As a thief who lives by the seat of his harem pants, he displays the atavistic instincts of a dog (able to sniff out dinner cooking and then steal it) and the reflexes of a master gymnast (descending a collapsing magic rope). His romantic impudence spurs him to court a princess and abandon his life of petty crime. Even more than the movie's special-effects and design wizards, Fairbanks wins our applause -- and laughter -- whether he's fending off monsters or racing over the backs of worshipers bowed in prayer. His seductively outrageous movie -- co-starring Snitz Edwards as his droll sidekick, sinuous Julanne Johnston as the princess, Sojin as the creepy Mongol villain, and Anna May Wong as the princess' beautiful, treacherous Mongol slave -- is an adolescent daydream come true.
-- Michael Sragow
The Thief of Bagdad screens Thursday, June 12, at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College) in Berkeley. Russell Merritt will introduce the film as part of the PFA series "Cinema and the Realm of Enchantment"; Jon Mirsalis will provide the piano accompaniment. Tickets are $5.50; call (510) 642-1124.