The Conrad Veidt Society
By Barbara Peterson
Jaffar, Grand Vizier of Bagdad
The Princess of Basra
Ahmad, the Sultan of Bagdad
Abu, the Thief of Bagdad
The Sultan of Basra
Halima, also The Silver Maid
NOTE: For a complete list of actors and the production crew of this film, go to the Internet Movie Database here.
A ship, red sails billowing, cleaves through the ocean waves. On its prow a large,
''I never know why men come back from sea.
The sea is cruel but the sea is clean.
The cause of this vast purity must be
That men at sea are few and far between.
Hardship is all she ever gave me
Yet I ask why men come back from sea?
The sea is cruel but the sea is clean.
Oh, poor brother, how kind you might have been.''
Slaves roll a red-
In the market, a young blind man calls out, ''Alms for the love of Allah.'' A merchant passes by, and tosses a coin into his bowl. When the dog at the beggar's feet barks, the merchant is angered. The blind man explains that his charity must have been false. The merchant checks his coin and discovers it is counterfeit. He tests the dog again and is suitably impressed. ''This is no dog. It is the reincarnation of a tax collector.''
The palanquins of Jaffar and Halima pause before the blind man. Jaffar's lips are curved slightly as he gazes at the beggar. He orders Halima to bring him. Halima speaks to the blind man
Jaffar has arrived at his house, and goes to visit the sleeping princess. The aged doctor tells him that she will wake only when 'the blind man' takes her in his arms. ''Strange that he can accomplish what you with all your powers can not.'' ''I will use him and then cast him aside.''
The blind man is seated in a harem surrounded by ladies, and though they tease him that he is unfortunate because they are unveiled, he sits with melancholy forbearance, staring out into space. They urge him to tell his story.
''I was a king, the son of a king and of a hundred kings....and this dog was not a dog, but a little thief, the little thief of Bagdad.
As he speaks we are transported to the past. We see the thief, a young boy, laughing, his brown eyes darting this way and that in the marketplace. He is a generous thief, he steals two flayed fish only to drop them into the hands of some poor men who had been eyeing them longingly. The thief flees from his pursuers and climbs up to the tallest building, from where he can see the roof of the palace of the King of Bagdad. He watches as the King and Jaffar stride towards the edge of the roof, placing their arms simultaneously on one of the crenelations as they gaze down into the street where one of his subjects is executed.
''Why had he to die?'' askes Ahmad? ''He had been thinking, my lord and master.''
''Is it a crime to think in Bagdad?'' ''In a subject it is quite unpardonable.''
The King and Jaffar continue their conversation. Ahmad expresses a desire to meet
his people, and Jaffar suggests that he follow the example of his grandfather, Haroun
That night, the thief of Bagdad is brought into the dungeon, kicking and screaming and begging for mercy, and under the cover of all this removing the key to the door from one of the jailers. After the jailers slam the door and walk away, the thief bursts out laughing. ''Poor boy, they've driven you mad.'' The thief rolls over to look at the king. ''They just said you were mad.'' The thief displays the key, and much later on that night, they escape. They make off with a small sailing boat and make the three day journey to Basra.
The thief's exuberance and enjoyment of life are not quenched, despite the fact that they haven't had anything to eat for a day. As the wind drives them towards Basra he sings.
I want to be a sailor, sailing out to sea
Any fun to be.
Aunts and cousins, by the baker's dozen
Drive a man to sea or highway robbery
i want to be a bandit, can't you understand it?
Sailing to sea is life for me
Is life for me
After arriving in Bagdad the hungry travellers make their way to the marketplace
and achieve pancakes and honey. They are then startled as everyone in the street
starts running for their lives -
Jaffar, the new sultan of Bagdad, arrives in Basra and is greeted warmly by its elderly, portly, cheerful ruler. The sultan of Basra collects toys. ''I do so prefer these things to my subjects...they do exactly what I want...so often my subjects fail to do exactly what I want, and then I have to have their heads cut off.
Jaffar presents the sultan with a new toy. The pieces of a life-
A guard rushes into the chamber where the Sultan and Jaffar are playing chess. They can't find the Princess anywhere, they have only found two beggars in the garden. The Sultan orders them brought in. Jaffar gets a shock. Ahmad, eager for revenge, begs for a sword. He yells his story at the Sultan, 'My eyes winess the truth.' Jaffar's shadow rises behind him as he approaches Ahmad slowly. A shadow falls over Ahmad's face and when it passes he is blind. Abu speaks up, but Jaffar's attention turns to him and he sinks slowly to the floor, to rise as a small dog. ''And this is my curse. You shall remain a dog, and he shall walk through the country of the blind, until I hold her in my arms.''
On the dock, Ahmad cries out. He can see again! And the dog climbs up onto the shore and as he shakes himself dry turns into Abu. The two friends embrace, but when Abu tells Ahmad that the Princess is on Jaffar's ship, he is sunk in sullen despair. Abu is the boy of action.
