Legendary producer Alexander Korda's marvel The Thief of Bagdad (Wikipedia), inspired by The Arabian Nights, is one of the most spectacular fantasy films ever made, an eye-popping effects pioneer brimming with imagination and technical wizardry. When Prince Ahmad (John Justin) is blinded and cast out of Bagdad by the nefarious Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), he joins forces with the scrappy thief Abu (the incomparable Sabu, in his definitive role) to win back his royal place, as well as the heart of a beautiful princess (June Duprez). With its luscious Technicolor, vivid sets, and unprecedented visual wonders, The Thief of Bagdad has charmed viewers of all ages for decades.
The Criterion Collection's Special Edition double-disc set features a new digital transfer from restored film elements. On board are two audio commentaries: one featuring directors (and fans of the film) Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, and another with film and music historian Bruce Eder. Also here are:
- Visual Effects, a documentary about the technical achievements of The Thief of Bagdad, featuring interviews with special-effects masters Ray Harryhausen, Dennis Muren, and Craig Barron.
- The Lion Has Wings (1940), Alexander Korda's propaganda film for the English war effort, created when The Thief of Bagdad went into production hiatus.
- Excerpts from codirector Michael Powell's audio dictations for his autobiography.
- Excerpts from a 1976 radio interview with composer Miklos Rózsa.
- Stills gallery featuring rare images of the film's production and photos shot in Dufaycolor.
- Optional music and effects track.
- Theatrical trailer.
- A booklet featuring new essays by film scholars Andrew Moor and Ian Christie.
"...a timeless fantasy, a pure and naïve expression of, as Sabu puts it in his famous curtain line, the search for 'some fun and adventure, at last!'... The set pieces are grandly conceived and impeccably executed: a six-armed mechanical dancing doll (Mary Morris) who seduces and assassinates a foolish king (Powell's morbid eroticism seems to surface here); the towering and untrustworthy Djinn (Rex Ingram) released from his bottle by the unsuspecting Sabu; Sabu braving a giant spider as he tries to steal the precious all-seeing eye embedded in an idol's forehead." -- Dave Kehr in Tuesday's New York Times
"A visual and sonic swirl of 1001 delights.... The magical realm remains wondrous after repeated viewings. This fantasy world isn't ruled by gods or demons but simply inhabited by the occasional fantastic being, like Rex Ingram's towering, bellowing Genie. He has his own perspective on the workings of the world and is quite happy to dispense wisdom to Abu, even while preparing to crush him underfoot. Out-conned by the tiny thief, the Genie likewise yearns for his own emancipation: 'Free! Free! FREE!'" -- Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant
"I am obviously not Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, or any of the other famous filmmakers who have been indelibly touched by this film, and yet I proudly proclaim myself a lifetime member of the Thief of Bagdad club.... Having a deluxe restored edition of The Thief of Bagdad makes one of my Criterion dreams come true. This film is such a beloved unique classic it must be seen by anyone with a glimmer of magic somewhere in their hearts." -- Jeffrey Kauffman, DVD Talk
Other titles out this week are:
From Lionsgate, Rambo - The Complete Collector's Set, an impressive tin-boxed set with First Blood (Ultimate Edition), Rambo: First Blood Part II (Ultimate Edition), Rambo III (Ultimate Edition), and Rambo (Special Edition). All that plus over twenty bonus features such as enjoyable and informative audio commentaries by Sylvester Stallone his own bad self. Among the other shoulder-fired rockets launched are deleted scenes, production featurettes, "The Real Nam: Voices from Within" featurette, "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis" featurette, "The Weaponry of Rambo" featurette, and even "Interactive Military Special Operations Features." Check back here at Film.com/DVD for a full Running Dog run-down of what's in this bazooka of a box.
Rambo: The Original Trilogy is also out this week on Blu-ray.
TV on DVD:
From Warner Home Video, this week we get Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Everything, a plushly packaged nine-disc set with all 36 episodes, all three specials, and four hours of behind-the-scenes bonus material. And yes, it's all fabulous, sweetie darling. Absolutely everything, right down to the quilted photo-album case cover. Check back here at Film.com/DVD for more about this set.
From Acorn Media, The Grand: The Complete Collection -- In this 18-epsiode series produced in 1997 and 1998, The Grand is the most opulent hotel in Manchester, England, during the decadent Roaring '20s. The Grand is more than a building. It's a nexus for schemes, scandals, romance, and intrigue. For owner John Bannerman, The Grand symbolizes a tradition of luxury and elegance begun by his father. For Marcus Bannerman, it becomes a risky investment and a way to entice his brother's wife into bed. The drama downstairs rivals that above as ambitious chambermaids, loyal porters, and mysterious guests create scandals of their own. Divided by class and circumstance or tied together by love and loyalty, the myriad characters who populate The Grand prove unforgettable. The Grand is written by BAFTA Award-winner Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Queer as Folk, Casanova, Touching Evil) and features three-time Emmy-winner Susan Hampshire (The Pallisers, The First Churchills, The Forsyte Saga) and a fine ensemble cast, including Stephen Moyer (Lilies, The Starter Wife), Mark McGann (Endgame, The Hanging Gale), Tim Healy (School for Seduction), and Amanda Mealing (Holby City).