Don Weis

T. it.: Le avventure di Hajji Babà. Sc.: Richard Collins, dal romanzo omonimo (1823) di James Justinian Morier. F.: Harold Lipstein. Mu.: Dimitri Tiomkin. M.: William Austin. Scgf.: Gene Allen. Su.: Ralph Butler. Ass. R.: Edward Morey Jr. Cast: John Derek (Hajji Baba), Elaine Stewart (principessa Fakzia), Thomas Gomez (Osman Aga), Amanda Blake (Banah), Paul Picerni (Nurel-Din), Rosemarie Bowe (Ayesha), Donald Randolph (califfo), Peter Mamakos (il boia), Kurt Katch (Caoush), Leo Mostovoy (il barbiere), Joann Arnold (Joanne Arnold), Veronika Pataky (Kulub), Linda Danson (Fabria), Robert Bice (Musa), Carl Milletaire (capitano), Laurette Luez (Meriam), Eugenia Paul (Shireen), Barbara James (Zeenad). Prod.: Walter Wanger, Allied Artists, 20th Century Fox.; 35mm. D.: 88’ a 24 f/s. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

I think that The Adventures of Hajji Baba is one of the fifty best films in the history of cinema – I will discuss the illegitimacy of this sort of hierarchy at another time – and, in any case, the masterpiece of films with «oriental» settings, without even excluding the amusing Son of Sinbad (1955), which has the same bawdy «warriors» as Hajji and which can boast of some great striptease scenes. For me though, after a few years wait, Hajji has meant a rediscovery of one of the freest, most refined and fascinating talents in Hollywood. In the past I saw Remains to be Seen by chance, and managed to catch I Love Melvyn! during its brilliant eight-day run in Paris. […] The sense of humor, the comedy, and the abundance of invention combined with a dryness in the images, are not, in Don Weis, indications to his temperament. They are instead the tools of passionately balanced research between horror and fascination, satire and lyricism, in view of the less superficial aesthetic perfection of someone like Douglas Sirk.

In respect to the moire waved ceaselessly by this other hearty director, while not neglecting fabrics (Hajji), Don Weis nonetheless prefers the brightness of the steel used for the coffins (Remains to be Seen), or the emerald in which Hajji sees not so much the symbol of riches as the symbol of his domination over Elaine Stewart. Though fitting it to his own needs, we could think that he applies the rule of the great Buster Keaton: «Drama makes the comedy better». This would explain the clearly evident knife which no one sees on the corpses, or the uselessly eloquent assaults between the two funeral home owners (Remains to be Seen). And again, the ostentatious nature of the torture in Hajji: slaves thrown into a pool, or beaten on the soles of their feet, prisoners hanging by their wrists and left to be eaten by vultures. It would however be wrong, in respect to the happy ending of this fable, to interpret it as a parody of the sadomasochist arsenal of «pirate stories», for example. This is made clear by the brutality seen in many moments (the captured bandit executed by the ferocious Nur-el-Din himself, with a stroke of his scimitar). Even the innate seriousness of the initial intention: having verified the absolute ferocity of ambitious men and female warriors, the Princess renounces her own cruelty and abandons herself to a free man.

Gérard Legrand, in «Présence du cinéma», n. 12, March-April 1962

American critics, so seldom lucid, evidently ignored this praiseworthy film. Bosley Crowther, critic for the «New York Times», gave proof of his obscenely bad taste when he stated that he’d rather have seen Bob Hope in the role of John Derek. The film earned the reputation it deserved thanks only to the clear- sightedness of certain French cinephiles, and in particular of the MacMahonists.

Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du cinéma. Les films, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1992

Copy From

Print manufactured in 1996 from the original camera negative at Cinetech Film Laboratory in Valencia CA