With the U.S.A. having just entered WWII, the people were desperately searching for something to take their minds off of the horrors of war. "Arabian Nights" served that purpose. It was successful enough to spawn a number of similar films throughout the 1940s. Most were shot in the spectacular three-strip Technicolor process and had similar plots and casts..
Make no mistake about it, "Arabian Nights" is nothing more than a "B" adventure film dressed up in Technicolor with daring heroes, beautiful women and slap stick comedy. The film could have done with out the ridiculous prologue (and epilogue) where a comedic looking sheik or something reads the story to a bunch of giggling members of a harem.
The plot is simple. Caliph Haroun-Al Raschid (Jon Hall) has put down a revolt by his brother Kamar (Leif Ericson) and has him being tortured in the public square. Just as he is about to show his brother mercy, the brother's supporters attack and free him. Al-Raschid and his followers flee and he is wounded near a troupe of entertainers. He is found by Ali Ben Ali (Sabu) who protects his true identity. With Al-Raschid believed dead, Kamar assumes the throne.
Within the entertainment group is the beautiful dancer Sherazade (Maria Montez) whom Ahmad loves and with whom Al-Raschid also falls in love. Sherazade on the other hand seeks power by becoming the wife of the Caliph. Al-Raschid is forced to conceal his identity until he can overthrow his brother. That's basically it.
With Billy Gilbert (Ahmad), Shemp Howard (Sinbad) and John Qualen (Aladdin) around to provide the slapstick type humor, the story becomes a little more than a Three Stooges comedy.
The real villain of the piece is Edgar Barrier as Nadan the scheming "trusted" assistant to Kamar. He is ready to double cross anyone to achieve his goal of becoming Caliph himself. Turhan Bey plays a Captain of the guard who is equally treacherous. A thin Thomas Gomez stands out as the evil slave trader Hakim who tries to sell off the lovely Sherazade as a slave.
Sabu made a career out of this sort of role as the friend of the hero who manages to slip in and out of trouble in a likable manner. Hall, Montez and Bey would go on to make similar such sand and sandal adventure films in the future.
Dancer Sherazade was told by the stars that she will become wife of the kalif in Bagdad. She tells Kamar, brother of kalif Haroun. He planned a coup d'etat, which failed at first, but supported by the wasir he finally succeeds. Haroun is injured and gets help from Ahmad's actor troupe, where he is nursed by Sherazade, who doesn't recognise him. When she hears that Kamar is looking for her she goes to him, but is sold with the complete troupe of actors to slavery. They're able to escape, but Haroun is still in danger. To save him, Sherazade agrees to poison Kamar, but Haroun tries to establish his rulership first.
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February 25, 2014 at 09:21 AM