The Thief of Bagdad is a 1940 movie, starring Sabu, John Justin, Conrad Veidt, and June Duprez. It borrows heavily from stories of the Arabian Nights. (There have been several movies using the name, including a 1924 silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., but this article is about the first remake.)Ahmad is the king of Bagdad. His vizier, the wily Jaffar, has kept him isolated in his castle his whole life. One day, Ahmad decides to go out into the city disguised as a peasant, so he can learn more about his people. Jaffar, sensing a chance to seize power, sends guards after the king; Ahmad has just enough time to hear a prophecy about a boy saving his city before Jaffar's guards capture him and throw him into the dungeons. He is sentenced to death in the morning, but luckily for Ahmad, he's trapped in jail with Abu, a young thief who has Bagdad — and the dungeon keys — in his pocket.Abu and Ahmad embark on an amazing journey involving ancient prophecies, captured princesses, mechanical horses, magic spells that turn seeing men blind and thieves into dogs, assassinations, giant spiders, ship wrecks, flying carpets, and an absolutely enormous genie who will grant three wishes to anyone clever enough to survive him.The Thief of Bagdad was very popular in its day, partly due the charm of child actor Sabu. It had a lasting influence on Hollywood; many of the tropes the Arabian Nightsmade were actually codified by this movie. It's also the first film to use Chroma Key.
This movie contains examples of:
Adaptational Villainy: Grand Vizier Jafar. The historical Ja'far ibn Yahya of the Barmakids (and the fictional version of him in the Arabian Nights tales) was not a bad guy, but possibly the greatest Grand Vizier Persia ever had. He was a polymath who sponsored the building of libraries and introduced the use of paper to Baghdad (thus almost single-handedly kickstarting the Golden Age of Islam). This movie was the first instance in which he was portrayed as a villain.
Anti-Villain: Jaffar, at least when it comes to his crush on the princess. He refuses to hypnotise her at first and constantly trembles when he's around her and can't bring himself to touch her. His fingers hover just a few inches from her and only his shadow can touch her. This was a deliberate touch on director Michael Powell's part, who identified with the wizard/artificer character and the pain of unrequited love. Consequently, he told Conrad Veidt to play the tortured lover angle to the hilt.
Arabian Nights: It borrows heavily from the source. For example, when Abu frees the genie, it's initially angry at being held captive and wants to kill his rescuer, but is tricked back into the bottle and finally agrees to grant Abu three wishes. This is taken directly from the story, "The Fisherman and the Genie."
Cool Toy: The Sultan of Basra collects mechanical toys, which makes it easy for Jaffar to bribe him with the abovementioned horse. Later, Jaffar uses another such novelty (a Robot Girl) to entrap and kill the Sultan.
Costume Porn: And how. The film's particularly impressive for including not only fantastical fairytale costumes (everything the princess wears, basically) but also for a considerable amount of historical accuracy in the costumes, something missing in many later Arabian Nights films. Jaffar wears five layers of silks and velvets (appropriate for a high-ranking Persian lord) at one point, which can't have been easy under the massive studio lights required for a Technicolor production.
Homage Shot: The shot of Halima and Jaffar looking through a curtained window at the Princess is lifted from the 1924 Thief of Baghdad.
Humans Are Bastards: Jaffar tries to convince Prince Ahmad that humans are evil, and makes a good case for it himself:
"Men are evil, hatred in their eyes, lies on their lips, betrayal in their hearts. You will learn one day, great king, that there are three things that men respect; the lash that descends, the yoke that breaks and the sword that slays. By the power and terror of these you may conquer the Earth."
Later, the Genie has his say on the subject, after Abu's third wish goes awry (though this is more Humans Are Flawed):
"You're a clever little man, little master of the universe, but mortals are weak and frail. If their stomach speaks, they forget their brain. If their brain speaks, they forget their heart. And if their heart speaks, they forget everything."
Hypnotize the Princess: Jaffar erases the princess's memories of Ahmad, hoping she'll start loving him, with the Blue Rose of Forgetfulness. Slightly subverted in that he previously refused to use his powers to make her fall in love with him directly.
Made a Slave: Happens to the princess offscreen. Jaffar buys her.
Magic Carpet: How Abu makes his grand entrance and grand exit.
McGuffin: This movie has everything, including one of these. The genie takes Abu to a temple where he has to steal a jewel to find Ahmad. The genie can't get it for him because... that wouldn't be fun enough.
Noble Demon: Jaffar (at first). He could kill Ahmad, but decides to blind him instead (at first). He could take the princess by force, but pleads for her to love him instead... at first.
Ominous Walk: Conrad Veidt said he'd honed Jaffar's slow, gliding movements for over a month before filming began.
The Power of Love: The amnesia induced on the Princess with the Blue Rose of Forgetfulness is undone when she hears her true love's voice.
Prophecy Twist: The prophecy at the start of the movie says "a tyrant shall be overthrown by the lowest of the low, who appears on a cloud"; Ahmad and the peasants believe it's about him, but it's about a slightly different tyrant, and an unconventional "cloud".
Shout-Out: It is the subject of a lot of them; Aladdin's Abu is a monkey version of Sabu's character, and Jafar is Conrad Veidt. Not to mention that the Sultan of Agrabah basically is the Sultan of Basra, as is the King in The Thief and the Cobbler. The Aladdin series also features the Blue Rose of Forgetfulness in one episode.
Abu mentions Sinbad the Sailor was willing to give them berths on his ship...
The shots with Jaffar cursing people with his eyes and menacing people with his shadow were tributes to Conrad Veidt's earlier performances in German Expressionist films.