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Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Fans of the escapist adventures of the 1940s Maria Montez and Jon Hall favor Arabian Nights, which also features Sabu, or the very campy Cobra Woman, but this straightforward presentation of the Ali Baba story isn’t bad at all—just a bit prosaic. What makes it worth watching, especially on the new DVD release…

from Universal, is the mouth-watering use of Technicolor. Every aspect of the film, from its sets, costumes and pageantry to the sheer physical beauty of its stars, is breathtaking.

It’s also interesting to revisit a “boys’ adventure” yarn like this and realize that when audiences were transported to Bagdad in the 1940s—and for decades afterward—it was little more than a name, representing an exotic locale for the tales of Arabian Nights. How times have changed!

A diehard old-movie buff can also derive pleasure in watching the international smorgasbord of actors who fill the classic roles: Maria Montez from the Dominican Republic, California’s own Jon Hall, Viennese-born Turhan Bey, Polish character actor Kurt Katch as Genghis Khan, Sicilian Frank Puglia as the wily Prince Kassim, Fortunio Bonanova from Spain as Old Baba, and the pride of Flagstaff, Arizona, Andy Devine, as Abdullah. I’ll take this multicultural silliness over Transformers any time.

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