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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Action > Magic > Battles > Literature > Silent Cinema > The Thief Of Bagdad (1924/Cohen Film Collection Blu-ray)

The Thief Of Bagdad (1924/Cohen Film Collection Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



At the top of his craft, stardom and personal wealth, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. could have played it safe and continued to make his comedies and adventures (many films were usually both) but he decided to push the art of cinema in its early years and after reading 1001 Arabian Nights, hired Raoul Walsh to direct The Thief Of Bagdad (1924) into an epic fantasy film like nothing that had been seen on film (save what Fritz Lang was making in Germany at the UFA Studios) where he would play the title character as rogue, thief, trickster and free spirit and finding himself on a quest like nothing that had ever been seen before on a big screen.


Running almost 2˝ hours, he wants to be with a princess, but will have to fight an “evil” Mongol ruler to succeed and it will not be easy.  With visual effects and stunt work never seen before, elaborate sets and set-ups that set new high standards in world cinema and other magic tricks, the film was a series of surprises as well as a tour de force for Fairbanks whose athletic abilities were still stunning at 40 years of age.  One of the most important Fantasy genre films ever made, it helped Walsh become a major director, started the career of William Cameron Menzies into a massively successful direction, featured some great and long-forgotten actors finally getting their due again thanks to this restoration of the film and Anna May Wong would steal every scene she was in as an “evil” Mongol “Slave Girl” making her an international star.


The quest segments are great, the use of solid single color (more on that below) still impressive to this day and a pace that means the film is never boring, especially when something new is always happening and this has so much energy to it.


Of course, there are (as is still a problem in the genre) moments that seem racial and even racist, it can be a bit sexist (more expected?) and some effects and surprises have aged better than others.  Since it has been so ripped off and imitated since (all the way to the 2012 John Carter and Hobbit films), you are likely to fell like you have seen parts of the film before even if you have never seen anything from the film ever, but that is how classics work, especially one a year shy of its 90th Anniversary.  Other times, the uniqueness of the designs and visual effects are supposed to be surreal, dreamlike and not realistic for the film to work and it does.  Remade in various forms since, this is the original Thief and one everyone can enjoy in this fresh edition.  If you liked the recent hits The Artist or Hugo, you will want to make this film a must-see!




The 1080p 1.33 X 1 tinted black and white, digital High Definition image transfer is easily the best this classic film has ever looked and having seen footage in almost every video format and some film clips over the years, I was struck by how the restoration makes it look like they found a fresh print that somehow was barely untouched by time.  As a result, it is the first time the film’s magical intents really come through; you can see the money on the screen like never before, the energy and joy that made this a landmark and why Fairbanks was a giant movie star.  The tints are not just one color in one scene and another in another scene, but they are tempered, fade slowly in and out depending on the scene and is some of the best use of color on film until film was capable of color.  This is a 2K scan of the two best available acetate dupes of the long-lost nitrate camera negative and only has minor flaws throughout.  You will be impressed when you see it!


Director of Photography Arthur Edeson had already shot Fairbanks' films before and really delivers here down to fully capturing the production design and Art Direction by the ingenious William Cameron Menzies in what remains some of the greatest sets ever built (and older sets expanded) including Art Nouveau galore.  Edeson would continue his brilliant work well into the sound film era with All Quiet On The Western Front (1930), Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Mutiny On The Bounty (1935), They Drive By Night (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942), not at all hurt by the fact that he was also a master of mixing and matching models and other visual effects of the time with his knack of creating unforgettable images.


There have been many scores for this silent classic, as you would expect for such a hit and extremely influential film.  Though the original score was not included, the solid Carl Davis score is here in a fine DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix as well as almost as good PCM 2.0 Stereo mix.  The 5.1 is better, though as with so many silent films, I wanted to turn off the music and watch it that way or even play music I liked to it and see how that works.  It is such a visual achievement that you can even forget the music supplied as you watch, but this orchestral recording is just fine.


Extras include a stills section on the film, a terrific & highly informative feature length audio commentary track by mega scholar (and megafan; he wrote a book on Fairbanks) Jeffrey Vance, Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes, bonus DVD version and nicely illustrated booklet with the cast listed in the text (they are not listed on the film print) and 2003 essay by Laura Boyes that adds to making this Blu-ray release of The Thief Of Bagdad a must-have collectible.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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