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The Thief of Bagdad - Criterion Collection
The Thief of Bagdad - Criterion Collection
Actors: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, Rex Ingram, Miki Hood, Allan Jeayes
Genres: Action & Adventure, Classics, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy
UR     2008     1hr 46min

Legendary producer Alexander Korda's marvel The Thief of Bagdad, inspired by The Arabian Nights, is one of the most spectacular fantasy films ever made, an eye-popping effects pioneer brimming with imagination and technica...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, Rex Ingram, Miki Hood, Allan Jeayes
Genres: Action & Adventure, Classics, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Classics, Classics, Adventure, Classics, Family Films, Fantasy
Studio: Criterion Collection
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 05/27/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1940
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1940
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 46min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 20
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

stryper | Canada | 05/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Yep that's right, I own both the MGM and now the Criterion versions of, The Thief Of Bagdad, and after comparing the opening sequence (with the boats and the cityscape), the scene where the blind man is telling his story so far, to the harem girls (where there's slight blurring in the long shots as well as a slight over enhancement shimmer on the blind man's face) and the registration problem area (where Sabu meets the spider in the temple) the print used is exactly the same one, as both versions have the exact same problems in exactly the same areas.

As for the purported colour saturation differences between the two discs, from my close scrutiny of the movies, I'd have to say that there isn't any difference at all.

The reds look over saturated to the point where the Grand Vizier's turban bleeds slightly, the blues are sky blue bright, and the skin tones are coppery, which is true to the skin tones of the people populating this movie.

The real question now should be, why Criterion chose to release this film as is, without attempting to do any restoration?

I had thought that the reason for the exuberant prices of Criterion DVDs was because we where suppose to be getting the best possible prints of films, but in this case, we're giving the same print with some extras, and expected to pay 3 times the price of the MGM disc.

Also of note, the chapter selection is better on the MGM disc as there are pictures with the captions, where as the Criterion chapter select, is text only (something Anchor Bay did away with years ago, because it was too confusing, i.e. the Evil Dead DVD, "Evil dead attack", um, which evil dead attack, there are several, so the description is useless).

So, as far as I'm concerned, the choice as to whether to get the Criterion edition rests with whether you want the extras and not with the picture quality.

So if you have the MGM DVD and aren't interested in shelling out more cash for a couple of extras (which I didn't find all that spectacular; no feature length making of to be had on this disc) then skip it, but if you don't own the out of print MGM disc, want the extras, or (like me) are a completes, then pick this up, just don't expect an upgraded print.

Hope this helps.

Note: both DVD's where viewed on a 27" JVC higher end (but not progressive scan enhanced) tube TV with a year old model, Sony DVD player, with the TV colour, contrast, sharpness, etc., set up using the THX optimizer from the, "Cars", DVD."
"I want to be a bandit, can't you understand it?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 02/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What's that old saying? Too many cooks spoil the broth? In figurative terms it means if there are too many people working on a project, the result will be inferior...given the fact The Thief of Bagdad (1940) sports six directors, three credited, three uncredited, you'd think the film would be a mess, but it's actually the very opposite. The credited directors include Ludwig Berger (The Vagabond King), Michael Powell (Black Narcissus), and Tim Whelan (The Mad Doctor), while on the uncredited side there's three individuals, all whom share producing credits for the film in Alexander Korda (Storm Over the Nile), his brother Zoltan Korda (Jungle Book), and William Cameron Menzies (The Whip Hand). Starring in the film is Conrad Veidt (Casablanca), Sabu (Elephant Boy, Jungle Book), and John Justin (King of the Khyber Rifles). Also appearing is June Duprez (Little Tokyo, U.S.A.) and Rex Ingram (God's Little Acre) as the Genie, or Djinn,

