Director: Kevin Connor
Starring: Christopher Lee, Oliver Tobias, Milo O’Shea, Emma Samms, Puneet Sira, Peter Cushing, Capucine, Mickey Rooney
Written by: Brian Hayles
Running Time: 98 mins
Original UK Cert: U
Original UK Release: 8th June 1979
(No trailer available)
There’s something distinctly innocent and yet kitschy about the family films produced by EMI during the 70’s, especially those directed by Kevin Connor. With his Doug McClure days (The Land That Time Forgot, At The Earth’s Core etc) behind him, he decided to take on the mysterious adventures set in Arabia, along with a legend on full steam, an English hero with a clipped accent and American regulars playing Arabs?
Caliph Alquazar, an evil magician, wants a special, magical rose in order to be all-powerful. Yet he cannot get it, as it has to be a chosen one. Enter Prince Hasan, a dashing hero who is blackmailed into going. Alquazar has kidnapped a beautiful princess and so to set her free, Hasan must head into mysterious territory of the fire mountains to retrieve the rose. Travelling with him is Khasim, a servant to Alquazar and Majeed, a young begging boy.
With it’s highly complicated plotting, the adventure begins with plenty of sword fights and clumsy slapstick, along with cheap special effects and the least scariest monsters around, this has a high level of laughability when viewed in this modern time of more advanced film making. Yet back in 1979, this was the height of technology, as our hero flies around on a magic carpet, which is obviously green screened. My favourite effect involves an evil genie in a bottle, which is projected onto the back of Hasan.
The story itself is surprisingly slow. There are long moments when our hero is trekking across vast landscapes or entering woodlands in which Connor takes its time to build the tension but in the process brings the action to a crashing halt. When the set pieces do arrive, they lack any real peril or excitement to them. A chase above the city by baddies ends with vegetables being thrown at them?
For all the bad things in this film, it does have a heart and plenty of charm, with its naive innocence and non-threatening attitude. The cast seems well-behaved too, from Christopher Lee’s pantomime villain to Oliver Tobias’s pronounced English accent, even though he’s supposed to be an Arab Prince. Beauty is supplied by then newcomer Emma Samms, while the odd (very odd) special guest appearances from Peter Cushing (as a prisoner with plenty of wisdom), Mickey Rooney ( as the mechanic to giant, fire-breathing monsters) and Capucine (blink and you’ll miss her) adds very little.
This may all be badly dated but you have to admit, if you lived through the time when they first appeared, there’s a gentle, warming sense of nostalgia about it. You absolutely have seen better but they certainly don’t make them like they used to!
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