The Thief of Bagdad (1961 film)
|The Thief of Bagdad|
|Directed by||Arthur Lubin|
|Music by||Carlo Rustichelli|
|Cinematography||Tonino Delli Colli|
|Edited by||Gene Ruggiero|
|Running time||100 minutes|
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (June 2014)|
In the time of the Arabian Nights, the city of Bagdad is ruled by Sultan Ali Bajazeth (Antonio Battistella) but actually controlled by the scheming Grand Vizier Ghamal (Daniele Vargas), who exploits the people for his own profit. However, the poor of Bagdad are aided by Karim, the Thief of Bagdad (Steve Reeves), whose skill and daring are so great that he even steals Ghamal's purse while the Vizier is making a proclamation and throws Ghamal's money to the poor. The deed is witnessed by a mysterious old man who appears and vanishes into thin air.
That same day, Prince Osman (Arturo Dominici) is due to arrive at the palace to ask for the hand of Sultan Ali's daughter Amina (Giorgia Moll) in marriage. Karim sneaks into the palace, waylays Osman and impersonates the prince, using the opportunity to steal jewels from all of the assembled courtiers (including the sultan's own royal ring). When the thefts are discovered and the real prince (tied and gagged) stumbles into the throne room, Karim (aided by the mysterious old man) hides in Princess Amina's quarters. When her attendants leave, Karim reveals himself to her and the two are immediately drawn to each other (she believing that he is Prince Osman). Karim gives her the sultan's ring and escapes before the palace guards burst in to search.
The next day, Karim distributes his stolen gold to the poor and needy. He meets the old man, who tells him that a greater destiny may lie before him.
At the palace, Princess Amina meets Prince Osman, whom her father says is to be her husband. She is contemptuous and walks out on him. Osman is furious, but the sultan assures him that Amina will fall in love with him in time and Ghamal secretly tells the prince not to worry about his (Osman's) plans to become ruler of Bagdad.
That night, Karim secretly returns to the palace. He meets with Amina, and they declare their love for each other. Unfortunately, Karim is spotted and chased by the guards. Climbing down into a courtyard to escape, he unwittingly lands in the middle of a group of prisoners who have been condemned to slave in the Desert Mills and is dragged off with them.
Ghamal give Osman a potion to make Amina fall in love with him, but something goes wrong and Amina falls dangerously ill. The old man appears again, disguised as a physician, and informs the sultan, Osman and Ghamal that the only way Amina can be cured is for her to be given a Blue Rose by someone who truly loves her and whom she truly loves. The Blue Rose can only be found by passing through The Seven Doors, and the first door can be found in the East ("It can be seen where it is not."); the old man then vanishes into thin air before their eyes. Over Ghamal and Osman's objections, the sultan proclaims that the Quest for the Blue Rose is open to all.
At the Mills, Karim learns of Amina's illness. Getting hold of some pearls, he throws the pearls among them and tricks the guards into thinking that falling stars are turning into pearls, setting them fighting among themselves and seizing the opportunity to escape.
Returning to Bagdad, Karim is told by the old man about the Quest. He tries to join the assembled suitors, but is recognized as Ghamal as the Thief of Bagdad. Karim escapes the guards and, stealing a horse, sets off on the Quest ahead of the others.
The suitors make camp for the night. Karim camps nearby and slips into the camp to steal food and water. Ghamal secretly slits the waterbags of the other suitors and rides off.
The next day, the other suitors are beginning to die of thirst. Karim shares his water with them, and the First Door appears. They ride through and find themselves (secretly observed by the old man) in a strange forest where they camp for the night. That night, the trees come to life and attack them. Most of the suitors flee, but Karim uses a torch to fight off the living trees, after which the Second Door appears as the sun rises.
The Second Door leads to a Smoking Plain of sulphurous geysers that erupt into a ring of fire. Karim realizes that this is an illusion and uses a rock to smash through, finding the Third Door.
The Third Door leads to the Palace of Kadeejah (Edy Vessel), a beautiful woman who tempts Karim to give up the Quest and remain with her. In an enchanted pool, she shows him a vision of Osman presenting Amina with a casket containing a Blue Rose; however, when it is taken out of the casket, it is revealed as a fake. Osman storms out, swearing to conquer Bagdad by force. Karim realizes that Kadeejah and her palace are a trap: all of the other suitors have been turned into statues. He resists her, she herself becomes a statue and her palace sinks into the sea. Karim swims to safety, finding the Fourth Door in a seaside cave. Meanwhile, Osman attacks Bagdad, and Ghamal turns traitor and joins Osman.
Karim's next peril is a swinging rope bridge where he is attacked by an invisible foe. Fighting back, he tears off the enemy's Cloak of Invisibility and manages to force his foe to fall off the bridge to its doom.
Amina is kidnapped by Ghamal and taken to Osman.
The Fifth Door leads Karim to a winged horse, which is guarded by faceless warriors garbed in black. Using the Cloak of Invisibility, Karim is able to fight them off and escape on the winged horse. He arrives at a castle in the clouds, where he finds a rosebush on which The Blue Rose grows but which is surrounded by an invisible barrier. He finds a way in and picks The Blue Rose and is immediately transported back to the desert, where the old man is waiting with Karim's horse. He gives Karim a magic jewel, telling him it will give him anything he wishes but only once.
Osman demands that Sultan Ali surrender Bagdad, threatening Amina. Karim arrives just in time and using the magic jewel creates an army of Karims which, although armed only with clubs, defeats Osman and his army, with Karim himself giving Osman a sound beating of fifty strokes. Unfortunately, during the battle Osman's sword destroys the Blue Rose. After the fighting is over, Osman and his army flee and the duplicate Karims disappear.
Karim rescues Amina and returns her to her father. The Blue Rose is destroyed, but Karim plucks a white rose and gives it to Amina, telling her that if she truly loves him then it is blue. She takes the rose and tells him that it is blue, and it immediately turns blue and curing her completely. The sultan welcomes Karim as his son-in-law and successor. Karim sees a bust of the mysterious old man, but the sultan tells him that it is a bust of his late uncle, the great Sultan Achim I. As Karim kisses Amina, the bust comes to life and blows out the lamp to end the picture.
The film has been considered as one the "finest vehicles" in which Steve Reeves starred.
A novelization of the film was written by Richard Wormser and published by Dell Paperbacks in 1961.
The novelization is told in the first person from the point of view of Abu Hastin, the jinni of Bagdad (who takes the place of the old man from the film and is more involved in the novelization than his counterpart in the film). The novelization creates new characters such as The Lady Jinni of the Rocky Sands (who helps the Jinni of Bagdad create the Quest's tests and is the Jinni of Bagdad's love interest), Karim's scholarly but crippled older brother Malek and The Hairy (or evil) Jinni of Mossul (identified as Osman's home city). The novelization also alters some of the film's characters, making Amina's father more foolish that he is in the film, Karim younger and more reckless, and Amina less of the traditional helpless heroine. Some of the film's Quest tests, Amina's kidnapping, and Osman's siege of Bagdad were eliminated from the novelization.
- Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano - The Complete Guide From Classics To Cult. London - New York: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-608-0.