THE DVD SHELF: Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux," Olivier's "Richard III" and Douglas Fairbanks as "The Thief of Bagdad"

By Steven Suskin
19 May 2013

Menzies is the genius that makes "Thief of Bagdad" still viable. Word should be said, too, for the fanciful costumes. Mitchell Leisen went on to become a stylish director, with such comedy favorites as "Midnight" and "Easy Living" among his credits, but he started as a costume designer, and his work here is eyebrow-raising. Also of great help, although not an original part of the film, is the accompanying musical score by Carl Davis. Working from themes by Rimsky-Korsakov, Davis uses an almost steady diet of "Scheherazade" mixed in with a little of the "Russian Easter Overture."

Speaking of raised eyebrows, don't overlook the girl who plays the Mongol slave serving as handmaiden to the Princess. From her first close-up, Anna May Wong comes across as evil as any film character we've ever seen. Let me also say that whoever designed her hair ornament—which looks like a set of bumblebee wings, askew—deserves his or her own special award.

The film comes from the Cohen Film Collection. What is that? you might ask. It's the successor to the Raymond Rohauer Library. Rohauer bought up rights to many early films over the years, and Cohen now has the collection, and appears to be starting to rehabilitate the more important films among their 700-plus titles. If the restoration of "The Thief of Bagdad" is any indication, we can expect great things to come.



(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes", "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He can be reached at ssuskin@aol.com.)