In the hold of the ship, the ladies have dressed the Princess in new finery. They leave quickly when Jaffar arrives. He sits down and looks at her with his penetrating blue eyes. Just as his hypnotic control is about to take effect, he lowers his eyes. ''No. No. I have powers that could force you to my will. But I want more than they can give. I want your love. Forget Ahmad. For a man with eyes the world is full of women. Only I am cursed, that I can see only you!'' She breaks away from him and runs out onto the foredeck. Jaffar catches her before she can throw herself into the ocean. ''Ahmad has forgotten you!'' But she sees a ship following them, and (most unfortunately) says, ''Look!'' When she looks round again Jaffar is not behind her, but on the forecastle.
He raises his arms high. ''Wind! Wind! Wind!'' The winds rise and rise and rise. The two sailors in the tiny boat fight desperately for control. The screen is blotted out by the the black clouds and the roiling sea.
Abu wakes to find himself alone on a deserted beach. As he wanders, a tiny figure, Jaffar approaches the Princess again, reproaching her for behaving like a slave girl. ''I am a slave girl.'' ''You can command me.'' Take me back to Basra.'' Without hesitation, Jaffar orders his captain to turn the ship back.
She wanders in her garden forlornly. Her father goes to her, and she begs him not to send her away with Jaffar again. The Sultan is touched and promises her that she will not go. Never, never, never. Then he utters the unfortunate final phrase, ''Never while I live.'' Jaffar, who has been listening, wastes no time. He constructs The Silver Maid, a many armed, cold lady seated on a throne. She conducts beautiful music emoting from her chair, and when the Sultan of Basra embraces her, she stabs him in the neck. Jaffar, who has been watching from an alcove, comes forward, calling his men. ''Make ready for Bagdad!''
Abu comes across a bottle washed ashore. He opens it, then drops it and stumbles
back in fear as smoke pours upward in a thick column. ''Free. Free! Free!'' A voice
like thunder smites his ears. The Genie of the bottle, towering over him, resenting
his imprisonment for the last 2000 years, has vowed to kill the person who frees
him from the bottle. He intends to kill Abu -
Abu wastes his first wish on sausages, and vows to be more careful with his remaining
two. He wants to know where Ahmad is, but in order to find out he must steal the
Ahmad is delighted to see him, and Abu shows him the crystal. They behold a terrible sight. The Princess is pacing the roof of the palace of Bagdad when she sees a blue rose. The Blue Rose of Forgetfulness. She inhales its aroma and then turns to see Jaffar, his face illuminated by love and desperate hope.
''Who are you?'' ''I don't know. I can't remember.''
''Why have you suffered?'' ''Have I suffered? It seems I was in love.''
''Whom did you love?'' ''I cannot tell. I don't know any longer.
Ahmad can bear it no longer. He thrusts the eye at Abu. ''Why did you give me this. I wish I were dead. I wish I were back in Bagdad.'' Abu, upset at this ungratefulness, unthinkingly retorts, ''I wish you were!'' Ahmad disappears, the Genie laughs and leaves, leaving Abu shouting after him.
The Princess approaches Jaffar, and his face is a study in tragic hope as she says, ''I am in love with you, I have always loved you you, I always shall love with you.'' Just as Jaffar is about to kiss her, Ahmad materializes and yells her name. The spell of the Blue Rose is broken, and the Princess breaks away from Jaffar's grasp. Ahmad fights and kills several guards until he is overborn. Jaffar appears, his love curdled a bit. ''Take them to the dungeon. Chain them on opposite walls. Tomorrow they die the death of a thousand cuts.''
Within the dungeon, the two prisoners reaffirm their love. Ahmad wishes he could
apologize to Abu for their last quarrel. Abu, watching this from the All-
Abu begs the carpet to fly him to Bagdad, and it does so. High atop the crenellations, Jaffar gazes with pleasure on the suffering of the Princess, as she closes her eyes rather than witness the death of her King by sword (Jaffar has apparently relented, rather than the death of a thousand cuts, Ahmad's head is just going to be cut off). Jaffar and the people see the flying carpet above them, but the executioner is intent on his duty until Abu fires an arrow into his forehead. Ahmad jumps up, and leaps onto the carpet with Abu. While the people below attack the soldiers, the carpet with our two heroes swoops up to the palace roof. The Princess breaks away from Jaffar and runs to Ahmad. Jaffar mounts the magic horse and spurs it into flight. Abu runs up and fires the magic arrow. Jaffar, anticipating his doom, raises his hands to his forehead before the arrow hits. He falls and the horse, now merely a collection of lifeless pieces, falls with him into the sea.
A rejuvenated Ahmad and his wife speak to his people, telling them of his plans for
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CAN ANYONE ANSWER THIS?
ANSWERED! Conrad Veidt as Jaffar is describing the Princess. ''Her eyes are Babylonian eyes. Her eyebrows like the crescent moon of Ramadan. And her body straight as the aleph. (A letter in the alphabet).
The Thief of Bagdad