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A Review of

The Thief of Bagdad
(1940 Version)


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Overall Rating: StarStarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

Starring Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez, John Justin, and Rex Ingram, this 1940 motion picture offers nearly two hours of delightful entertainment. Although it has the same title as a 1924 silent movie that stars Douglas Fairbanks, this is an entirely different story line.

In this 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad, the evil grand vizier of Bagdad named Jaffar deposes the handsome rightful king Ahmad, then negotiates with the neighboring king of Basra for the hand of his beautiful daughter. Along the way, Ahmad becomes friends with a street-smart young thief who saves his life and falls in love with the beautiful princess of Basra. Of course, the evil Jaffar thwarts the lovers because he wants the princess for himself, and the plot continues from there. The story is a magical tale in the true spirit of the Arabian Nights, the character development is appealing, and the production quality is a visual feast.

The Thief of Bagdad (1940 Version) DVD Cover


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Fact Sheet

Subject Matter Fantasy in the style of 1001 Nights
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Year Released 1940
Star(s) Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez, John Justin, and Rex Ingram
Dancer(s) None
Total Length 106:00 minutes
Time Devoted to Dance Scenes None
Awards Won

Three Academy Awards (Oscars), as follows:

  • Art direction
  • Color cinematography
  • Special effects


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This movie is a magic carpet ride into the world of the Arabian Nights. Although it has the same title as a Douglas Fairbanks silent movie that appeared in 1924, the plot and characters are entirely different. It won three Academy Awards, for art direction, color cinematography, and special effects. The cast includes Conrad Veidt as the evil usurping grand vizier, John Justin as the not-too-bright handsome deposed king, Sabu as the street-smart adventure-loving boy thief, June Duprez as the beautiful princess of Basra, and Rex Ingram as the magnificent djinn.

The plot goes something like this: handsome king Ahmad is deposed by his evil grand vizier Jaffar and thrown into prison, to be executed the next day. In prison, he meets a boy thief named Abu whose cleverness enables the two of them to escape, and they become fast friends. The wizard Jaffar travels to the neighboring kingdom of Basra and negotiates with its sultan for the hand of his beloved daughter in marriage. However, Ahmad and the princess fall in love, and when Ahmad confronts Jaffar about his throne, Jaffar blinds him and turns Abu into a dog.

I won't reveal any more of the plot because I don't want to spoil its many twists and turns. Along the way, it serves up adventure, magic, a feisty djinni, faithful friendship, romance, laughter, and heartbreak, and offers many lavish visual images to delight the eyes. The costuming is magnificent and the scenery wonderful. Abu is clearly the central character, as he rescues his dim friend Ahmad from various scrapes and helps thwart the schemes of the evil Jaffar.

The movie is also one of the early Hollywood musicals, but in the sort of vein where the music serves as background behind a mood scene. I was disappointed that there were no lavish dance production numbers, but the movie was made a few years before that style of musical came into vogue.


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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Video If

  • You enjoy the tales of the Arabian nights, full of magic and fantasy.
  • You're an enthusiastic fan of any of the cast members. All come across well in this movie.

This Video Probably Isn't Right for You If

  • You're not particularly enthusiastic about the fantasy fiction genre.
  • You're solely interested in movies that contain dance scenes.
  • You're expecting special effects on a par with the technology used today.


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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • The story is a delightful adventure into the world of the Arabian Nights. For those who like this type of magical fantasy, Thief of Bagdad is an enjoyable interpretation.
  • From beginning to end, the movie is a visual feast. The sets are beautiful, the costuming is magnificent, and many scenes are sumptuous in their layout.
  • The casting is excellent. Each and every character is represented by a skilled actor/actress who brings the role to life without overacting.

What I Didn't Like:

  • Some of the special effects (such as the djinni's flying and the magic carpet) looked painfully primitive by the standards of 60 years later!
  • Some of the action scenes were choreographed in a way that would fail to measure up by today's standards.


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In Conclusion

It's a beautiful movie, which still holds up well 60+ years after it was originally released. The casting and acting are excellent, the story is magical fantasy with a solid dose of romance, and the sets are a feast for the eyes. Even half a century later, some of the special effects are still convincingly well done, although others admittedly have not endured the test of time as well.


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There is nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone involved in making this movie.


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Where to Get It

Via Amazon Stores

VHS edition: U.S. Canada U.K.

DVD edition: U.S. Canada U.K.




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