's kit. The image itself is nicely crisp and well detailed. Blacks appear inky, whites are clean and contrast is generally smooth. The film element used for the transfer displays very few imperfections, although there is a certainly level of graininess inherent in film stocks being produced during that era. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is perfectly adequate, without demonstrating any serious flaws. There is a minor bit of background hiss, and occasional distortions, but nothing out of line for a film of this vintage. As expected, Miklós Rózsa's fine musical score is rendered very thinly and with limited fidelity. Still, the dialogue is always completely understandable, which is probably the most important factor. A Spanish language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

As I stated above, I think THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is one of the greatest fantasy films of all time. MGM Home Entertainment has done a rather impressive job with the DVD, offering fans a presentation very close to the splendor of an original IB Technicolor print- at a bargain price point. If you are a classic cinema buff, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is an absolutely must own DVD.



The Thief of Bagdad (1940)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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