As the film begins, we're introduced to a blind beggar named Ahmad (Justin), and his very intelligent dog, both of whom are more than they appear. Ahmad soon relates a tale, and we learn of a man who was once king, and how he became friends with a clever young thief from the streets named Abu, played by Sabu (see what they did? The just removed the `S' from Sabu to get Abu...pretty smart, huh?). We also learn of the king's downfall at the hands of Jaffar (Veidt), a greedy, dastardly fellow with a penchant for magics and trickery. Seems Jaffar, once Grand Vizer (that means a highly regarded executive type who councils the king in many different matters) to the king, covet too much, and through some ruse, he managed to usurp (hence his new moniker of `The Usurper') the throne, and now desires the lovely princess, played by Duprez, daughter to a Sultan (played by Miles Malleson, one of the writers) of the nearby kingdom of Basra, who, incidentally, is smitten with the once king, and he her (their first encounter occurs in the `forbidden garden'...take the meaning whichever way you like)...the pair (the once king and Abu) embark on a number of dangerous adventures to regain king's throne, free the princess from the Jaffar's clutches, and return things to the natural order. Seems like a simple enough task, right? Well, keep in mind Jaffar is not only a scoundrel, but a magical scoundrel, and he has no intention of losing what he has worked so little for...actually, his plans appeared pretty complex, almost to the point of being convoluted, so it was obvious he had been planning it for awhile.

The Thief of Bagdad (which won three academy awards, one for color cinematography, a second for color interior design, and a third for special effects) is one of those films that I wish I could have been their to see when it originally opened in the theaters, as I can't help but feel it must have been quite the awesome cinematic experience similar to the first time I saw Clash of the Titans (1981) in the theater (I was eleven at the time). In terms of fantasy films, very few can match the level of magic and whimsy of The Thief of Bagdad, although many have tried. The real key to the film's success, in my opinion, is that it is so well written, basically a fairytale come to life. Certainly the special effects helped propel this film, but without the core characterizations and well-crafted dialogue, the film wouldn't have been as popular. With regards to the acting, I thought all of the performers did very well, but given the strength of the material, it wouldn't have been too difficult for an experienced performer to come in and do as well, with a few exceptions, particularly in the characters of Abu, the genie (Ingram), and Jaffar. Sabu seemed a bit rough around the edges, but this was displaced by his infectious enthusiasm, which came through in nearly every scene he appeared. The genie, played by Harrison, is wonderful and comes through larger than life, exactly how you'd expect a genie to be (which makes me think Harrison's performance was what many other, later genie depictions were probably based on). Last, but not least, is the character of Jaffar, played perfectly by Veidt. This definitely was a case of finding the right actor for the part as Veidt creates what's probably one of the strongest characterizations of an on screen villain I seen in a long time. The only other one I can think of is Darth Vader, but the difference is in Vader's character, much of his menace comes through in the costume and effects, where with Jaffar, Veidt had to create his character from within, and does so almost too well (he even scared me a few times). As far as the special effects, some seem dated (keep in mind the film was made some 60+ years ago, and achieving effects on the level seen here was incredibly difficult) and obvious (the blue fringing of the Technicolor mattes often shows through), while others hold up quite well (the giant spider looked amazing and its' movements really made it appear to be alive). The sets, usually backed by lush and detailed matte paintings, are beautiful and befitting of the story, and the music, by Miklós Rózsa, is considered to be some of the finest ever made for a film. Generally I'm not big on characters within film breaking out in song, but it works here because it ties so well into the events on the screen.

The full screen (original format) looks really good, despite a few minor flaws, and the audio comes through very well. I was surprised at a lack of features (there's a good looking trailer) for this particular film, given its' significance in terms of being one of the best fantasy films ever released, but better to have it than not at all I suppose.

One of the great fantasy film in cinema history
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 10/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Few classic films demands or can benefit more from transfer to DVD than Alexander Korda's magnificent THE THIEF OF BAGDAD. At a time when British cinema lagged desperately behind Hollywood in technical proficiency, Korda was nothing short of a miracle worker. Although lacking the resources that Hollywood had to offer, Korda was able to produce a movie that stood up to the best of Hollywood in beauty, creativity, color, and fantasy. Two of the greatest fantasy films ever made appeared in 1939 and 1940: THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE THIEF OF BAGDAD. There are two reasons that THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is a great film and has stood the test of time. The first is the tremendous art direction. The movie is a function of Korda's vision. French auteur criticism holds that the "author" of a film is the director, but this is clearly an exception to that. Korda, the producer, was the creative force behind this film, and, in fact, employed as many as a half dozen directors during the course of making the film. One of the uncredited directors and one of the credited art directors was the great William Cameron Menzies, regarded as one of the giants in art design in film history. Even today, this is a gorgeous film to look at, and in an age when computers can create absolutely anything on the screen, it is delightful to watch a film in which others managed to achieve magic working with considerably less than we possess.The second reason that this film succeeds so marvelously is the cast. Ironically, the ostensible lead in the film is remarkably forgettable. But several of the other performances are quite unforgettable. Conrad Veidt is magnificently ominous and devious as Jaffar in what is probably one of his three most memorable roles (the others being his performance as the Somnambulist in the German Expressionist classic THE CABINENT OF DR. CALIGARI and his famous turn as Rick's nemesis Maj. Strasser in CASABLANCA). He is so fine in his role that it is hard to imagine anyone else being better. Sabu, who plays Abu, enjoyed one of the more unusual film careers in Hollywood history (to which he returned after returning from WW II as a highly decorated war hero), and this is possibly his finest film. But apart from Veidt, my favorite performer is the great Rex Ingram's memorable performance as the genie. In an era in which it was virtually impossible to have a film career as an African-American while refusing to compromise one's dignity by playing subservient roles, Rex Ingram was perhaps the great exception. While other black actors forged careers playing servants and red caps and cooks and various other undignified roles, Ingram always managed to stand out as a proud, self-respectful individual. After Paul Robeson and before Sidney Portier, Ingram was perhaps the finest black actor in Hollywood. He managed always in his films to project great intelligence, pride, and self-possession. In many roles, he was more than a little imposing, and that comes out in his portrayal as the Genie. Yes, Abu outwits him and extracts a promise for three wishes, but he clearly is not a safe, tame genie. Even while doing Abu's bidding, he radiates danger. Had Ingram's career spanned the decades at the end of the 20th century instead of those in the middle, he would have been recognized as a truly massive talent. Today he would have been a major star, something that simply wasn't possible in 1940.This is a must-see film for anyone who loves great cinematic fantasy, adventure, or British film. It is also one of those rare films that can be enjoyed as much by small children as by adults."
Criterion transfer no real improvement on MGM disc. Upgrade
Surfink | Racine, WI | 05/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I see that there is some controversy here over whether the new Criterion transfer is an improvement on the 2002 MGM transfer or not. So I compared the MGM and Criterion DVD editions of this movie (which I love) on my 60-inch Hitachi HDTV today by syncing them up on two different DVD players and swapping the picture back and forth between them. I then switched the discs between the players and repeated the test. Other than a tiny sliver more picture information at the top and left on the Criterion disc, and a sliver more on the bottom of the MGM disc, they appear virtually identical. There is no significant difference that I can see in terms of color balance or saturation, brightness, contrast, shadow/highlight detail, or cleanliness of the prints. Criterion claims to have cleaned up "thousands" of instances of speckling and spotting, but the MGM print looks very clean to me, with little or no noticeable dirt or damage. In short, unless you really want the extras, or don't own the MGM edition, there is really no reason to upgrade as far as I can tell. Other than the digital cleanup that was supposedly done I can't understand how Criterion can claim that this version is "from restored film elements", other than to con potential buyers into buying a movie that they probably already own. I bought the Criterion release partly for the extras but was expecting a superior transfer based on their pre-release publicity, and now I feel just slightly ripped off considering the premium price they are charging for this set. The extras are nice to have but hardly merit charging double what the MGM DVD retailed for. Of course if you don't have the MGM edition (which is now out of print) then this is a worthy purchase, but as I would expect that most hardcore fans of this movie scooped up on the MGM disc as soon as it was released, this seems a little like double-dipping. At any rate, the bottom line is that anyone trying to tell you that either version is markedly superior in terms of picture quality hasn't done their homework. As anyone who knows anything about computer graphics will tell you, there are so many variables involved in displaying color on a monitor or on the Web that comparisons made by examining screen grabs on the Internet are all but worthless. As long as I'm on the subject, not all of Criterion's transfers are necessarily superior to those available from other DVD manufacturers. For instance, Image Entertainment's transfers of Warhol's Blood for Dracula and Flesh for Frankenstein blow the (out of print) Criterion editions off the map in every possible way. So don't assume that just because it says Criterion on the box you're getting a superior product.
All in all, Thief of Bagdad is a personal favorite and one of the greatest adventure fantasies ever filmed. I'm only knocking one star off of what should be a five-star rating because of Criterion implying that you're getting a much improved transfer when you are not."