DirectorHenry Levin/Mario Bava
Release Date(s)1961 (November 17, 2020)
Studio(s)Embassy Pictures/Lux Film/MGM/StudioCanal (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
A US, French, and Italian co-production, The Wonders of Aladdin adapts the famous Arabian tale with lush cinematography, inventive visual effects, and beautiful costumes. The film was directed by Henry Levin (Journey to the Center of the Earth) with modest participation by Mario Bava, who before the success of Black Sunday, was considered but a mere technician, yet his stylistic influence is on display in this somewhat mediocre comic fantasy. It gets by primarily on the charm of its cast, as well as its colorful visuals. It’s also not quite as chaste as other similar films of its era when it comes to the female form and its use of violence. Neither are nowhere near extreme by any measure, but they stand out in a film that seems to be primarily aimed at families. Today it’s considered to be a stepping stone for Bava, as well as a footnote in the careers of others who were involved in it.
Aladdin (Donald O’Connor, Singin’ in the Rain) daydreams of being rich with servants and beautiful mistresses. After clumsily attempting to steal for food and being chased by a mob of people, including the musclebound Omar (Milton Reid), Aladdin stumbles upon a lamp which, after accidentally rubbing it, reveals a Genie (Vittorio De Sica). Granting him three wishes, Aladdin uses the opportunity to take Omar as his servant and go to the city to see the royal marriage. Following him along is his friend Djalma (Noelle Adam), who longs for Aladdin to give up on his dreams and settle down with her. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Sultan (Aldo Fabrizi) and the Princess (Michelle Mercier), the Grand Vizier (Fausto Tazzi) hopes to get rid of the approaching Prince (Terence Hill) and convince the Sultan to allow him to marry the Princess by doing away with his unborn son. Aladdin, Djalma, Omar, and the Prince soon arrive in the city and must work together to stop the Grand Vizier from carrying out his sinister plans.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings The Wonders of Aladdin to Region A Blu-ray with what seems to be a new 4K restoration of the original camera negative. However, the opening twenty minutes appear to be from a much lower quality source, meaning the OCN was likely missing its opening reel. Once that footage has passed, a bright and colorful presentation with natural grain and high levels of crisp detail is on display. The vivid hues seen on the costumes, as well as on the crowd of people gathered to watch the fireworks seen later in the film, are just gorgeous. Black levels and contrast are satisfactory, and other than the opening footage, the rest of the presentation is stable and clean aside from scene transitions and a couple of matte shots.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English. The overdubbed English dialogue is clear and discernable, if a bit loose against the picture. Sound effects have surprising impact, particularly the sounds of water splashing, swords clanging, horns blaring, and flames blazing. The musical score also has plenty of body to it. It’s a clean and effective track overall, free of any leftover hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
The following extras, other than the audio commentary, are all included in SD:
- Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
- Jack the Giant Killer Trailer (3:20)
- The Magic Sword Trailer (2:42)
- Arabian Nights Trailer (2:07)
- Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Trailer (2:16)
- Son of Ali Baba Trailer (2:03)
Author Tim Lucas skillfully covers the careers of many of the main players, highlighting their work before and after the film, including the area of his main expertise, that of Mario Bava. He also goes into detail about the troubles on the set, including those involving Donald O’Connor and the extras. He acknowledges that this is the longest version that he’s aware of (93 minutes), despite other places, including the film’s pressbook, citing that there is a version running nearly 100 minutes. He also points out several scenes and moments exclusive to the Italian version of the film, which unfortunately, has not been included here. The extras conclude with a set of trailers for other Kino Lorber Blu-ray titles containing similar subject matter.
The Wonders of Aladdin is mostly a curiosity. Many will get much out of its beautiful male and female costars, as well as its deeply saturated detail, but on its surface it barely passes the bar in terms of entertainment value. It would have been nice to see the Italian version alongside it for comparison’s sake, but having another great Tim Lucas audio commentary to supplement it is certainly adequate.
- Tim Salmons