Arabian Nights (1942)

Rating: **
Review Date: 7/5/18
Cast: Jon Hall, Maria Montez, Sabu

"I do not desire love. I only desire power."

Universal Studios' first Technicolor film was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of "The Thief Of Bagdad" (1940), except without any of the fantasy elements and dazzling special effects. It's basically just a Western with turbans instead of cowboy hats. Two men try to kill each other for the love of a vain and cold-hearted dancer named Scheherazade (Maria Montez) who despises men. One of her suitors is caliph Haroun (Jon Hall), and the other is his brother Kamar, who usurps the throne. The arrogant Scheherazade proclaims that she will only marry a king, but Haroun has been forced to hide among a circus troupe in disguise, so he's no longer in the running. Only the acrobat Ali Ben Ali (Sabu) knows the truth and spends the entire film helping Haroun win the girl and reclaim his kingdom. As was customary in the 40s, haughty femme fatales had to be taught what love is, often forcibly, by heroic manly men.

Apart from the stunning Technicolor palette and a handful of epic compositions, the film is painfully silly and difficult to watch. It's played mostly for laughs, and the acting is terrible. Hearing Sinbad cracking jokes with a Brooklyn accent is appalling, and there's zero chemistry between Jon Hall and Maria Montez. But they were popular Hollywood stars at the time, and audiences didn't seem to mind as long as Ms. Montez showed a lot of skin. The inane goofiness of the film was probably in response to America entering World War II, and was just the kind of lighthearted adventure fare that people were craving. However, I just found it embarrassing and tiresome.