Showing posts with label Conrad Veidt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conrad Veidt. Show all posts

20 January 2015

Blu-ray Review - The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

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Genre
Adventure, Fantasy
Distributor:
Network
Release Date:
26th January 2015
Rating: U
Director:
Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan
Cast: Conrad Veidt, Sabu, John Justin, June Duprez
Buy: Blu-ray The Thief of Bagdad

The Thief of Bagdad is one of the benchmarks of fantasy cinema. It is a remake of the earlier silent version with Douglas Fairbanks, even though both are very different. It also happens to be one of the first major films directed by Michael Powell, however like The Wizard of Oz, there were many directors: 3 credited and 3 uncredited. With that being said, the film certainly has Powell’s stamp on it.

Admad (John Justin) is imprisoned by the evil warlock Grand Vizier Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), despite being the rightful heir to the throne of Bagdad. With the help of the thief Abu (Sabu), Admad escapes, and together they go on a fantastical adventure. Admad, now blinded, tries to win back the Princess (June Deprez) and in doing so, must defeat the evil Jaffar.

The film’s greatest strengths are the special effects and cinematography. The film is the first major picture to use extensive blue-screen. Due to the primitive nature of effects at the time, it is visible, yet it is still used in breath-taking ways. The film has two centrepieces: the encounter with Djinn the genie, and even more impressive spider web sequence. The spider sequence terrified a young Terry Gilliam so much so that he would, “wake up in the middle of the night trapped in that spider web, all my bedclothes wrapped around me.” The special effects naturally won the Oscar as did the art direction and cinematography.

The cinematography is as lush and colourful as you would expect from Michael Powell. It was shot by the French cinematographer George Perinal who Powell must have enjoyed working with, as he did so again on The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Powell would also work with him again on his later film Honeymoon, however Jack Cardiff, or his former camera operator Christopher Challis, shot many of the classic Powell and Pressburger films.

The Thief of Bagdad should be re-discovered, and hopefully thanks to the new Blu-ray release by Network it will. It has influenced directors as diverse as Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. The only real shame in the release is that it’s bonus features are limited to the original theatrical trailer and image galleries.

★★★★
Ian Schultz