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The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Picture Show, March 8th, 1941
The front cover of the magazine highlights The Thief of Bagdad and shows full length portrait of June Duprez and John Justin with inset head shots of Sabu and Conrad Veidt, all in costume.
Directors: Ludwig Berger and Michael Powell.
Running time 106 minutes
Jaffar Conrad Veidt Abu Sabu Princess June Duprez Ahmad John Justin Djinni Rex Ingram Sultan Miles Malleson The Old King Morton Selten
Halima Mary Morris The Merchant Bruce Winston Astrologer Hay Petrie Singer Adelaide Hall Jailer Roy Emerton The Storyteller Allan Jeayes
Spectacular and elaborately staged is the new version of the film in which the late Douglas Fairbanks made such a sucecss, and, from what I can remember, not only is the "magic" better done, as one might expect from the great technical advances that have been made since 1925, but the story is better, too, and the picture gains by being in colour.
John Justin and June Duprez make a charmingly romantic pair of fairy-tale lovers, but it is to Sabu, as the little thief, with his merry smile and mischievous glance, and to Conrad Veidt as Jaffar, the wicked Grand Vizzir, that acting honours go.
The story opens in Basra, where the Jaffar's ship has just come to harbour. As his litter is being carried through the streets, he sees a blind beggar, whose clever dog is able to detect false from true in the coins thrown to his master. Jaffar signs to his slave, Halima, who conducts the beggar and his dog tp Jaffar's palace, where the beggar recounts his tale ...
Not so long ago he had been Ahmad, King of Bagdad, Jaffar. his Grand Vizzir, had ruled so harshly in his name that there were constant mutterings against him. The King eventually decides to go among his people in the guise of an ordinary man to see how the people live. Jaffar grasps the opportunity to throw him in prison, where he is later joined by Abu, son, grandson and great-grandson of a thief, and a gay little thief himself. Abu and Ahmad escape and go to Basra. In the fruit market Abu is initiating Ahmad into the art of getting a meal without paying for it when there is sudden pandemonium. The people scatter and vanish. The Princess is about to pass through, and she is so lovely that none may gaze on her except under pain of death. From a fruit-seller's blind, where they lie concealed, Abu and Ahmad peep as the Princess rides by on a pink elephant. Ahmad falls madly in love with the Princess and steals into the palace gardens. They confess their love.
Meanwhile, another man has determined that the Princess shall be his - Jaffar, who has pronounced himself King of Bagdad. Knowing well that the aged Sultan of Basra, father of the Princess, has but one passion left - for mechanical toys of which he has a vast collection that is his pride and joy - Jaffar, a student of black magic, presents the Sultan with a wonderful flying horse, and to her horror the Princess overhears the Sultan agree to her marriage with Jaffar in exchange. She flees from the palace, and the search for her results in Ahmad and Abu being captured. Jaffar and Ahmad are brought face to face. Jaffar immediately blinds Ahmad and turns Abu into a dog. Only when the Princess is in his arms shall the spell be broken. Since then Ahmad has been seeking his love ...
The story then continues in the palace. Halima, the slave girl, says that she can guide him to the Princess. Much lies behind that seemingly guileless statement. The Princess, after many months, has been captured by slave traders and sold in Basra market to Jaffar, who in the meantime has killed the old Sultan and usurped the throne of Basra. But she lies in a trance in his palace, and all his arts have failed to awaken her. That is why the blind beggar and his dog have been brought to the palace. Ahmad, on whom she calls ceaselessly, can arouse her.
Ahmad is taken to the Princess, who awakens at the sound of his voice and discovers his blindness. He is taken away from her, however, although he leaves his dog to guard her. Lured by Halima aboard a ship in the harbour, where she expects to find a wise man who can cure her lover's blindness, the Princess instead finds Jaffar. For Ahmad's sake she allows Jaffar to take her in his arms. At that moment Ahmad's sight is restored, and Abu finds himself human again.
The pair set out in a little sailing boat to chase Jaffar's ship, but Jaffar calls on the winds to aid him, and in the great storm that follows they are shipwrecked in a strange land. Abu finds a bottle on the shore and, uncorking it, releases a huge djinni. After many magical adventures, Abu "borrows" a magic carpet and flies on it to Bagdad. He first saves Ahmad from execution, and flies with him to the palace roof where, after a fight, Jaffar mounts the magic horse, only to be brought down by Abu who shoots him with the Arrow of Truth.
So Ahmad and the Princess can live happily ever after. And Abu? Magnificently attired and supremely uncomfortable, he listens to Ahmad's proposals for his education and career. And then he vanishes - to achieve his ambition of becoming a sailor.
This article is the text of a two page spread in the centre of the magazine. A page and a half are taken up with scenes from the film explaining the main points in the story.
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