The Thief of Bagdad is a colorful, lavish and eye-appealing spectacle. It’s an expensive production accenting visual appeal, combining sweeping panoramas and huge sets, amazing special effects and process photography, and vivid magnificent Technicolor. These factors completely submerge the stolid, slow and rather disjointed fairy tale which lacks any semblance of spontaneity in its telling.
Alexander Korda retains only the Bagdadian background and title in presenting his version of the picture first turned out by Douglas Fairbanks in 1924. But while Fairbanks presented dash and movement to his story, to have the latter dominate his spectacular set- tings, Korda uses the reverse angle. As result, audience interest is focused on the production and technical displays of the picture, and the unimpressive story and stagey acting of the cast fail to measure up to the general production qualities.
The story combines many imaginative incidents culled from Arabian Nights fables. There’s the mechanical horse that flies through the air; the giant genie of the bottle; the huge spider that guards the all-seeing eye; the six-armed dancing doll; the evil magic of the villain; and the famous magic carpet.
Korda spent two years in preparation and production of Thief of Bagdad. All of the large sets, including the city of Bagdad and seaport of Basra, were shot in England, in addition to most of the dramatic action. With the war stopping production in England Korda moved to Hollywood to complete the picture, substituting the American desert and the Grand Canyon for sequences that he originally intended to shoot in Arabia and Egypt.
Conrad Veidt is most impressive as the sinister grand vizier, sharing honors with Sabu, who capably carries off the title role.
1940: Best Color Cinematography, Color Interior Decoration (Vincent Korda), Special Effects (Lawrence Butler, Jack Whitney)
Nomination: Best Original Score