“Wait, this is the little movie with Sahib or Saboo or what’s-his-name, isn’t it?”
“You never watched it! You can’t say it’s bad! You’ll like it!”
“You’re still hung up on that silly movie from when you were a kid?”
“It’s a good movie!”
“You promised you were going to watch it.”
“And I don’t know why.”
The movie begins in medias res, with a blind man and his dog begging for alms on the street. Conrad Veidt drops by:
“Is he the Sultan?”
“No, he’s the evil usurping vizier.”
Like the blind man, the dog is special and more than he appears to be–as demonstrated when he picks out false coins from an offering.
“He said, the dog must have been a tax collector in a previous life.”
The blind man is collected by the enigmatic Halima:
“I didn’t get all that.”
“The blind guy is the real king. The dog is the thief, Sabu. Jaffar did that to them when he did the usurping. But now he needs the king back to do something for him.”
“Who is she?”
“She works for Jaffar.”
“Oh! So that’s why the dog can tell! He’s really a person!”
“Is Tony Curtis in this?”
The blind man begins to tell his story, and we flash back to the beginning:
He is the king whom Jaffar usurped, was tricked into leaving the palace, thrown in jail, rescued by the little Thief of Baghdad, and fled the city for safer climates.
“What’s his name? The king.”
“John Justin. He never hit it big.”
“I can see why.”
“That is one scrawny looking man.”
They end up in the nearby city of Basra, where armed guards ensure that no man sees the face of the Princess before she is married.
“He said, is she that ugly?”
“Apparently she never hit it big, either. I think she said it was because Joan Fontaine or one of those people had it out for her.”
“I can see that happening.”
Ahmad, however, sees the Princess, is smitten, and with Abu’s reluctant help manages to sneak into the palace to see her up-close.
“He said, Sinbad the Sailor offered them berths on his ship.”
“Isn’t that nice?”
Fortunately, the Princess is receptive…
“Oh please. NO.”
Unfortunately, Jaffar arrives, intent on founding a dynasty (no, seriously, those are his exact words), and he has planned ahead.
“What is it? What is it!”
“It’s a clockwork horse.”
“It’s a flying clockwork horse.”
“How could that work!?”
“It’s a magic flying clockwork horse.”
“Is it real?”
“I know what he wants for that!”
The Princess makes a run for it. Meanwhile, a captured Ahmad confronts Jaffar–unsuccessfully–resulting in the state of affairs that we began with and catching us up to the story in the present.
“Why is he so happy?”
“What’d he say?”
“He said, “Ahmad.”
“He turned into a dog!”
“What’d he say?”
“He said, the king would be blind and the thief would be a dog until he gets to hold the Princess.”
“Hold the Princess?”
It is then revealed to Ahmad that he is in the same place as the Princess, she having been captured and bought by slavers, but is in a strange magical coma (you know, the kind Princesses are prone to…it must be genetic), which only he can break.
Jaffar watches the proceedings:
“He put a spell on her he can’t break?”
“He didn’t enspell the Princess, she just fell into it herself. He enspelled THEM.”
Ahmad wakes the Princess successfully, but is then hustled out by Halima. He leaves Abu:
“Guard her? One dog against a sorcerer?”
–While Halima then lures the Princess onboard a ship, promising that Ahmad’s sight can be restored there.
She’s not lying….
“But he had her before, I don’t understand.”
“Yeah, but she wasn’t awake.”
Conrad Veidt was actually the big star of the movie (I think this was John Justin’s first role, while Veidt had a long list of international credits to his name), and was ordered to play the tortured, suffering lover to the hilt. Veidt obliged. In fact, watching this movie with a couple of girl friends a year or so ago, the general consensus was that, aww, he can’t be all that bad, why can’t he end up with the girl?
Because he’s a creepy, usurping Grand Vizier, that’s why.
“What’s he doing?”
“Why? So she will like him?”
“He hypnotized her?”
“No, because he can’t get her to like him, only to obey him.”
“…what’s the difference?”
“Well from his point of view! She’s not going to like him anyway, so why is he even bothering?”
It’s all for nothing, though, as Ahmad and Abu are once again on their trail:
“What’s he doing now?”
“He’s calling up a storm to stop the other boat.”
“Oh that’s really gonna get her to like him now. Fool!”
–and all that gets him is a mopey Princess.
“She doesn’t want to go with him. She wants to go home.”
“Oh, he took her home?”
“He’s trying to be nice.”
The Princess does get a promise from her father that he will never send her away, as long as he lives.
“This is a funny premise. For toys he’d give up anything. You heard about men and their toys.”
“Well, they’re right.”
“…she’s going back to Baghdad….”
“Aaah! She gon’ kill him!…oh…”
“Hm! Wouldn’t like to live in them times. Always be watching your back because people gon’ stab you in it!”
Meanwhile, Abu finds a genie in a bottle. There’s only one problem: Genie has been in the bottle for two thousand years, and is unhappy about it.
“Solomon put him in there? Must be a bad genie.”
“Why else would Solomon put him in there, then?”
Abu keeps his wits about him, and fortunately, has read the correct stories.
“What’s he doing?”
“He tricked him back into the bottle.”
“He CAN’T BE THAT FOOLISH. NO.”
“…it’s one of the traditional stories about the three wishes and the genie. They didn’t just make this up!”
“Why should we trust him?”
“He swore by King Solomon!”
Abu needs to know where Ahmad is, and to know where Ahmad is, needs the All-Seeing Eye of the Goddess of Night. But first things first.
“He gon’ use one wish for a meal! Please!”
The heroic part of this adventure then begins, as Abu enters the goddess’s temple to steal the All-Seeing Eye:
“What is it, a spider’s web?”
“Oh. Oh Lor’, he goin’ up a spider’s web and the spider coming for him?”
“Does he know?”
“Wait, where is the Prince?”
“He’s trying to find the thing that will allow him to find the Prince.”
“The All-Seeing Eye.”
“…And then he’ll see where the Prince is and the genie can take him there.”
Ahmad and Abu are reunited, but the genie is cackling ominously:
“The genie is a fool?”
“The joke is, he’s about to get away and he knows it.”
…Which promptly happens.
“He looks like a scrawny person! Look. One scrawny man.”
“What? Who’s going to be chained!”
“They’re both gonna die.”
“What? He gon’ kill the girl? Why? He just said he had her!”
“She broke free. And he got mad.”
Abu smashes the All-Seeing Eye, and then things go wonky:
“What, the genie came back?”
“No, something else happened.”
“I dunno! Something else happened.”
“Then who’s this old man? And how come he’s a prince?”
…I’m not sure what the logic is behind this scene, taken out of context. Let me just say, that like all great stories, it makes perfect sense when you’re going with the flow of it. Anyhow, the Sages give Abu the title of Prince and a bow that will not easily miss evil, but explicitly forbid him to take their flying carpet. That carpet. Over there. It flies if you tell it, “Fly carpet.” Now, excuse me, I’m leaving the room now. Remember, now! That carpet.
“The boy, he gon’ stay there?”
” ‘No thanks.’ “
So Abu arrives in the nick of time and the people, emboldened, rise against their oppressive overlord:
“What’s going on?”
“They’re revolting against Jaffar.”
“Because they saw the cloud?”
“Because of the prophecy!”
Jaffar attempts to escape on the flying horse, but:
And they all live happily ever after, including Abu, who takes to the hills on hearing that Ahmad intends for him to–gulp–attend school.
I love this movie so much. I always have. I think I always will.
“See! I told you it was good!”
“This should be the last time you look at this, ever.”