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The Thief of Bagdad [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) (1924)
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This swashbuckling tale out of The Thousand and One Nights was Hollywood mega-star and producer Douglas Fairbanks' pet project, and coming on the heels of previous costume successes The Three Musketeers, The Mark of Zorro, and Robin Hood, cemented Fairbanks' standing as both the leading action-adventure star of his day and one of the industry's first "multi-hypenate" powerhouses.
The actor stars as the impious thief Ahmed who has made a reputation as Baghdad's premiere plunderer. When he falls in love with a beautiful princess (Julanne Johnston) and the two determine to marry, her father the caliph intervenes, forbidding the union. Thus erupts a chain of circumstances involving a crystal ball, a magic apple, a pegasus, an invisibility cloak... and, of course, a flying carpet.
No expense was spared for The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian Nights Fantasy it was one the costliest films produced in Hollywood in the silent era, evident in both the stunning sets of William Cameron Menzies and the breakthrough special effects that weave throughout the picture. Expertly directed by Raoul Walsh, who would go on to become of America's foremost filmmakers, and the creator of such classics as The Bowery, High Sierra, and White Heat, The Thief of Bagdad remains an enduring fantasy for the ages. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to release Fairbanks and Walsh's epic, newly restored and featuring a magnificent score by maestro Carl Davies conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, in a Dual Format release for the first time in the UK.
SPECIAL DUAL FORMAT (BLU-RAY + DVD) EDITION includes
- New high-definition 1080p presentation of the film on the Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD
- Audio commentary by Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance
- Fairbanks and Fantasy - A seventeen minute featurette including rare behind-the-scenes photography
- 20-PAGE BOOKLET including new and exclusive writing on Douglas Fairbanks and Raoul Walsh
Dating from 1924 this Thief of Bagdad is justifiably billed here as "one of the truly great silent films of the 1920s." As the forerunner of generations of magical, effect-laden fantasy epics, its importance is practically immeasurable. And still, after eight decades, it has startling, thrilling qualities which the finest computer graphics would struggle to surpass. Douglas Fairbanks, co-founder of United Artists, is the eponymous hero, swindling, fighting and leaping his way to true love through a series of adventures which take him from a magnificently surreal Bagdad to enchanted forests, ocean bottoms and magic carpet rides.
"Happiness must be earned," is the motto; Fairbanks and his director Raoul Walsh certainly don't short-change their audience in bringing it to life. The effects are stunning, with a particularly gruesome slaying of a monster. Every scene is crammed with detail and incident. Fairbanks is a whirlwind of muscular, balletic flamboyance. And while his princess (Julanne Johnson) is a stereotype of vapidity, there's gleamingly malevolent support from Anna May Wong as the evil Mongol Slave Girl. Over two hours of sheer enjoyment belie the notion that cinematic sophistication is a modern achievement.
On the DVD: The Thief of Bagdad disc presents the restored and remastered print (the tints have a luminous quality) complete with a 1975 score by master organist Gaylord Carter--you can almost feel the Wurlitzer rising from the pit of your entertainment centre. The audio essay, written by film historian R Dixon Smith, is an invaluable extra, providing essential information on how the picture was made and how the art designers played with proportion to create many of the visual tricks and a fantastical atmosphere. --Piers Ford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There's no doubting the magnificence of Fairbanks' vision. a truly stunning silent production, but the real stars are the design, art direction and photography. Some of William Cameron Menzies sets are extraordinary; at times dwarfing the actors on screen.
Special effects are tremendous, a mixture of camera tricks, model work and matte shots.
A real visual feast indeed, but for this reviewer, something is indeed missing in terms of a story.
The box claims one of the top 100 films of all time as voted by the AFI. Based on the era it was made, I'd have to go along with that.
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