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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Steve Barron
Hallmark/Artisan 07/00 DVD/VHS Feature Film
In this phantasmagoric tale filled with dragons, thieves, genies, flying carpets, and practical jokes, Scheherezade (Mili Avital) marries the mad Sultan of Baghdad (Dougray Scott) who, having been betrayed by his first wife, is convinced all women are out to get him unless he kills them first. He decides to marry and have each bride strangled the next morning. But having been tutored by a master storyteller (Alan Bates) in the marketplace, Scheherezade foils his plan by starting a bewitching new tale each evening so that he will spare her again and again to hear the endings.
This beautiful and clever daughter of the Sultan's vizier (Jim Carter) proves to be a very imaginative storyteller. Two of the most familiar are Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and Aladdin and the Lamp. The moral of each tale is aimed at transforming the Sultan's heart, and sure enough there is a happy ending for the couple. Near the end, his villainous brother (James Frain) arrives outside Bagdad with an army. However, the Sultan has learned his lessons well and is able to creatively draw upon elements of all the stories in his conquest of the invading army.
Screenplay writer Peter Barnes has a marvelous time playing with the different genres of comedy, tragedy, magic, and romantic drama. The computer wizardry is dazzling, and the exotic sets, costumes, and music are all top drawer. Hats off to director Steve Barron for this spectacular 175-minute production!
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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