Arabian Nights with music by Richard
TV HALLMARK ENTERTAINMENT/WARNER VISION INTERNATIONAL 8573-82283-3
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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
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
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
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.