ARABIAN NIGHTS Studio: Universal Film Year: 1942 Film Length: 87 minutes Genre: Adventure Aspect Ratio: • 1.33:1 Full Frame Colour/B&W: Colour (Three Strip Technicolor!) Audio: • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Subtitles: English SDH, French Film Rating: Not Rated Release Date: February 6, 2007. Rating: 3/5 With: Jon Hall, Maria Montez, Sabu, Leif Erikson, Billy Gilbert, Thomas Gomez, Shemp Howard and the Bewitching Harem Queens Story and Screenplay by: Michael Hogan Additional Dialogue by True Boardman Produced by: Walter Wanger Directed by: John Rawlins Available for the first time on DVD, ARABIAN NIGHTS has been digitally restored for this release. The result is a beautiful colorful presentation of Universal’s first three-strip Technicolor film. The movie itself could be called a camp classic, with Jon Hall playing a storybook leader who adventures with a band of entertainers including Maria Montez as the legendary Scheherazade before he regains his throne with their help. The movie hasn’t aged well, particularly given the current state of affairs in the Middle East, but it’s a fun ride if you turn off your modern sensibilities and just ride downstream with it. Some performances here are better than others, but this is a great way to see how Universal started to work with Technicolor. And it’s a lot of fun, with a lot of laughs along the way. VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5 The full frame picture has been lovingly restored for this release by Universal. The colors almost jump off the screen at the viewer, and many details that may have been lost in earlier releases are now visible. In the opening storyteller sequence, for example, the small group of white birds snacking just above the cast can now be clearly seen. On the other hand, the frequent use of matte paintings throughout is apparent, as is the intercutting between location photography with doubles and the soundstage work with the lead performers. (The same thing happened with the great restoration work on THE WIZARD OF OZ – the colors looked great, but you could easily tell where the backdrops on the stage were at all times…) Personally, I wasn’t that distracted by the imperfections, as they are a part of the film itself. I simply appreciated the beauty of the colors of the sets and wardrobe. And the film stands as a monument to the beauty of Maria Montez. AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5 ARABIAN NIGHTS is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English soundtrack. The dialogue, music and effects are clear and easy to distinguish. By today’s standards, this isn’t that impressive of a mix, but in its day, this film was nominated for Oscars for both sound and score. For myself, I simply noted a clear sound mix – which probably goes to show how far film sound has advanced in 65 years. SPECIAL FEATURES: 1/5 • Exclusive Introduction by TCM Host Robert Osborne (2:46): Robert Osborne provides his customary introduction here. He gives a bit of the backstory on the creation of the film, as well as a discussion of the film’s casting. He notes that the film’s success led to two more adventures with Jon Hall, Maria Montez and Sabu, as well as three more with just Hall and Montez. He also notes that the film is effectively a Western in a different setting, which is both accurate and thought provoking in itself. The DVD includes a trailer for the film, albeit from a non-restored print. The difference of the restoration becomes apparent when one sees the trailer – the colors simply don’t pop and there are multiple instances of flickering and picture damage that don’t occur during the restored feature presentation. Subtitles are provided in English, and French. Similar to the other Universal Classics releases, there is no chapter menu provided on the disc, and no guide sheet or booklet included in the DVD packaging. If you stop the disc in mid-film and wish to begin again, you may find yourself skipping through the film to get to your last place, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the time counter before stopping or ejecting the disc. IN THE END... Once again, Universal Classics has presented a beautiful restoration of a classic from an earlier time. In this case, the film is more of a camp classic, but it’s still a lot of fun. The film is memorable for its colorful sets and costumes, as well as for the memorable initial pairing of Hall and Montez. This is the first time the film has been available on DVD. If you have this film on VHS, you haven’t seen it yet – get this DVD to see how good the picture can look. Kevin Koster March 4, 2007.