31 March 2019 | skutah
Entertaining film with some issues that displays a surprising amount of historical knowledge
This movie is a colourful adventure movie that is greatly entertaining if you like this old technicolor style of Orientalist films. I mainly love it because of two things: fond childhood memories from a time when I even watched it on a black and white TV set in the mid-80s and [name=nm0700084]'s Prince Cassim.
This actor has played small parts in a couple of classic movies and often appeared alongside some of the big names of his days, but it is in this movie and a couple of later productions mainly that he got a chance to show more of his talent and skills. His expressions and his work with his voice are formidable and he is seriously underrated as his range of characters is pretty impressive. Not to speak about how he managed to make this villain character mean and miserable, contemptible and touching at the same time. His Prince Cassim to me has always been the character with the most depth in this film.
That said, the film is of course to be classified as strongly Orientalist and escapist, it never lets you forget that you're watching a piece of Hollywood fiction with main characters that are boringly one-sided (good or bad) and it avoids answering the most interesting question: What Ali would've done with Cassim if he had faced the decision as he was the father of Ali's beloved and future wife who - as a good daughter - still had a soft spot for her dad despite his awful misbehaviour. But all of this is part of the style of this sort of movies at the time and therefore I find it excusable.
On the other hand the interweaving of 13th century history with a tale from the 1001 nights is done in an amazingly apt manner as the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols is in fact attributed to the machinations of a treacherous vizier (along with an incompetent caliph) in some sources, the caliph was actually killed by the Mongols and there was indeed a fugitive who claimed to be a surviving member of the dynasty and subsequently continued the line of the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad in Egypt. Therefore there might've been more knowledge at work than one would expect from this type of light entertainment and I'm wondering how they came to mix these ingredients with the Ali Baba story.
All things considered I rate this 8 out of 10 because my 21st century adult self is unable to overlook the issues listed above.