The Thief Of Bagdad

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1940 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 101:47 minutes Other Extras Menu Audio
Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Ludwig Berger
Michael Powell
Tim Whelan
Zoltan Korda
William Cameron Menzies
Alexander Korda

Magna Pacific
Starring John Justin
June Duprez
Conrad Veidt
Rex Ingram
Case Carlton
RRP $29.95 Music Miklos Rozsa

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 1.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The Thief Of Bagdad is a tale that has been told many times in many ways. This is the Korda take on the story, and a marvellous version it is.

    Ahmad (John Justin) is the King of Bagdad [yay, yippee, hurrah]. Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) is his evil Vizier [booo, hissss]. Through a cunning and nasty trick, Jaffar deposes the king and becomes the King of Bagdad himself [booo, ssssss]. Ahmad ends up in jail with a common street thief, Abu (Sabu), but together they escape to Basra. Whilst there, Ahmad sets his eyes on the bumbling, elderly Sultan's daughter, played by June Duprez. That is, the Sultan is bumbling and elderly, not his daughter. Ahmad is instantly smitten with her, and must meet her again, even though the penalty for even setting eyes on the Sultan's daughter is death. They instantly fall in love, but a problem crops up. The evil Vizier Jaffar [booo] wants the Princess for himself, and bumps into Ahmad and Abu at the Sultan's palace. The result - one blind Ahmad and one canine Abu.

    The remainder of the tale chronicles the misadventures that Ahmad and Abu must endure to win back the Princess, restore themselves to full health and defeat Jaffar. Throw in a fearsome Djinni (Rex Ingram) and a magic carpet, stir the pot a little, and you have a great recipe for some delightful melodrama. Sure, the special effects look a bit dated, but this film is 60 years old for goodness sake - the special effects look pretty impressive for 60 year-old optical effects.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is variably good - it starts out remarkably well, but falls away at times as it progresses.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is the original theatrical aspect ratio. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is variably clear. The non-special effects shots are remarkably clear and detailed. The special effects shots are much less clear and lack definition - this is more a source issue than a transfer problem. Shadow detail is fair, though there is not a lot of shadow to be seen in this picture - it takes place in generally well-lit locations and on well-lit sound stages. Film grain is occasionally intrusive, but not severely so. Low level noise is absent.

    And now, to comment on the colour aspect of the transfer. The first thing that struck me about the colours in this movie was their sheer vibrancy. An explosion of colour assails the senses as soon as the movie opens, and continues for some time into the movie, until more muted scenarios are presented. The colours are remarkably well preserved in general. There is some slight variability in colour throughout some of the scenes, but the overall effect is very impressive.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. There were no film-to-video artefacts seen. There was a single video artefact seen early on in the movie which consisted of a horizontal streak through the picture for a single frame. Film artefacts were plentiful, as is to be expected for a 60-year old film, however, none of them were overly intrusive. Some frames were dropped here and there throughout the transfer, and reel change markings were visible in the top right hand corner of the screen.


    The audio was more degraded than the image, and whilst still being acceptable given the age of the transfer, could have done with some audio sweetening to make it more listenable to a modern audience.

    There is only a single English Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track on this DVD.

    Dialogue was muffled and a little indistinct at times, making it a little hard to make out what was being said. There were occasional minor audio dropouts throughout.

    Audio sync was generally perfect throughout the transfer, but there were small segments and scenes where the audio was severely out of sync. These segments never lasted more than about 30 seconds a piece, but there were several of them scattered throughout the movie. The worst two audio sync segments were at 46:22-47:26 and starting at 80:13. These were a pity, and led me to mark down the audio.

    The music by Miklos Rozsa was magnificent, superbly married to the on-screen action, and a great complement to the overall mood of the movie. This is one of the best musical scores that I have had the pleasure of listening to for its sheer perfection in blending with and enhancing the on-screen action.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used by this soundtrack.


    There are a very limited selection of extras on this DVD.


    The menu is plain and simple, but has some musical accompaniment underneath. The musical accompaniment is also present during the startup copyright messages and acts as an excellent overture to the movie - this is a really great idea and one that other studios should take note of - it was extremely effective in setting the mood of the movie before the movie started, and made the copyright messages seem a lot less onerous.

Cast & Crew Biographies

Production Notes

    These are more a plot synopsis than Production Notes, except for the first screen.

R4 vs R1

    This DVD is not available in Region 1.


    The Thief Of Bagdad is a most enjoyable melodramatic romp through the Arabian Nights theme.

    The video quality is generally quite good, given the age of the source material.

    The audio quality is poor, but acceptable.

    There are limited extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
7th January 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Start SD-2010VNK, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer