Monday, July 07, 2014


In this tepid Arabian Nights tale, the Caliph is assassinated in the middle of a ceremony to anoint his new-born son as his successor. The wicked Ali is installed as Caliph, with the just-as-wicked Boreg as his Grand Vizier, and in the confusion they assume that the son is dead and will never be able to challenge them. However, they don't know that the baby has been spirited away via a magic flying carpet to a protector, Ahkmid the physician, who adopts the boy but doesn't tell him about his heritage. Years later, with Ali proving to be a bad ruler, the grown boy, now called Ramoth, becomes a Robin Hood-style vigilante called the Scarlet Falcon who steals money from the unjust tax collectors and gives it back to the people. Over time, Ramoth works his way into the royal palace as personal physician to Ali in order to commit mischief, but when Boreg discovers the truth about Ramoth's background and kills the kindly Ahkmid, Ramoth discovers not only that he is the true Caliph, but also how to use the magic carpet, and he devotes all his time to getting revenge.

This came late in the Arabian Nights fad, didn't have as big a budget as the Jon Hall & Maria Montez films of the 40s (such as ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES), and didn't have actors who were willing to commit whole hog to slightly campy melodrama. In the lead, John Agar (above) looks fine but is quite wooden; the same can be said for Lucille Ball (at left, in purple), who plays not his romantic interest, but the wicked Caliph's sister—she seems to be playing herself, or at least an early version of the persona she would use as Lucy Ricardo. Patricia Medina (Agar's actual love interest) is OK, as are Gregory Gaye as the Caliph and George Tobias as Agar's buddy. If you need a reason to sit through this, it might be for Raymond Burr who strikes the right tone as Boreg: he is sinister and seems to having at least a little bit of fun, whereas everyone else is going through the motions. The swashbuckling and fisticuffs scenes are fine, though the magic carpet itself isn't really used enough to justify being the title object. [TCM]

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