Combustible Celluloid
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With: Douglas Fairbanks, Snitz Edwards, Charles Belcher, Julanne Johnston, Sojin, Anna May Wong, Brandon Hurst, Tote Du Crow, Noble Johnson
Written by: Achmed Abdullah, "Elton Thomas," (Douglas Fairbanks), James T. O'Donohoe, Lotta Woods
Directed by: Raoul Walsh
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 154
Date: 03/18/1924

The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Magic Carpet Ride

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

All of Douglas Fairbanks' silent-era swashbucklers are wonderful, but unquestionably the greatest of them all is The Thief of Bagdad (1924). Director Raoul Walsh and art designer William Cameron Menzies spent over two million dollars (topping the previous record set by Robin Hood) to build gigantic sets and design intricate special effects to tell the story of a strapping pickpocket who falls in love with a princess and must bring back the most priceless object he can find to win her hand. The immense space -- both vertical and horizontal -- in this film finally seemed enough to contain Fairbanks' sheer gusto. He really has room to stretch out here. Not to mention the amazing sequences in which he flies on a magic carpet and battles a huge dragon. Anna May Wong nearly steals the picture from him in her few scenes as a slinky, sexy handmaiden. Kino's new DVD improves on Image Entertainment's previous disc with its excellent orchestral score and a host of extras: an introduction by Orson Welles, 20 minutes of outtakes, images from the souvenir booklet, and clips from two earlier silent films Paul Leni's Waxworks and Georges Melies' Arabian Nights, which clearly inspired Fairbanks.

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