22 April 2001 | sundar-2
Typical "Arabian Nights" film of the 1950s
The 11th century mathematician-poet Omar Khayyam who lived in Baghdad wrote quatrains in Persian which are still quoted. The exact details of his life are unknown, so Hollywood wrote a biography on the tabula rasa of his life. Cornel Wilde plays the often-drunk Omar Khayyam who longs for his sweetheart who the Sultan keeps in his harem as his third wife. Omar Khayyam works in the Sultan's court as a mathematician who is drawing up a new calendar. When the Sultan dies, Omar Khayyam stumbles upon a plot to kill off the Sultan's successor. The poet then goes off to foil the plot. He crosses swords with the Assassin sect whose members are deluded by their leader into thinking that they are in paradise when they actually are in a hashish-induced zombie-like state. In fact, the word "assassin" means "hashish-eaters".
Cornel Wilde who plays Omar Khayyam is unable to be a debonair swashbuckler because he has to play a tortured poet. Michael Rennie as the sinister Hasani is wonderful. His aquiline features suit his Arab role. The rest of the cast is unremarkable. "Omar Khayyam" has all the Arabian Nights cliches - harems, slaves, sultans, thieves and intrigues. It is a type of movie which will not be made again because, these days, the Middle East brings up visions of fanatical terrorists, not innocuous fables of highly intellectual Arabs amidst the magnificence of ancient Baghdad.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)