APRIL MOVIE THON 2: The Wonders of Aladdin (1961)

April 25: Bava Forever — Bava died on this day 43 years ago. Let’s watch his movies.

According to camera operator Marcello Gatti, Henry Levin (That Man BoltKiss the Girls and Make Them Die) directed 80% of this movie, while Mario Bava did the second unit direction and supervised the special effects. Because Bava was also in charge of post-production and dubbing in Italy, Italian and French prints have the credit “A film by Henry Levin, directed by Mario Bava” while English language prints only credit Levin with direction.

The making of this movie was not without incident.

Star Donald O’Connor suffered a blood hemorrhage on his throat and had to be rushed to hospital at one point. He also was joined by director Levin and writer Henry Motofsky in crossing the Tunisian border into Algeria while scouting locations and being arrested for three hours. But the worst incident — according to the commentary track from Tim Lucas on the Kino Lorber blu ray — was that the use of a mosque as a shooting location caused a violent revolt which led to five deaths and the killing of a security guard at the American embassy that was cleared the location. Bava had literally spears pointed at his head and said that it was the most frightening moment of his life.

In the middle of all that insanity, this movie was made at the same time as two Steve Reeves films: Morgan, the Pirate and The Thief of Baghdad. The same crew — producer Joseph E. Levine, set designer Flavio Mogherini, cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli and Bava on effects — worked on all of the movies one after another.

The script is credited to Luther Davis (The Old Man Who Cried Wolf) from a story by Stefano Strucchi and Duccio Tessari, who was three years away from writing A Fistful of Dollars. The adaptation is credited to Silvano Reina, Pierre Véry and Franco Prosperi, who one day would make The Last House on the Beach, The Throne of FireThe Green Inferno and White Cannibal Queen. He also wrote another film for Bava, Hercules In the Haunted World. He also did second unit directing for that movie, as well as Bava’s Erik the Conquerer and The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Based on Antoine Galland’s adapted version of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, this film combines the feel of peplum with the tales of Arabian adventure. Aladdin must go up against the Grand Vizier (Fausto Tozzi) with the help of a genie (Vittorio De Sica, who would go on to direct films of his own such as Marriage Italian StyleWoman Times Seven, a sex comedy anthology starring Shirley MacLaine, and a segment in Le streghe). There’s also Prince Moluk in this, played by Mario Girotti. Six years later, you’d start to know him much better by his Americanized stage name, Terrence Hill.

While the actual movie is pretty simple and not all that exciting, the effects and ability to stretch the budget that Bava always showed are reasons enough to see this movie.

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