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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Arabian Adventure ( 1979 )

If you are looking for a fun 1970s adventure film set in Arabia, then here is a title to keep in mind: Arabian Adventure. Director Kevin Connor and producer John Dark, who made such corny classics as The Land That Time Forgot ( 1974 ), At the Earth's Core ( 1976 ), and Warlords of Atlantis ( 1978 ) turned from the Edgar Rice Burrough's themed adventure films to try his hand at an Arabian fantasy....and the result was pretty good. 

Variety dubbed Arabian Adventure "Star Wars with flying carpets" when it was released in November 21, 1979. It doesn't have any humanoids or loyal wookies like Chewbacca, but the film does bear a slight resemblance to George Lucas' space epic in its black and white portrayal of evil and goodness. 

Christopher Lee stars as Alquazar, an evil caliph who rules the Arabian kingdom of Jadur. Like most wicked rulers, he desires to be the most powerful man in all the world. In order to do this, he needs to obtain the Rose of Elil which can only be retrieved by someone who is pure and honest. When the handsome Prince Hasan ( Oliver Tobias ) comes to Jadur to woo Alquazar's stepdaughter Princess Zuleira ( Emma Samms ), Alquazar seizes his opportunity and sends the prince on the journey to capture the rose in his place. He agrees to give him the princess's hand in marriage if his expedition is successful but, in order to guarantee that the rose will be returned to him, Alquazar sends his backstabbing henchman, the bubbling Khasim ( Milo O'Shea ) on the journey with Prince Hasan. Also tagging along is Majeed ( Puneet Sira ), a beggar orphan boy, and his pet monkey. Once they reach Elili, they must battle with a genie, a valley of fire-breathing "dragons", and a swamp filled with groping hands before they can capture the rose. 
The script, written by Brian Hayles ( Warlords of Atlantis ), is a motley blend of Eastern fantasy tales. "These Eastern tales abound with lovely excursions into pure fantasy," John Dark exclaimed in a 1979 interview for Starlog magazine. "It was a very beautiful period and a very beautiful territory. We hope to recreate, in our story, the exciting architecture and costumes, as well as some exciting special effects, like an army of flying carpets. It's an amalgam of a lot of stories, a lot of lore, magic mirrors, wicked spells, benign and evil jinnees and one or two very special ideas of our own."

Kevin Connor assembled a fantastic cast for Arabian Adventure. Christopher Lee is delightful as the evil caliph. As Lee himself described his character, "Very small children can go to see it and they'll have a lot of fun - they won't feel threatened by my evil nature because they'll know I'm going to be done in by the film's end."
Oliver Tobias, a Swiss stage actor, is the handsome prince, rather sullen but a good fighter; and Emma Samms, the lovely English actress, was making her film debut as the princess. But it is Puneet Sira who steals the show as the orphan Majeed. Like Sabu's character in Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad ( 1940 ), it is Majeed who often comes to the aid of the prince and proves himself to be the real hero in the end. 

Arabian Adventure also features some great cameo appearances: Peter Cushing as the imprisoned old ruler of Jadur; Mickey Rooney as a befuddled machinist; and Capucine as a beautiful genie who resides in a gemstone. 

Most of Kevin Connor's films tend to feature a number of warring creatures and a hero who has to spend a lot of time trying to make his escape from these creatures. Arabian Adventure differs in that it has very few creatures, even though the script gave many opportunities to include them. Instead, Prince Hasan and Majeed must contend with Alquazar's sword-wielding Arab henchmen, robotic dragons that guard the volcano where the rose is kept, and an ungrateful genie ( also taken from The Thief of Bagdad ). 

The film is clearly aimed at a younger audience, and while it is entertaining, it could have had more elements that would appeal to adults. The adventure to retrieve the Rose of Elil also could have been more exciting. But all in all, it is a fun Saturday afternoon flick that will probably send a child's imagination wild with fantasies of flying carpets, evil caliphs, genies, and endangered princesses. 

4 comments:

  1. This is a very good old fashioned adventure. I only wish Peter Cushing had more to do (such as some scenes with Christopher Lee).

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    1. Yes, Cushing's part was way too short! I would have liked to have seen him in the island of Elil scenes as a wiseman or a magician character instead of just an ex-king in a dungeon.

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  2. Well, you can't go wrong with Christopher Lee as an evil caliph! I remember Emma Samms from General Hospital and, of course, as the second Fallon on Dynasty and The Colbys.

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    1. Yes, wasn't she a lovely actress? I enjoyed her especially in Disney's "Bejewelled" and in the Murder She Wrote episode "Snow White, Blood Red".

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