The Thief of Bagdad (1924) — PICK

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) — PICK

With Disney’s new live-action Aladdin in theaters, viewers interested in Arabian adventure may want to check out a couple of classics long on home video.

The better-known version of The Thief of Bagdad is the 1940 Technicolor adventure starring Conrad Veidt as the treacherous grand vizier Jaffar and Rex Ingraham as the genie — and if that sounds like Disney’s Aladdin was influenced by this film, bingo.

Consider: Jaffar plots to marry the princess, who’s in love with a beggar who claims to be a prince.

The princess’ father is a dwarfish, childlike sultan, and the beggar has a mischievous sidekick named Abu (a boy, not a monkey).

Though beloved, the 1940 film pales beside the superior 1924 The Thief of Bagdad, a lavish silent spectacle starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., blending storybook romance, mythopoeic fantasy travelogue and a boundless sense of wonder and fun.

Proposing the edifying precept “Happiness must be earned,” the film sets Fairbanks’ thief on the road to redemption through love of a princess. With unprecedented special effects and imaginative sets, it’s a forerunner to the likes of The Lord of the Rings.


Caveat Spectator: The Thief of Bagdad (1924): Some menace and scariness. Kids and up. The Thief of Bagdad (1940): Some menace and scariness. Kids and up.

The review of Aladdin is online at