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The Thief Of Bagdad Review


Very Good
Newly re-released by Criterion, The Thief of Bagdad, a minor classic of early Technicolor artistry, is ready to entertain a new generation of kids who have learned all they know about those Arabian nights from Robin Williams, God help them. Aladdin this is not. The colorful epic is a real exercise in production design, matte painting, and rudimentary double-process special effects that may have wowed the masses at the time but are now simply and charmingly antique.

The overstuffed story begins when King Ahmad (John Justin), who truth be told looks more like an Oxford rower than an Arabian king, is tricked by his evil number two Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) into leaving the safety of his palace to meet his subjects. Once on the street, Jaffar has him arrested and tossed into a dungeon, where he meets Abu the thief (Sabu), a charismatic 15-year-old Huck Finn type who loves the life of the orphan adventurer.

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Different From The Others Review


Good
In the dialogue of the German film Different from the Others we find this line: "Love for one's own sex can be just as pure and noble as that for the opposite sex. This orientation is to be found among many respectable people in all levels of society." Today, years after even Tinky-Winky has been outed, there's nothing very shocking in that sentiment. The big surprise comes when you learn the year of the film's release: 1919.

That was a long time ago; Tinky-Winky would be in the closet for another 80-some years. Kino, distributors of the new DVD release of Different from the Others, makes the case that the film was the first to address the issue of homosexuality head-on - and to do so compassionately, no less - and it's hard to imagine that they're wrong.

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The Man Who Laughs Review


Good
The model for all the great Universal horror to follow, 1928's The Man Who Laughs is a (now) rarely seen silent picture that aficionados of the genre might want to get their hands on. Based on the Victor Hugo story, and designed to capitalize on the recent successes of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, The Man Who Laughs is really more of a melodrama than a horror film, but it's a melodrama dripping with German Expressionist technique (director Paul Leni and star Conrad Veidt were imported from Germany for the job), and, like the two horror films above and a myriad that followed, it has a horribly disfigured hero at its center.

How disfigured? Think Joker. Gwynplaine (Veidt) is a member of royalty in England circa King James II who is abducted from his father as a little boy for political reasons and left in the "care" of the Comprachicos, a band of gypsies among whose ranks we find a surgeon named Hardquanonne. Gwynplaine escapes, but not before this surgeon has performed a ghastly procedure on him, leaving him with a permanent, eerie grin cut across his face. He becomes a successful circus clown ("The Man Who Laughs") performing with a woman named Dea (Mary Philbin), whom he loves and whose claim to fame is that she is both beautiful and blind. The Countess Josiana takes an interest in him when she sees him perform; as Gwynplaine's noble roots are uncovered, a scandal is born, and the story takes a Dickensian turn before ending in the kind of rampage that any member of the Frankenstein household could tell you all about.

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Casablanca Review


Essential
"Play it again, Sam." Well, those lines aren't in Casablanca, but the words "Bogie and Bergman" rank just below "Bogie and Bacall" when it comes to famous celebrity film pairings. Sometimes a kiss isn't just a kiss -- in this case, it's forever. And it was certainly the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

A new double-disc DVD of Casablanca enhances the film for novelists and cineastes alike. I rarely do this, but I listened to Roger Ebert's entire commentary track, which he uses to discuss the film's curious shortcomings (what good would letters of transit signed by Charles de Gaulle be in getting you out of Morocco?), Bogart's past and rise to fame (this being his first starring role), Bergman and her foibles, endless points about the film's dozen or so famous lines, and extended commentary on the lighting, special effects (if you can call them that), and camerawork.

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Casablanca Movie Review

Casablanca Movie Review

"Play it again, Sam." Well, those lines aren't in Casablanca, but the words "Bogie and...

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