Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1902)
Director: Ferdinand Zecca
Some sources give the year of this film as 1902, but I think it is more likely to be 1905, especially as it is in colour and 1905 was the year in which Pathe patented their stencil colouring process. Anyway, it’s quite an extravagant picture for its day but, like so many other films from the period, it assumes that the viewer is already familiar with the story it tells – in this instance, the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. Each scene – there are about ten or so – is introduced by an intertitle which serves as a chapter heading, but the titles are in French so if you’re not familiar with the language you may lose the plot.
Despite the obvious care and attention to detail lavished on the film, you can easily imagine you’re watching a home-made video of some amateur dramatics stage show and it does become slightly tedious after a while. Much of the time is spent watching veiled ladies dancing around the set, which is very nice but quickly grows monotonous. The acting is also of the ‘exaggerated gesture’ school which looks totally over the top today.
(Reviewed 19th June 2009)