Sheherazade (France 1990)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Les 1001 Nuits
Review Date: 10/8/18
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones

A Babylonian astronomer is imprisoned in a lamp for blasphemy and forced to live as a genie in 20th century London until someone lights the lamp and becomes his master. Back in ancient times, the radiant slave girl Sheherazade (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is scheduled for execution by the Grand Vizier of Babylon. Stalling for time and hoping that the genie will save her, she tells her tale to the curious spectators. As punishment for his monogamous ways, the King of Babylon is ordered to behead every woman that he sleeps with so that she may never sleep with another man. The cunning and headstrong Sheherazade is his latest victim, who repeatedly deflects the king's advances and is constantly on the run from his guards. During her escapades, she encounters Aladdin and Sinbad, and discovers the magic lamp that houses her genie. The genie gets her out of many scrapes and close calls, but now her time might be up.

It's a silly farce that re-imagines "1001 Arabian Nights" from Sheherazade's perspective, and while it's a well-made and good looking film, the writing is overly goofy and it's a chore to watch. Catherine Zeta-Jones is stunningly alluring in her film debut, which hints at the glamour and success she would later achieve. Unfortunately, she's unconvincingly dubbed and her acting is terrible. The film's notoriety rises from its scandalous imagery of Ms. Zeta-Jones, which includes a brief topless scene, some wet clinging clothes, and a dash of near nudity. For this reason, Hollywood studios attempted to bury the film in order to preserve Catherine's professional reputation and respectability. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about. Her topless scene is less than two seconds long, and the bad acting is more offensive than any of her suggestive posing. That said, her enchanting beauty is the only reason to bother tracking down this cinematic rarity.