A lot of my film friends grew up on Fairbanks and Flynn features, unfortunately I did not. I grew up on a strict diet of Coppola, Kubrick, Spielberg and 50’s late night horror flicks. I didn’t get into early cinema until college after a couple year of consuming Chaplin and Keaton I branched off with Fairbanks. Was I glad I did! My girlfriends were never able to sit through these old silent Fairbanks Pirate flicks. This is one of my favorite eras of film with one of my favorite actors but also my first time with this feature. Would I like The Thief Of Bagdad?
This fantasy remains one of the most visually stunning of all silent films with trick photography and lavish sets taking top form over anything else. Considering the time this was made, with musical score and title cards taking place over spoken dialog, this gives the impression of being made decades into the future in the days of advanced film technology. Then again, this is 1924, running 150 minutes (depending on the projection speed), and a small wonder how audiences felt watching this lavish tale during its initial premiere, focusing on mythical events set in “The Dream City of the East.” It was quite obvious then this was something never before presented on screen.
This is Douglas Fairbanks’ finest hours on screen. Aside from being in a far away land, Doug resumes his athletic skills as in previous films, ranging from visual stunts to his trademark smile. It’s unlike anything he has ever done before and something that could only be accomplished on screen once.
The first half is pleasant, although sometimes rather slow, as it sets up the rest of the story. Fairbanks has a perfect role for him as the good natured thief who falls in love with a princess and then gets involved in a lot more adventure than he had planned on. His energy and believability along with the interesting sets, carry the first part of the movie. The second half, when Fairbanks and his rivals are sent off on their quests, is full of adventure and fascinating detail. It’s done with plenty of creativity and also many lavish special effects, most of which still work well. The excitement level is built up nicely in leading up to the action-packed finale.
The blu-ray quality here is amazing the movie looks and sounds perfect. As far as special features I am a bit disappointed I prefer more conversational commentaries during the films. The restored trailer is pretty cool but the productions stills come up a bit “flat.” However, the essays book in the case is a great read.
This is a treasure of a silent film, often overshadowed by more famous silent films of the 20’s but it is a document in cinema of the early 20’s and should be studied in film school. Douglas Fairbanks was already well into his middle-age but he was still doing his own physical stunt work and female-pleasing in his looks and charms. This is a sensational, unforgettable film and a must see for devotees of silent film and fantasy films. Honestly this is better and more exciting than the action films of today.
The Thief of Bagdad [Blu-ray] is FINALLY available for purchase on blu-ray.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale??
Overall: 5 Flying Carpets out of 5
Review by Bro’ B – Ben