Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

09 July 2008

God Bless Criterion

Yesterday I sat down and watched The Thief of Bagdad: an Arabian Fantasy from 1940. Now, I don't know how I would feel about this movie if I saw a bad print of it or saw it in a dimly lit theatre (like the crap Talla-classy theatre in which I saw Tarsem's The Fall), but thankfully, Criterion has come along and saved the day for this movie.

The new DVD of The Thief of Bagdad is gorgeous. The movie is from 1940, but the colors are extraordinarily clear and the beautiful cinematography shines through almost seventy years later. It's lovely.

Mentioning Tarsem's The Fall is actually quite appropriate to The Thief of Bagdad: they'd make a nice double feature.

Thief is short on themes and short on good acting (most of the performances are downright awful, really), but it's eye-popping and fun with some special effects that look nowhere near realistic now, but must have been exciting in 1940. What's really amazing about the whole thing is how truly enjoyable the film is all these years later and despite all of the drawbacks I've listed. Thief is a true pleasure to watch, filled with suspense and magic and shady morals. And the central performance by Sabu, while I wouldn't say it is realistic or believable has an excited, infectious quality that makes it clear why the young man became such a big star.