Tuesday, 17 January 2012

PETER CUSHING CHRISTOPHER LEE FLYING CARPETS AND EMMA SAMMS!


SYNOPSIS:
Set in the Arabian city of Jadur in mystical times past. The three principal characters in this adventure are the evil magician Caliph Alquazar who lives in the palace; Majeed, a poor young Arab boy who arrives in the city looking for water; and Prince Hasan of Baghdad who comes to the city hoping to meet the beautiful Princess Zuleira who lives in the palace. Majeed and the Prince briefly meet up and exchange kindnesses before going their separate ways.


Alquazar is Princess Zuleira's stepfather who has become corrupted by evil and made the once benevolently ruled city a harsh place to live. Alquazar has a secret chamber in which he keeps a magic mirror which enables him to remotely view any location. Alquazar's aspiration is to possess the fabled Rose of Ilil, a talisman so powerful it will enable him to rule the world - but because of his evil he cannot fetch it for himself, it must be delivered to him by someone noble of purpose.


The mirror alerts him that the very person has arrived in the city and shows him an image of Prince Hasan in the company of a young Arab boy. Alquazar sends his guards to capture the Prince - not an easy task because the Prince is a valiant fighter, but eventually he is apprehended. Alquazar says he will permit Hasan to marry Zuleira if he first goes on a quest to bring back the Rose of Ilil. Hasan agrees and Alquazar sends him away on a magic carpet. Along the way Hasan is unexpectedly joined by Majeed who is transported to the carpet by his guardian angel genie Vahishta as a way of evading some city ruffians.


The carpet delivers them to the island of Ilil where there are a number of dangers to overcome as they encounter various protectors of the Rose. Eventually they find the magical Rose but it turns out to be young Majeed who was the noble one that the mirror was showing as able to pluck the glowing crystalline Rose.


The travellers return to Jadur but it soon becomes clear that evil Alquazar is not intending to honour his bargain and is planning to kill them once the Rose is handed over. Majeed works out what to do to defeat the wizard and throws the Rose of Ilil into Alquazar's magic mirror which sucks the evil one inside and reverses all his evil spells.


The kingdom is restored to its previous happy glory and the deposed former ruler is released from the dungeons to reign again. Prince Hasan and Princess Zuleira are married.


COMMENTARY:
This is a movie about the classic 1001 Nights. It was very much overlooked at the time it came out and still is, I guess. For a British low-budget movie it had a big cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Capucine, Mickey Rooney, Milo O'Shea, Emma Sams, Oliver Tobias (well, some of them are or were big). Most of all, this is a tribute from Christopher Lee to Conrad Veidt in The Thief of Bagdad (1940). And he does a marvelous job, clad in black and looking as sinister as in his best Dracula- or Fu Manchu-movies.


Peter Cushing could be called mostly waisted in a small cameo-part, but that was his choice to sign up for a part in it anyway I guess; Mickey Rooney does his usual buffoonery but not totally out-of-place in this movie. The special effects vary from shoddy to amazing. The mechanical fire-breathing monsters don't look too convincing.


The flying carpet-scenes on the other hand are very well executed, in some moments even breath-taking (considering this movie was made in 1979, 2 years after Star Wars and clearly some of the flying carpet-scenes were executed with the knowledge they had already learned from Star Wars). If one compares this movie with the original The Thief of Bagdad from 1940, of course the special effects in An Arabian Adventure are better, even on a small budget. It is a children's-movie, for most parts. Or a family-movie. Not a masterpiece, but very entertaining in its own right.

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