{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Thief of Baghdad - Blu-ray Review


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5 Stars

Ladies and gentlemen, in my time as a film reviewer I have journeyed to many a far off foreign place to bring you the news – good or bad – about new, domestic releases.  I have combed the bottom of the barrel; raided your father’s closet; even traversed your grandfather’s attic for rare VHS finds new to the format and, as a faithful servant to the masses, I have reported my findings.  I do this sometime daily and it never proves to be exhausting when I return to you with good news.  Therefore, it pleases me to no end that I return from the Holy Mountain of everything Blu-ray with what is, most profoundly, the first must-own Blu-ray release of 2013!

Released over 80 years ago, The Thief of Baghdad is the ultimate one-man extravaganza.  The mystical heights it scales are dizzying.  This 1924 fantasy film, directed by Raoul Walsh, set the gold bar standard for the Silent Era of filmmaking and, even long into the era of sound, was unmatched in its use of set design, acrobatics, and imagination.  The film benefits greatly from the charisma of the always captivating Douglass Fairbanks and, more than any other lavishly produced fantasy complete with real sets and practical effects, appears to be the forerunner to the modern day fantasy saga.  Now, that’s a non-CGI legacy to be proud of.

Fairbanks and screenwriter Achmed Abdullah freely adapted the mystical material from One Thousand and One Nights and mold it into one of the most spectacular fantasies ever filmed.  With thousands of extras, intricate costumes, and highly-imaginative fully functioning sets, The Thief of Baghdad absolutely smokes its competition and challenges – because its special effects still work – today’s filmmakers to top it.  All of this out of a simple story of a man trying to woo a woman.

The Thief of Baghdad involves a happy-go-lucky thief (Fairbanks) who just goes about his business of stealing fancy rings and food.  You know, generally making priests and the rich miserable with his antics.  Suddenly, he hears that the Princess of Bagdad (Julanne Johnson) is to choose a suitor and, knowing of her beauty and wealth, he wants to be the man she chooses.  After sliding into some stolen attire, he sneaks his way into the palace to win her over. Before she decides, she sends the top four candidates on a quest to find the most precious gift they can find. And so begins our lovable thief’s fantastic journey…

…and what a trip it is.  At a reported cost of $2 million, The Thief of Baghdad places its money where its mouth is and completely transports its audience into a different realm of fantasy.  It’s a magical adventure full of dragons, underwater thrills, and, of course, a flying carpet.  It’s a motion picture special effect that is known outside of the movie itself.  In this scene, Fairbanks bucks the common to the era camera “tricks” of overlay or double exposure and rigs a sheet of steel supported by wires only and zips across the Baghdad sky on it.  And it still works.

Fairbanks’ acrobatic movements are a joy to watch.  Both melodramatic and infectious, his grandiose turns and whirls and bouncing about the set is really a marvel.  No wonder Gene Kelly would find the influences for his dancing style here in the movements of Fairbanks.  Since the stylized sets were built to accommodate his acrobatics, it's no surprise that he's able to do so many amazing things inside and outside of them.  His work here is absurdly incredible and humorous and he sells it – no, he nails it – with panache and grace.

Newly restored from two 35mm negatives and incorporating the color tints and tones of the original release prints, Cohen Media Group proudly (and lovingly) presents fans of fantasy a beautiful film experience with their release of Thief of Baghdad on Blu-ray.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Thief of Baghdad - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This film has not been rated by the MPAA.
149 mins.
: Raoul Walsh
Writer: Achmed Abdullah (uncredited)
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks; Anna May Wong; Snitz Edwards; Charles Belcher; Julanne Johnston; Brandon Hurst
Genre: Adventure | Romance | Fantasy
The Thief of Baghdad.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Cohen Media Group
Release Date:
March 23, 1924
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 19, 2013

Synopsis: A recalcitrant thief vies with a duplicitous Mongol ruler for the hand of a beautiful princess.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Thief of Baghdad - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 19, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.32:1
: None
Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Music: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

This is a must own!  For years, the film has been trapped in the endless quagmire of the public domain.  Kino made an attempt to rectify that but Cohen Media Group succeeds where Kino left off.  The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1.32:1 aspect ratio. The restoration was done in 2K using two different negatives and has new tints. Colors are deep and well saturated throughout the entire presentation. Blacks are strong and inky. Considering the age of the print, this is a surreal revelation on Blu-ray.  There is a bit of emulsion damage that couldn't be prevented due to the age of the print, but it's otherwise free from any real errors.  The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and uses the wonderful Carl Davis score. Anyone familiar with Davis’ work will know that he really is one of the true masters of silent film and his exceptional score is a true delight. Additionally, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra is supplied.



  • Recorded by biographer Jeffrey Vance, the commentary is loaded with plenty of valuable information.  Vance wrote a biography on Fairbanks but he leaves that information in the book and devotes his time to details about the movie, the stunts, the effects, and the longevity of the picture, including its impact on moviegoers.

Special Features:

Sure, there aren’t as many as we want there to be but – with a release this strong – I simply can’t complain and be taken seriously.  Outside of the commentary, the only other substantial feature is a seventeen minute collection of behind-the-scene photos, accompanied by an organ score, that shows the various stages of production, costume, and set design.  A trailer highlighting the new restoration brings things to its conclusion.

  • Rare Behind-the-Scenes Photographs (17 min)
  • Restoration Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}