Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

( 2 )

Overview

The general perception of the Technicolor costume adventure movies that Maria Montez and Jon Hall made for Universal in the early 1940's is that they were pure escapist entertainment, intended to make people forget for an hour or so about the Second World War and the general world situation. And generally that is true about them -- they were mostly no "about" much more than having fun for 90 minutes or so amid pretty sets with lots of action and some pretty women in exotic outfits. But watching Ali Baba and the ...
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Overview

The general perception of the Technicolor costume adventure movies that Maria Montez and Jon Hall made for Universal in the early 1940's is that they were pure escapist entertainment, intended to make people forget for an hour or so about the Second World War and the general world situation. And generally that is true about them -- they were mostly no "about" much more than having fun for 90 minutes or so amid pretty sets with lots of action and some pretty women in exotic outfits. But watching Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, one has to wonder if even here the screenwriter, Edmund L. Hartmann, was able to totally get away from the day-to-day reality around him. The opening Mongol invasion of Bagdad and the murder of the old Caliph (Moroni Olsen) while trying to set up a government-in-exile without thinking of the German and Japanese conquests and occupations of various nations that would have been going on at the time; additionally, the fact that the old Caliph is murdered with the help of a traitor in his own noble ranks -- a "quisling" in the term coined during World War II -- wouldn't have been missed by audiences at the time. Further, the screenplay very specifically paints the forty thieves as heroes who have gone from being criminals to an active resistance force against the occupying Mongols -- indeed, at the denouement, their invasion of the palace is greeted as a day of liberation by the people of Bagdad. The movie walks a strange tightrope, casting about veiled topical references of that sort, even as is otherwise sufficiently tongue-in-cheek to cast Andy Devine as a desert bandit. Obviously, Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves was sold as -- and mostly intended as -- light entertainment, but just below that glitzy Technicolor surface were some fascinating allusions to the real world. None of this stops Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves from being immense fun -- it is, even if the "fun" isn't totally escapist in nature -- and it's great to look at as well, even 60 years on; Universal has apparently kept preservation-quality source materials on this and Hall and Montez's other Technicolor costume romps. And this particular entry in that group of movies also contains one very instructive clue to the morays and censorship of the time in one scene, in which the hero meets the heroine bathing at an oasis -- the makers seem to have been forced to insert a particular shot that is there for no other reason then to make it clear that she is not totally naked when he sees her.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
A rather obvious rule of thumb is that one ventures into a Maria Montez movie for the visual splendors rather than for a master class in acting or an elegantly crafted screenplay that abounds with rapier wit, and that rule definitely applies to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Yet if Ali is not a great film, it's still a splendid way to mindlessly pass the time. First, there's the delectable Montez herself, giving new meaning to the word "sultry" without even half trying. Montez doesn't walk across the screen, she glides or stalks or slinks, and her gait tells you exactly what the character is thinking. She's no actress, but that doesn't stop her from trying, and she's so delicious that one can't help enjoying her. Jon Hall is more or less the male Montez, a keen looker who's stronger on presence and presentation than on actual talent, and together the two make Ali a heap of fun. The screenplay, though far better than others that Montez worked with, has more than its share of ripe dialogue, and Arthur Lubin's direction doesn't go for subtlety, but it's all in keeping with the spirit of the piece. The sets and costumes are appropriately gaudy, and the supporting cast even finds room for Andy Devine, who would seem to be totally out of place in an Arabian nights picture, yet who somehow fits in with the campy mise en scene of the flick.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/23/2010
  • EAN: 5060000700213
  • Original Release: 1943
  • Source: Ais
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 42,211

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jon Hall Ali Baba
Maria Montez Amara
Turhan Bey Jamiel
Andy Devine Abdullah
Kurt Katch Hulaga Khan
Scotty Beckett Ali as a boy
Frank Puglia Prince Cassim
Fortunio Bonanova Baba
Moroni Olsen Caliph
Ramsay Ames Nalu
Chris-Pin Martin Fat Thief
Noel Cravat Mongol Captain
Jimmy Conlin Little Thief
Harry Cording Mahmoud
John Calvert
Wee Willie Davis Arab Giant
Dick Dickinson
Yvette Dugay Amara as a Girl
Hans Herbert
David Heywood
Ethan Laidlaw Thief
Joey Ray
Pedro Regas
Charles Wagenheim Barber
Technical Credits
Arthur Lubin Director
John P. Fulton Special Effects
Russell A. Gausman Set Decoration/Design
John B. Goodman Art Director
Howard Greene Cinematographer
W. Howard Greene Cinematographer
Edmund L. Hartmann Screenwriter
Paul Malvern Producer
Richard H. Riedel Art Director
George Robinson Cinematographer
Russell Schoengarth Editor
Edward Ward Score Composer, Screenwriter
Ira S. Webb Set Decoration/Design
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Magical and Exciting

    Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves is another addition to The Universal Backlot Series. Ali Baba as a young child is adopted by a band of notorious but good natured thieves. When he develops into a young man, he sets out to avenge the murder of his father, reclaim the throne and rescue his lover, Amara, who he befriended in childhood. John Hall as the protagonist is handsome, and delivers an exciting performance. Maria Montez as Amara is gorgeous and passionate. Kurt Katch as the treacherous Haluga Khan is menacingly evil, and Andy Devine as Abdullah provides the comic relief. The transfer is crystal clear, and as a result, the colors are vivid. Highly Recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews