[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]
“I am less than the slave who serves you — a wretched outcast — a thief.”
In ancient Bagdad, a thief (Douglas Fairbanks) — aided by his trusted companion (Snitz Edwards) — vies against other suitors — including an Indian Prince (Noble Johnson), a Persian prince (Mathilde Comont), and an evil Mongol prince (Sojin) — to win the heart of a princess (Julanne Johnston). When his true identity is revealed, he embarks on a magical journey, while his competitors set out to seek the rarest treasure possible to bring back to the princess.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Cross-Class Romance
- Douglas Fairbanks Films
- Raoul Walsh Films
- Royalty and Nobility
- Silent Films
- Thieves and Criminals
Peary only lists two films with silent-era swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks in his GFTFF — The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Black Pirate (1926) — thus curiously neglecting what may be Fairbanks’ most celebrated movie, The Thief of Bagdad. 40-year-old Fairbanks is at his most fit here, leaping across the screen in bare chest, clambering up and down ropes, standing on his head to shake stolen coins out of his kerchief; he perfectly embodies the title character’s scampish romanticism and unending thirst for adventure. However, it’s William Cameron Menzies’ truly astonishing sets — Baroque, fantastical environments which literally dwarf Fairbanks and his supporting cast — that make this film a must-see spectacle; combined with creative special-effects (including, of course, a flying carpet), we really feel we’ve entered into the magical world of ancient Bagdad and its environs. The film’s primary downfall is its length: at 2 hours and 20 minutes, it goes on for a bit too long; meanwhile, those offended by culturally insensitive depictions of “Asian menace” will be discouraged by the presence of sexy Anna May Wong as the evil accomplice to a Mongol despot (Sojin) with plans to take over Bagdad by force. However, it’s easy enough to ignore these concerns while marveling at the consistently innovative visuals, and appreciating just how athletically impressive Fairbanks really was.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Douglas Fairbanks as the Thief of Bagdad
- William Cameron Menzies et al.’s truly magnificent sets and art design
- Impressive special effects
Yes, as an iconic silent film.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)