The Thief of Bagdad
Raoul Walsh is now best remembered for the gruelling location shoots that lent High Sierra and The Big Trail their sense of epic, distinctly American poetry. Entirely studio-bound and set in a mythical Middle East, this uncharacteristic fantasy nevertheless stands as one of the director’s greatest achievements.
Douglas Fairbanks’ performance as Ahmed, the titular thief, anticipates the swashbuckling heroism found in Walsh’s future collaborations with Errol Flynn, and the movie ultimately serves as a vehicle for his bravado. Whether committing petty crimes or proving his worth against a series of terrifying beasts (spoiler: there’s no obstacle our hero can’t overcome by a bit of face stabbing), Fairbanks oozes preposterous, child-like charisma.
Lavish, hugely expensive sets, charming special effects, and a cameo from a howling, diaper-wearing ape all threaten to steal the star’s thunder, but it’s a supporting role from the iconic Anna May Wong that modern audiences are likely to respond to with most interest. [Lewis Porteous]