The Thief of Bagdad
Douglas Fairbanks is at his most graceful and charismatic in one of the classic silent films of the 1920s. As the thief of Baghdad, his movements are dance-like -- nothing like the athletics he performed in most of his other films. In this Arabian take, the thief ignores the holy teachings and sneaks into the palace of the Caliph (Brandon Hurst). All thoughts of robbery slip away, however, when he sees the beautiful princess (Julianne Johnston). Princes have come from many faraway lands to win the princess' hand (and it's amusing to watch her face growing ever more alarmed at their arrival, because each one is uglier than the last). The thief disguises himself as a prince and the princess falls in love with him. After having a pang of conscience the thief confesses all to the Holy Man (Charles Belcher), who sends him to find a magic chest. He braves many obstacles to get it, and when he returns he discovers that the Mongol Prince (So-Jin) has taken over the city. Using the chest, the reformed thief creates armies of men out of nothingness and recaptures the city. He then uses the cloak of invisibility to spirit the princess away on a magic carpet. Fairbanks stole some of the special effects for his film from Fritz Lang's Der Mude Tod, which he had purchased for American distribution. Thief of Baghdad, with its look of unrealistic beauty (courtesy of art director William Cameron Menzies), was not fully appreciated in its day. Because of its huge cost ($2 million -- a real fortune in those days), it made little money. After that, Fairbanks stuck closer to the swashbuckling persona he felt his audience wanted. Available now on DVD, the re-mastered film features a new score by Carl Davis.