July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Video Review

Arabian Nights with music by Richard HARVEY

You can obtain this from BlackStar   Enter Arabian Nights in the search box and from the resulting list select Arabian Nights (2000)

This slightly campy television production features several stories taken from the classic 'The Thousand and One Nights' for a two hour plus epic of magic and adventure.

The framing device centres around a mad Sultan who plans to have his new wife killed the morning after the wedding (apparently he wasn't that crazy, as he decided to wait until the morning after!). So in an attempt to delay her impending execution she spins a number of fantastic yarns to keep him entertained, always promising to continue the next evening and so buying herself another day.

Among the stories told there are probably the most well-known of all the Arabian Nights tales in 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' and 'Aladdin'. However, the tone of the pieces is pitched at an almost juvenile level and there are even moments of Pythonesque humour thrown in, which seem at odds with the setting and the style of the original tales. In fact the account of BacBac the Sultan's favourite jester whose sudden death causes all manner of complications, is played as traditional English farce, although admittedly there are one or two amusing moments provided by the Oriental with the 'lethal hands'!

The main problem is that this light approach with modern sensibilities (no doubt believing it would make it more accessible) actually undermines the stories, as they have no sense of either dramatic or emotional tension. It's all rather like a pantomime on a grand scale, although presumably that was the intention.

There are few opportunities for the actor's to shine, with Dougray Scott (the villain of the upcoming 'Mission Impossible 2') not really meeting the challenge of the difficult role of the deranged Sultan. Mili Avital, as the storyteller Scheherazade, does far better though, while the charismatic Jason Scott Lee (exceptional as the titular character in 'Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) brings energy to the role of Ali Baba. John Leguizamo in dual roles as opposing genies looks impressive enough, although at times his dialogue is a little trite. Incidentally Leguizamo's portrayal of the weaker of the two genies is very reminiscent of his turn as the evil Clown in 'Spawn'.

The final story of the brothers who are sent on a quest to find the 'greatest wonder in the world' is probably the best with its marginally more serious tone, but this leads into a finale that is weak at best, as various strands taken from all the different tales are used to win victory for the now fully restored Sultan.

The effects works by Jim Henson's Creature Shop is accomplished enough without really deserving any particular praise, although there are some nice scene transitions that work very well.

As far as the score is concerned, Richard Harvey's music is really exactly what you might expect, with its authentic Arabian flavour and the use of several traditional instruments and styles. But it is a score that while entirely serviceable is also wholly forgettable. It's one of those functional pieces of work that just plays along in the background as nothing more than just another sound effect. You would be hard pressed indeed to come away remembering a single theme or melody.

Taken as a whole, this made-for-TV spectacular is light-weight entertainment and when compared with Hallmark's other adaptations of classic works of literature such as 'Merlin' and in particular the outstanding 'Gulliver's Travels', does not stand up very well at all.

Harmless, undemanding viewing with a strong vein of simple-minded humour.


Mark Hockley


Mark Hockley

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