UK / 1941 / London Films
Writer: Miles Malleson / Directors: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan
Cast: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez, John Justin, Rex Ingram, Miles Malleson, Morton Selten, Mary Morris, Bruce Winston
Producer Alexander Korda’s fantastical Technicolor delight, inspired by the 15th century tale One Thousand and One Nights, retains its considerable charms 60 years on. Although the film was officially directed by three men (Michael Powell was responsible for the spectacular scenes; Ludwig Berger did the close-up, more intimate style – which Korda reputedly hated – and Tim Whelan did the action sequences), it’s now reckoned that Korda himself and two others – William Cameron Menzies and Zoltan Korda – also took turns in the director’s chair.
The film’s bizarre production began in England in mid-1939, carried on shooting for a while in the UK during the early days of the Second World War (with the cast and crew turning up for work wearing gas masks), before finally being finished in Hollywood in 1940. Despite this, the film went on to win two Oscars: one for Best Special Effects, the other for Best Technicolor Photography.
The Thief of Bagdad is a tale of good versus evil that’s been retold in every corner of this planet and several others. John Justin stars as Ahmad, the King of Baghdad who’s been imprisoned by his vizier, Jaffar (Conrad Veidt). The magician has his evil eye on the princess (June Duprez), but fails to take into account a young thief, Abu (Sabu), who teams up with the king to try and defeat Jaffar. Their adventures will include Abu being turned into a dog, Ahmad being turned into a blind man and Jaffar trying every dirty trick in the book to capture the princess. There’s even a genie in a bottle in this classic fantasy adventure.