The Thief of Baghdad is an enormous contradiction of the auteur theory. The 1940 release credits three directors — Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan and Michael Powell — and only the latter assembled a filmography of any particular note. Moreover, it's likely that producer Alexander Korda and others contributed to the finished product as well, further undermining any single claim of authorship. Fortunately, cinematographer George Perinal's glorious color palette and inventive art design, along with special effects courtesy of William Cameron Menzies and squadrons of craftsmen, help hold the entire unwieldy contraption together, as do performances that are wonderfully, indelibly broad. Kids who obsessively rewatch Disney's Aladdin have no idea that the animated villain Jafar is drawn almost entirely from Conrad Veidt's Baghdad turn — and while Rex Ingram's live-action genie is a more dangerous presence than the Robin Williams-voiced cartoon version, he's just as memorable. The picture shouldn't have worked on day one, let alone almost six decades later. But somehow, it still does.
Colorado Public Radio film critic Howie Movshovitz hosts a CPR and Tattered Cover-sponsored Baghdad screening at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli. Free tickets are available beginning one hour before showtime. Learn more by calling 303-595-3456 or by visiting www.denverfilm.org.