The Thief of Bagdad (1940 film)

The Thief of Bagdad (1940 film)

Infobox Film
name = The Thief of Bagdad

caption = Film poster
director = Michael Powell
Ludwig Berger
Tim Whelan
Alexander Korda (uncredited)
Zoltan Korda (uncredited)
William Cameron Menzies (uncredited)
producer = Alexander Korda
writer = Lajos Biró
Miles Malleson
starring = Conrad Veidt
John Justin
June Duprez
music = Miklós Rózsa
cinematography = George Perinal
editing = Charles Crichton
distributor = United Artists
released = December 5 1940 (USA)
December 25 1940 (UK)
runtime = 106 minutes
country = UK
language = English
budget =
amg_id = 1:49447
imdb_id = 0033152

The Thief of Bagdad is a British 1940 fantasy film directed by Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell and Tim Whelan, with uncredited contributions by Alexander Korda, his brother Zoltan and William Cameron Menzies. It starred child actor Sabu, Conrad Veidt, John Justin, and June Duprez.

It was produced by Alexander Korda's company London Films in England, but due to the outbreak of World War II, filming was completed in California. It is notable for its use of Technicolor and its special effects, for which it won Academy Awards for Cinematography, Art Direction and Special Effects. It was also nominated for Original Music Score.

Although this and the 1924 version have some similarities there are also significant differences. The most notable is that in the 1940 version the thief and the prince are separate characters.


Ahmad (John Justin), the naive King of Bagdad, is convinced by his evil Grand Vizier, Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), to go out into the city disguised as a poor man to get to know his subjects (in the manner of his grandfather Harun al-Rashid). Jaffar then has Ahmad thrown into a dungeon, where he is joined by Abu the thief (Sabu), son of Abu the thief, grandson of Abu the thief. Abu arranges their escape.

They flee to Basra, where Ahmad becomes acquainted with its Princess (June Duprez). However, Jaffar also journeys to Basra, for he desires the Princess. Her father, the Sultan (Miles Malleson), is fascinated by the magical mechanical flying horse Jaffar offers and agrees to the proposed marriage. Upon hearing the news, the Princess, by now deeply in love with Ahmad, runs away. Confronted by Ahmad, Jaffar magically blinds him and turns Abu into a dog; the spell can only be broken if Jaffar holds the Princess in his arms.

The Princess is eventually captured (but not recognized) and sold in the slave market. She is bought secretly by Jaffar and taken to his mansion, but falls into a deep sleep from which he cannot rouse her. Ahmad is tricked by Jaffar's servant Halima (Mary Morris) into awaking the Princess. Halima then lures the Princess onto Jaffar's ship by telling her that there is a doctor aboard who can cure Ahmad's blindness. The ship immediately sets sail. Jaffar informs the Princess about the spell; she allows herself to be embraced, whereupon Ahmad's sight is restored and Abu is returned to human form. They chase after the ship in a small boat, but Jaffar conjures up a storm to shipwreck them.

Abu wakes up alone on a deserted beach and finds a bottle. When he opens it, an enormous djinn or genie (Rex Ingram) appears. Embittered by his long imprisonment, the genie informs Abu that he is going to kill his rescuer, but Abu tricks him back into the bottle. The genie then offers to grant Abu three wishes if he will let him out again. The hungry boy uses his first wish to ask for sausages. When Abu demands to know where Ahmad is, the genie flies Abu to the top of the highest mountain in the world. On it sits a temple, and in the temple there is an enormous statue with a large jewel, the All-Seeing Eye, set in its forehead. The genie tells Abu that the Eye will show him where to find Ahmad. Abu fights off a giant guardian spider while climbing the statue and steals the gem.

The genie then takes Abu to Ahmad. When Ahmad asks to see the Princess, Abu has him gaze into the All-Seeing Eye. Ahmad despairs when he sees Jaffar arranging for the Princess to inhale the fragrance of the Blue Rose of Forgetfulness, which makes her forget her love. In agony, Ahmad lashes out at Abu for showing him the scene. During the ensuing argument, Abu unthinkingly wishes Ahmad to Baghdad. The genie, freed after granting the last wish, departs, leaving Abu alone in the wilderness.

Ahmad appears in Jaffar's castle and is quickly captured, but seeing him restores the Princess's memory. The furious usurper sentences them both to death. Abu, unable to watch his friend's impending doom, shatters the All-Seeing Eye and is transported to the "land of legend", where he is greeted by the Old King (Morton Selten) and thanked for freeing the inhabitants, who had been turned to stone. As a reward, he is given a magic crossbow and is named the king's successor. However, in order to save Ahmad, he steals the king's magic flying carpet and rushes to the rescue.

Abu's marvelous aerial arrival (which fulfills a prophecy often cited in the course of the story) sparks a revolt against Jaffar. Abu kills the fleeing Jaffar with his crossbow, and Ahmad regains his kingdom and his love. However, when Abu hears Ahmad tell the people of his plan to send him to school to train to become his new Grand Vizier, Abu flies away on the carpet to find his own fun and adventure.


*Conrad Veidt as Jaffar
*John Justin as Ahmad
*Sabu as Abu
*June Duprez as the Princess
*Rex Ingram as the Djinn
*Miles Malleson as the Sultan of Basra
*Morton Selten as the Old King
*Mary Morris as Halima, Jaffar's agent
*Bruce Winston as the Merchant
*Hay Petrie as the Astrologer

Alexander Korda had intended to cast Vivien Leigh as the Princess, but she went to Hollywood to be with Laurence Olivier. [Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies]


Although this film borrowed many ideas from the earlier silent version, this film has been highly influential on later movies based on "The Book of One Thousand and One Nights". For example, the Disney film "Aladdin" borrows freely from it, particularly the characters of the evil Vizier and the Caliph, both drawn with a marked similarity to the characters in "The Thief of Bagdad". The thieving monkey Abu in the Disney cartoon is obviously based on the boy played by Sabu. [ [ Foster on Film - Fantasy: The Thief of Bagdad ] ] Richard Williams, speaking about his film "The Thief and the Cobbler", said that one of his interests was in creating an Oriental fantasy that did not copy from it.

DVD release

The film was released on DVD by MGM on December 3, 2002. That version is now out of print. The Criterion Collection released a two-disc DVD release on May 27 2008 that includes a commentary track by filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, who are both longtime fans of the film (their comments were recorded separately and then edited together).



*"The Great British Films", pp 55-58, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 080650661X

External links

* Full synopsis and film stills (and clips viewable from UK libraries).
* [ Reviews and articles] at the [ Powell & Pressburger Pages]
* [ The Making of the Thief of Bagdad]
* " [ The Thief of Bagdad] " at Rotten Tomatoes

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