of Bagdad (1924)
The sets and costumes used in The Thief of Bagdad are invariably extravagant and some are remarkably beautiful. Admittedly, most the sets are not unique, but a few, such as the gates of the city of Baghdad and a number of the strange lands visited when the princess' suitors hunt for her gifts, are wonderfully inventive. What is more, while both the sets and the costume designs frequently reflect the fashions of the time the movie was made, some of each, as those noted above, are genuinely distinctive and add to the film's magical quality.
In fact, even though The Thief of Bagdad is rarely stunning, it is almost always visually appealing and does include a few genuinely beautiful moments. The opening sequence, for example, in which two men recline upon the desert sands and the stars above them form the words "Happiness must be earned" is among the most enchanting I have seen in any film.
The hero's various adventures in this charming world are often rousing as well. His fight with a dragon is truly enthralling, as are his journey to the bottom of the sea and the concluding battle sequence in which he conjures a magical army to fight that of the Mongols. The bewitching excitement of these and the other events depicted is considerably enhanced by the presence of the various fantastic elements with which the movie is filled, such as the thief's winged horse, a flying carpet, a cloak of invisibility, and the like.
Sadly, the charm of these details is lessened by other mediocre elements and by the film's occasional fault. Some of the characterizations are distractingly imbued with the racist sentiments of the time the film was made; the pacing is sometimes a little slow, and Douglas Fairbanks himself is arrogant, swaggering, and smarmy. He is actually the movie's greatest weakness. The remainder of the cast, fortunately, is, at least, competent, and many acquit themselves well.
The Thief of Bagdad is an entertaining, exciting film, but it is neither consistently inventive nor realized with any noticeable aesthetic sensitivity.
Review by Keith Allen
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