Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Wizard of Baghdad

Two months ago, I blogged about the movie The Adentures of Hajji Baba. It aired again this morning on FXM/FMC as part of a double feature with The Wizard of Baghdad. The two are going to be on again tomorrow in a double feature, at 6:00 AM and 7:40 AM respectively. The Wizard of Baghdad is much the inferior movie, but since I haven't blogged about it before, this is my chance to explain why it's so lousy.

Dick Shawn plays Ali Mahmud, a genie who has been using his powers for, if not malicious ends, for thoroughly incompetent ends. Ali spends more time drinking and cavorting with women then he does practicing his magic for good as his boss Asmodeus would have him do. So Asmodeus is going to give Ali one more mission and, if he can't do that, he's going to be made a mortal. That mission is to make certain the child prince Husan and child princess Yasmin get married when they grow up, which according to the bood of fate they're supposed to do. The current caliph of Baghdad has no male heirs, and his advisors are begging him to pick an heir to the throne. One of his advisors has produced the daughter Yasmin, and another advisor has the son Husan and, since the two like each other, they would be a good match, ruling over Baghdad together. Things get complicated, though, when the Egyptians invade, and Sultan Julnar (John Van Dreelen) has the caliph killed. He never did name an heir, and Julnar would be more than willing to take Yasmin for a wife when she reaches the age of majority. Husan and his family hvae barely escaped the Egyptians, and are out wandering the desert somewhere.

Fast forward several years. Yasmin is now an adult (played by Diane Baker) and living in the palace as a kept woman. Ali Mahmud shows up, but immediately begins to cavort with women and drink wine, so Asmodeus takes away his powers, leaving him with naught but a talking horse whose conversation only he can hear. Ali makes his way into the palace as a sorcerer's apprentice, even helping Yasmin's father out of prison. He makes it to the desert and even finds Husan, and the two return to Baghdad, although stupid Ali doesn't realize that this is Husan (to be fair, Husan can't go by that name, and Ali doesn't have his magical powers). Husan thinks Yasmin is evil, because the Sultan has tricked her into doing bad things, and Yasmin doesn't recognize Husan, who has gotten himself made her bodyguard. Ali thinks the captain of the bodyguards is a threat to Yasmin's marrying Husan, and plots to have the guy killed, not knowing who he really is....

At this point the plot really goes downhill, because Ali goes to Asmodeus and begs for a deus ex machina ending. I mean, that's pretty much exactly what he does: he's failed at uniting Yasmin and Husan, but since the book of fate says they're supposed to end up together, Asmodeus is just supposed to let Ali wave his magic wand, or the genie equivalent, and right all the wrongs. Yes, the ending is that dumb. The movie up to that point was not very good. DIck Shawn was given a bunch of irritating and not terribly funny dialog; the plot is a bit difficult to follow at times; and the special effects are terrible. To make things worse, FXM/FMC ran a pan-and-scan print. It's lousy on oh-so-many levels. But if you don't believe me, see for yourself.

The lousiness of The Wizard of Baghdad is probably a big part of the reason why it's not out on DVD.

No comments: