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Thief of Bagdad, The (1940, Sabu, Conrad Veidt)

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Producer Alexander Korda’s fantastical Technicolor delight, inspired by the 15th century tale One Thousand and One Nights, retains its considerable charms even now. 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. 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.

production details
UK / London Films / 106 minutes / 1940

Directors: Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, Ludwig Berger
Writers: Miles Malleson, Lajos Biró, Miklós Rózsa,

cast
Sabu as Abu
Conrad Veidt as Jaffar
Morton Selten as The Old King
Mary Morris as Halima
Ben Williams as Citizen
John Justin as Ahmad
June Duprez as Princess
Rex Ingram as Djinn
Adelaide Hall as Singer
Frederick Burtwell as Undetermined Role
Joseph Cozier as Man Selling Fish
Robert Greig as Man of Basra
Henry Hallett as Citizen
Miki Hood as Citizen
Alexander Laine as Urchin in Bagdad Market
Cleo Laine as Urchin in Bagdad Market
Sylvia Laine as Urchin in Bagdad Market
Spoli Mills
Norman Pierce
Mark Stone as Masrur
Frank Tickle as Citizen
Otto Wallen
Roy Emerton as Jailer
John Salew as Fish Peddler
Leslie Phillips as Urchin in Bagdad Market
Hay Petrie as Astrologer
Glynis Johns as Princess’s maid
Miles Malleson as Sultan

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