Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I may be the custodian of the only 14-year-old boy on the planet who adores the films of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Last night, he watched The Thief of Bagdad--a two-and-half-hour silent swashbuckler, first released in 1924--for the third time. Yes, it does feature "fabulous" special effects, such as a horrible dinosaur-monster and a flying carpet and enormous, elaborate, studio-set Arabian Nights scenes, and Fairbanks does leap around with abandon and grin like Rhett Butler; but like all silent movies, it's about five paces slower than the movies we've now become accustomed to: the subtitle frames pause for too long; the actors' descriptive melodramatic arm waving and terrified eye bulging go on for too long. The whole effect is vaguely like running under water . . . which of course I enjoy, but who would expect a youthful 21st-century lover of The Hunger Games movie to fall so hard for it?