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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Thief of Bagdad [Blu-ray]

 

(Raoul Walsh, 1924)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Douglas Fairbanks Pictures

Video: Cohen Media Group

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:28:47.668

Disc Size: 45,910,712,045 bytes

Feature Size: 42,252,567,936 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.03 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: February 19th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2232 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2232 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary by Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance

Fairbanks and Fantasy (17:07) including rare behind-the-scenes photographs

2012 Restoration trailer (2:25)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Douglas Fairbanks is at his most graceful and charismatic in one of the classic silent films of the 1920s. As the thief of Baghdad, his movements are dance-like -- nothing like the athletics he performed in most of his other films. In this Arabian take, the thief ignores the holy teachings and sneaks into the palace of the Caliph (Brandon Hurst). All thoughts of robbery slip away, however, when he sees the beautiful princess (Julanne Johnston). Princes have come from many faraway lands to win the princess' hand (and it's amusing to watch her face growing ever more alarmed at their arrival, because each one is uglier than the last). The thief disguises himself as a prince and the princess falls in love with him. After having a pang of conscience, the thief confesses all to the Holy Man (Charles Belcher), who sends him to find a magic chest. He braves many obstacles to get it, and when he returns he discovers that the Mongol Prince (Sojin) has taken over the city. Using the chest, the reformed thief creates armies of men out of nothingness and recaptures the city. He then uses the cloak of invisibility to spirit the princess away on a magic carpet. Fairbanks stole some of the special effects for his film from Fritz Lang's Der Müde Tod, which he had purchased for American distribution. The Thief of Baghdad, with its look of unrealistic beauty (courtesy of art director William Cameron Menzies), was not fully appreciated in its day. Because of its huge cost (two million dollars -- a real fortune in those days), it made little money. After that, Fairbanks stuck closer to the swashbuckling persona he felt his audience wanted.

 

 

The Film:

Douglas Fairbanks spared no expense for what may be the most lavish fantasy movie ever made. Inspired by the flying-carpet effects of Fritz Lang's somber but spectacular Der Müde Tod, Fairbanks (ever the canny businessman) bought the American rights, then hid the film away as he created his own show-stopping adventure, an adaptation of A Thousand and One Nights in which the magic-carpet ride was but one of many fantastic marvels. Swaggering through massive marketplace sets and cavernous throne rooms as an incorrigible thief and pickpocket, he scales towering walls (with the help of a magic rope) and leads a merry chase through crowded bazaars in his pursuit of loot--until he falls in love with the beautiful princess and vows to win her heart. This jaunty opening is but mere preamble to the spectacular second act. As three kings scour the globe to retrieve the rarest treasures known to man, the repentant thief embarks on an odyssey through caverns of fire and underwater caves. The marvelous special effects--from the smoke-belching dragon and underwater spider to the flying horse and magic armies arising from the dust--may show their seams but glow with a timeless sense of wonder. William Cameron Menzies's magnificent sets appear to have leapt from the pages of a storybook. As the adventure concludes in a torrent of movie magic that cascades nonstop through the breathless final hour, Fairbanks commands the screen with a hearty laugh and graceful athleticism, the cinema's first action hero triumphant. Kino's restored edition is tinted and features an organ score by Gaylord Carter.

Excerpt from Sean Axmaker at Amazon located HERE

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD separates rather neatly into two sections. The first, a Scheherazadian romance, will appeal to adult viewers. The second--a classic storybook odyssey which takes the thief through the Valley of Fire, the Valley of the Monsters, the Cavern of the Enchanted Trees, the Abode of the Winged Horse, and the Citadel of the Moon--will mesmerize youngsters.

Forty-year-old Douglas Fairbanks was at his peak when he released the film in 1924. Stripped to the waist virtually throughout, Fairbanks displays the physique of a 20-year-old gymnast and the exuberance of a person even younger. His daringly, beautifully florid performance is grounded less in dramatics than in dance (surely Gene Kelly had this movie in mind when he conceived the "Sinbad the Sailor" segment of INVITATION TO THE DANCE) and acrobatics (Fairbanks's thief empties his pockets at night by standing on his hands).

Fairbanks's kinetic performance is saved from pretentious posturing by his enormous likability, effervescence, and predisposition to self-mockery, a virtue illustrated in the following sequence: the princess is told by a prophetess (Etta Lee) that her future husband will be the first suitor to touch the rose tree outside. The audience, recalling childhood fairy tales, correctly anticipates that the thief will touch the tree first. What it doesn't anticipate is that he will do so as a result of being pitched by his horse headlong into the tree's branches.

Fairbanks's splendid flourishes infect the whole cast. Particularly broad and eloquent are the lovely performances of the graceful Julanne Johnston as the princess, and the slyly sinuous Japanese actor Sojin as the cruel and cunning Mongol prince.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) looks marvelous on Blu-ray from the Cohen Media Group.  This is described as "...newly restored from two 35mm negatives and incorporating the color tints and tones of the original release prints". I imagine while watching that it probably looked quite similar to this theatrically almost 90 years ago.  This restoration is housed on a dual-layered disc for the 2.5 hour film. It is 1080P and seems to adhere to the film's original textures. Hopefully the captures will give you a good idea of the presentation appearance. I was very pleased with how it looked in-motion.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio come in two lossless flavors - a DTS-HD Master 5.1 bump at 2232 kbps and a less robust linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps. Both sounded wonderful and are described as "Carl Davis conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, performing a magnificent score that intermingles Davis' own music with the iconic Orientalia of Rimsky-Korsakov". Brilliant. I preferred the LPCM and watched mostly with that although the DTS-HD Master carried some formidable depth, intensity and, obviously, separation. It is nice to have the option. The intertitles are original (see sample below) and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE.

 

Extras :

Supplements include a detailed audio commentary by Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance. It includes historical detail and context to further appreciate the breadth of the production and Fairbanks as a performer. There is also an 18-minute featurette entitled Fairbanks and Fantasy which includes rare behind-the-scenes photographs. Lastly is the impressive 2012 Restoration trailer.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Marvelous! The spirit of adventure and fantasy is so adeptly translated by Walsh's film. It is so easy to suspend your disbelief and bury yourself in these Arabian Night tales. You never want it to end. The Cohen Blu-ray restoration adds even more to the viewing experience. This is a super presentation transplanting you back almost 90 years ago - and we can certainly recommend! 

Gary Tooze

February 15th, 2013

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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