The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

Conrad Veidt as Jaffar. Image sourced from Network

Conrad Veidt as Jaffar. Image sourced from Network

Oh the colour, the colour! It’s just so sumptuously magnificent, you just can’t help to be struck by the vibrancy and richness of the Technicolor process utilised in Network’s new Blu-ray reissue of Alexander Korda’s magical middle-eastern fantasy epic The Thief of Bagdad.

Alright, but what has the story of usurped king Ahmad (John Justin) who together with the little thief Abu (Sabu) rescues his true love the Princess of Basra (June Duprez) from the clutches of Jaffar, his evil Grand Vizier (Conrad Veidt) and regains his kingdom, got to do with a horror website?

Well for a start it has a giant spider and a giant octopus, not to mention a life-size murdering automata in the form of the six armed Hindu goddess Kali. Then there’s the massive genie (Rex Ingram), who is daft enough to be fooled into getting back into that bottle, but best of all is Conrad Veidt as Jaffar. With his distinctively gaunt features, arched eyebrows and trace of facial whiskers he was every inch the evil sorcerer and it’s no secret that Disney took inspiration from Veidt’s character for the villain in Aladdin.

As I may have hinted the Technicolor cinematography is just stunning, the effect on wartime British audiences when it was originally released on Christmas Day in 1940 must have been amazing, even if the special effects are a little creaky by today’s standards. The film has three credited directors, including Michael Powell who would go on to direct genre classics A Matter of Life and Death and Peeping Tom.

A totally brilliant piece of escapist fun I give The Thief of Bagdad a big 555/666

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The Thief of Bagdad is released on Blu-Ray on 26 January by Network as part of their The British Film collection. Price £14.99

Blu-Ray extra:

Original theatrical Trailer

Image galleries

Trivia: Conrad Veidt of course has some genre previous. Born in Germany in 1893, he played Cesare, the murderous somnambulist in Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), followed by leading roles in The Hands of Orlac (1924), Waxworks (1924), The Student of Prague (1926) and The Man Who Laughs (1928).

Violently opposed to the Nazis Veidt fled Germany for the UK in 1933 where he made a number of films and became a British citizen. Following The Thief of Bagdad, Veidt moved to Hollywood leaving his personal fortune to the British war effort. Electing to play Nazi villains his best remembered Hollywood role is Major Strasser in Casablanca (1942) In 1943 he suffered a massive heart attack while playing golf at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t until 1998 that his ashes were placed in London’s Golders Green Crematorium.

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