Friday, December 20, 2019


Steve Reeves, as Karim the thief, and Daniele Vargas.

The German Blu-ray edition of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves, Giorgia Moll, Edy Vessel, Arturo Dominici and Daniele Vargas, and directed by Arthur Lubin (along with Bruno Vailati), is a great release. Previous releases were always poor or had the incorrect aspect ratios. This one is nearly perfect. I've uploaded quite a number of screenshots (and I could have uploaded more) but I think the images speak for themselves. Just to make sure, these screenshots are not retouched. I present them exactly as how the movie looks like in HD. Is it really nearly perfect? Not really. There are some issues which I'll explain soon but it's close to it.

The Blu-ray comes with German, Italian and English audio tracks. I watched the German and Italian versions briefly. The audio seemed a bit weak and low. The English audio seemed more dynamic but there's an issue with the English track: it's both in English and Italian since the US version was cut and the missing scenes edited out of the US version this version revert to Italian during those scenes. I believe there are about 8 or 9 scenes cut so therefore the movie switches to Italian from time to time. It's like one of my Fan Dubs. I'm happy the distributors did this. Even though it's annoying to hear two separate languages, the movie itself is intact. The Blu-ray can be set so English subs can appear during those scenes (see below). Were the scenes cut from the US version important? Not really but Gloria Milland is more present and the scene where they dress Karim (Reeves) into his blue clothes, entirely cut from the US copy, is important.

The issues with the Blu-ray edition, aside from the language switching issue mentioned above, mostly have to do with the English track. There are some audio problems, problems that could have been easily fixed but I guess they wanted to fix it in the least amount of time. Had they spent a bit more time on fixing it the audio it would have been without issues. The main problems are some popping sounds and audio looping, such as 49 minutes in where the audio is repeated twice for no reason. Generally, the image is excellent. It could have been a bit more vibrant. I have to say that the movie looks more vibrant when played directly from the disc than from a MKV file ripped from it (these screenshots were mostly taken from the MKV file I made from it). Looking at it in this Blu-ray and you can help but think that this is how people saw in it in movie theatres back in the day.

The runtime of the Blu-ray is 93 minutes, PAL conversion, which means 25 frames a second. The US copy I have is 91 minutes at 24 frames a sec. IMDb lists the original runtime at 100 minutes, at 24 frames a second. So the German version is pretty much uncut and it would come close to the original length if it wasn't presented in PAL format.

The film holds up very well. It has a nice magical sense to it which always make it fun to watch. For some reason, it has a nice Christmassy feel to it. The opening credits are in Italian and not the US version, which I find more appealing than the original one. Steve has never looked better even if he wasn't as buff as his previous movies. The cast is good and the production values are excellent throughout. This Blu-ray edition doesn't make it look cheap. The music by Carlo Rustichelli is memorable, even though one of his tracks from THE GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960) can be heard at one point, which always takes me out since that music is so familiar.

For extras, there's a short documentary with Giovanni Cianfriglia (see below), and a short presentation of photos and movie posters. Just a reminder: this is not the US version but the pretty much uncut version with different opening title. Will the US version ever get such a great Blu-ray release?

So, in closing: I'm very happy with it. If every PEPLUM movie had this treatment I'd be in heaven. And I get to watch it during this Christmas season.

Giorgia Moll  is princess Amina

 Karim steals from the rich to help the poor. 

Gloria Milland (right) has a small role as the Princess' handmaiden. Her role was literally cut out of the US edition available in 4:3 aspect ratio. Since she always stands on the sides, she was cropped out of nearly all of her scenes. So, for someone who has seen this movie several times in 4:3 it's nice to finally see Gloria.

A scene cut from the US version. The audio is in Italian but if you set the Blu-ray to display English subtitles, English subs will appear during those scenes.

 Karim and the princess fall in love

 Arturo Dominici is Prince Osman. Great actor.

 Karim in forced labor.

I don't think Steve has ever looked better than in this movie. The cinematographer and the lighting, or the direction by Lubin, made him look especially great.

 The production values are excellent. The HD format really makes it look good. Nothing looks cheap.

 Karim gets dressed in a blue suit. The entire scene is cut from the US version.

 Karim is greeted by beautiful women. Shot at Monte Gelato waterfalls. 

The Monte Gelato waterfalls were incorporated with a matte painting. The entire movie has plenty of matte paintings which is fun to watch.

 Kadeejah's lair.

 Edy Vessel as the mysterious seductress Kadeejah.

 Something is afoot. Karim notices that these statues resemble the suitors.

Matinee idol!

 The winged horse. Nice shot.

Karim becomes Sultan, with the approval of the Sultan of Baghdad (played by a confused Antonio Battistella).

Above and below: The movie is filled with nice matte paintings, a definite change from the usual Italian production. They still look nice in HD.

The opening credits for the US version. I prefer this version over the original Italian one which is pretty ordinary.

The Blu-ray has a mini documentary (a little over 7 minutes long) with the great Giovanni Cianfriglia explaining his stunt work, including his work with Steve Reeves, and also for THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD, which is pretty much seamless. Usually it's easy to spot Giovanni doing his stunt work but not in this movie. The doc is dated from 2006. So it wasn't made specifically for this Blu-ray. It's only in Italian with no English subs available.


Scott Ochiltree said...

Thanks for this handsome photo compilation of Steve. The movie is first rate.

Suggest that in future you use the more accurate (but less PC) terms "personal slave" or "domestic slave" rather than "handmaiden."

In Ancient Rome and the Islamic world there were no virtually free domestic slaves. The term "handmaiden" is more ambiguous about the woman's social status.

Anonymous said...

Oh brother! Why fuss about the term handmaiden? Who cares?

I just watched the gorgeous German Blu-ray. How wonderful to see the movie again as it should be seen. Actually it probably looks better than it did when I saw it back in 1961. Titanus Studios must have kept the original elements for their films in great shape. I wonder if they still have the original elements for the roadshow Sodom and Gomorrah? I would love to see that.

Scott Ochiltree said...

Hi Anonymous:

Admittedly peplum movies are always works of fiction/fantasy. Accordingly they have no requirement to be historically accurate.

Nevertheless, the use of the ambiguous term handmaiden rather than slave tends to blur the harsh social realities of the Ancient World.

There were three very significant slave revolts in the Roman world (less so in Ancient Greece. Slavery, however, was totally accepted (at least by non-slaves) throughout the period.