According to AFI’s movie list, which I take super-duper seriously (sarcasm), the 1924 The Thief of Bagdad is listed as the ninth greatest fantasy movie. At Ten is Big and at Eight is Groundhog Day, see list here.
As it is, The Thief of Bagdad was a lavish production speared-headed by Douglas Fairbanks, who starred, produced and wrote the general story. It has also been remade a few times but the most notable is the 1940’s version, which we’ll get to someday…maybe next month…who knows?
So this movie has a good reputation but does it really hold up to it? Meh, yes and not really.
The movie starts with a wise guy giving us a lesson which is “Happiness must be earned.” That’s a nice one. Then we are introduced to a thief who steals things he wants. He gets his hands on some magic rope and decides to steal from the palace. There is falls in love with the princess and wants to take her, so he poses as a Prince as with the Princess’ birthday is coming up and she must marry, hmmm that sounds fimilar.
The Princess has the choice between three princes, One from Persia, one from India and one from Mongolia, I guess. The Mongol Prince and yes no one has a name so I have to call him, The Mongol Prince but I’m going to call him TMP*, the Persian one will TPP and the Indian one will be TIP, we clear? Good! So TMP wants to marry the Princess so he can rule Bagdad and he will not accept failure, he is our token villain.
One of the Princes’ slave tells her a prophecy from the Sands of Mecca that she will wed the Prince that first touches the Rose Tree in the garden. As The Princes arrive she watches them to see who touches the tree. The first one is TIP, who has a glower that the Princess doesn’t fancy, he passes the tree which pleases the Princess. TPP is next, he is too fat for the Princess and again he passes the tree. TMP is the third and his look scares the Princess, he also passed the tree. The Thief then appears claiming to be Prince Ahmed from Arabia, the Princess likes Ahmed and hopes he touches the tree. The thief stole what he needed to look like a Prince and I’m not sure if his name is Ahmed or a lie but I’m just going to call him Ahmed because it nice one person got a name in this movie.
However one of the Princess’ slave, who is a Mongol, tells TMP about the Princess’ superstition of the tree and he goes to touch it but before he can Ahmed is thrown from his horse into the rose-tree. So the Princess picks him to marry which pisses TMP off but he keeps his cool as the Mongol slave told him he was thief as he threaten her when he broke in. Ahmed puts his plan into action to kidnap the princess but he is overcome by her innocence and love that he can’t steal her. It then comes out that he isn’t a Prince and the ruler wants his executed but the Princess bribes the guard to free him and to buy time from marrying she tells the Princes that she will marry the one who brings about the rarest treasure within seven moons. Is that a week or a month? But before TMP leaves he has one his servants to stay in Bagdad to build an army within the city.
Ahmed goes through a dilemma as his “take thing” outlook on life seems wrong. He goes to a Mosque where he advised to become a prince by going to get treasures.
The next part of the movie are the dudes getting treasures. TPP gets a flying carpet, TIP gets a crystal ball and TMP gets a golden apple that can cure anything even death. Ahmed goes on adventures where he fight stuff, goes underwater, gets a flying winged horse and he gets a cloak of Invisibility and a magical box that can create whatever he wants, like anything, so basically he is a fucking god at this point.
Before heading back to Bagdad, TMP has the princess poisoned so he can save her life. However he works together with the other princes so no one can agree who saved her life. TMP then conquers Bagdad with his army and orders the Princess to marry him. But Ahmed scooped in and creates a huge army and saves the day and he flies off with the Princess.
The reason why this movie is so well regarded is because of the special effects. Which is a little weird saying from the vantage point of 2010’s where the movie going public is generally pretty jaded towards special effects but the fact that they did all this stuff with trick photography and practical effects are awesome. Sure, it looks fake but there is realness and grit that makes it believable versus CGIs where audiences’ eyes are trained to see the computer images and it reads as fake.
I won’t say that the plot isn’t fun, it’s not that interesting. Perhaps I’m at a disadvantage as I have seen Aladdin and Aladdin had to taken inspiration from this movie as well as the 1940’s version and the The Thief And The Cobbler. We have seen this story play out a thief who fall for the princess. I think the real trouble with this movie is that the characters are just not even remotely interesting, aside from Ahmed who gets a slight arc none of the characters have any personality. The bad guys are bad and the good guys are good. That is it.
Lack of characters with good personalities mixed with a plot that is a trope makes for a movie that took me three days to finish, though one day I was busy and didn’t have time so really two days. So really this movie is all about the technicals, they are what makes this movie enjoyable.
I will say they did meet their moral about Happiness being earned as Ahmed and the Princess do work for it. Ahmed is more active about gaining treasure for his happy ending but I do give the Princess a little credit as she frees Ahmed by telling her servant to bribe the guards and her idea to buy time was a good one even though her servant told to her buy time but she did go for it. So there is something to her.
I don’t really want to say that because The Thief of Bagdad is a silent movie that is the reason why the characters and plot really aren’t there and that is why the pacing is weird, seriously most of this movie is set-up then treasure then the epic resolution is maybe 5 minutes but this movie seemed like it was the spectacle, for the effects, which seems a little weird when reviewing classic 1920’s silent movie, it seems like films haven’t changed that much.
*According to Wikipedia, TMP had a name, Cham Shang or maybe that was were he was from….. I’m confused, though it seems that is his name. Ok, so the hero and the villain get names but Fuck the Princess getting a name, pffft.Follow thehunchblog