This Film Is 100 Years Old

The Thief Of Bagdad (1924)

Written by, produced by, and starring (though not directed by) Douglas Fairbanks, The Thief Of Bagdad is an impossibly lavish and incredibly beautiful retelling/remixing/mangling of various stories from The Thousand And One Nights.

Douglas Fairbanks plays the irrepressible and irascible thief who, in falling in love with the princess, finally finds some sense of morality and purpose.

Roughly structured in two parts, the first part involves the thief winning the heart of the princess by a mixture of subterfuge, charm and mightily impressive muscles, while in the second he has to go on a mythic quest to save her from the hands of some nefarious arsehole or other (who might well be good at subterfuge, but lacks the thief’s charm and muscles).

The first half of the film is by far the best, with an exuberance and charm that almost dissipates away at times in the second section.

But there’s still a lot to like there too, including some genuinely incredible terrible monsters that the thief kills with a nicely manic fervour (and some impressive gouts of blood, smoke and what looks a bit like bile occasionally).

That first hour or so is just wonderful in pretty much every way, though, so if for some reason you’ve only got time to watch half of a 2 and a half hour silent film that’s 100 years old now, watch that half).



1. I first watched this on mubi, but it’s not on there any more. I grabbed the screenshots from youtube, where it will presumably be forevermore.

2. I’m not sure I’ve seen Douglas Fairbanks in anything else, but he’s incredible in this.

3. A huge swaggering proto-Brando of a performance.

4. This also has a brief but significant role for the always wonderful Anna May Wong (who was in The Toll Of The Sea) as a treacherous handmaiden (although considering she’s more slave than handmaiden, she’s probably right to be treacherous).

5. I still haven’t ever seen one of those American coins she was on.

6. I still want one.

7. This also has some lovely use of screen tinting (a nice delicate yellow for the outdoor scenes, a cool purple for the indoor scenes, some silvery black and white for the night time, and even green and reds for the forest and fire levels later on).

8. Which all gives it the feel of some 8-bit adventure game at times.


Film Information

Title: The Thief Of Bagdad
Director: Raoul Walsh
Year: 1924
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Cinderella (1922) / The Secret Of The Marquise (1922)

Cinderella (or Aschenputtel) is a short film from 1922, directed and animated by Lotte Reiniger in her signature paper cut outs and shadow silhouette style. It’s beautiful.

An adaptation of the traditional Cinderella story (unsurprisingly, given the title), this includes almost everything you could want from such a thing: evil mothers, grotesque sisters, wonderful transformations, beautiful costumes, dancing, surprisingly horrific mutilations, and even an exploding step-mother.

(Also there’s a nice example of the perils of outdated old language usage changing the entire meaning of the piece, when poor old Cinderella isn’t allowed to the party because she’s a “slut”.)

Lots of early cartoons seem to start with a sequence showing the artist drawing a characters before they magically come alive, and this has a nice variation on that with a pair of magical scissors cutting blank lumps of paper into shape, which I liked a lot. And as ever with Lotte Reiniger’s work is the sheer expressive artistry of it all.

The Secret Of the Marquise is also from 1922, and it seems to be unique (as far as my inexpert knowledge of Lotte Reiniger’s career can tell) in that it’s been reversed/inverted, so that the cutouts are in white and the backgrounds in black, which gives it all a nice ethereal air. It’s only short (2 minutes or so), but it’s as charmingly animated as ever, and whhen I watched this I was assuming it was another one of Lotte Reiniger’s fairy tale adaptations, so the reveal of what the Marquise’s secret actual was was unexpectedly funny, like some long lost 1920s Reeves and Mortimer sketch.



1. I watched this on various BFI collections (Cinderella is on the Lotte Reiniger Fairy Tales collection DVD, and The Secret Of The Marquise is an extra on The Tales Of Prince Achmed blu-ray).

2. But they’re also on youtube, which is where, as usual, I grabbed the screenshots from. The Secret Of The Marquise is exactly the same as the disc version, while Cinderella has music on youtube, and also maybe a clearer picture).

3. I’ve reviewed a couple of Lotte Reiniger’s other films here before: Der Fliegende Koffer (1921) and Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens (1919).

4. I don’t know why I gave them the German titles and these the English ones but I did so there.

5. Also I liked both of those just as much as I liked these probably.

6. Lotte Reiniger also made a version of Sleeping Beauty in 1922, but I can’t find any versions of it anywhere so is presumably lost. Although it might just be that my cursory Tuesday afternoon searching skills are off.

7. She remade that, and also Cinderella, in the 1950s, but that’s a long way beyond the scope of this website.

8. (But it’s good I liked it).


Film Information

Title: Cinderella
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Year: 1922
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: youtube

Title: The Secret Of The Marquise
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Year: 1922
Duration: 2 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Christmas Is 100 Years Old

The Little Match Seller (1902) / The Little Match Girl (1914)

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl is probably the saddest story ever written, and these two adaptations of it are suitably bleak.

The Little Match Seller, directed in 1902 by Percy Nash, is a masterpiece of minimalism. A single static shot of a young homeless girl in the snow, it makes great use of overlays/double exposures as she dreams of some heat and warmth and maybe even a smidgen of Christmas cheer. But of course there is none to be found.

It’s less than four minutes long, and utterly heartbreaking.

The second version, this time called The Little Match Girl, was directed by James Williamson in 1914. This one is a more elaborate affair, and piles on even more misery by including an alcoholic father and an absent, possibly dead, mother.

There’s some nice use of tinting here, which gives a fairly brutal sense of cold and genuine warmth to the relevant scenes, and the staging of the dreams is well done (although the animated turkey is both slightly strange and strangely unsettling). But though I liked it a lot, overall it lacks something compared to the economical poetry of the earlier version.

Merry Christmas, everyone.



1. I watched the 1902 version on youtube.

2. And the 1914 version on the BFI Player.

3. And you can read the original story here.

4. If you dare.

5. The 1914 version has Dutch intertitles. I’ve made some rough translations below (using google translate rather than any actual understanding of the language, so they might be wildly out):

2. On Christmas Eve
3. "Not a single bunch sold so far."
4. "Daddy will hit me."
5. Her father's daily abode.
6. If only she had her mother again.
7. "Did you bring me a lot of money?"
8. "Get out! And don't you dare come back without some money!"
9. "Would you like some matches, Sir?"
10. Barefoot
12. "Let me light just one match to keep me warm."
13. What she dreamed as she lit the second match.
14. "Just one more, because it's so terribly cold!"
15. "Take me with you, Mother. Don't leave me again!"
16. Christmas Morning - rest now, forever.


Film Information

Title: The Little Match Seller
Director: James Williamson
Year: 1902
Duration: 3 minutes
Watch: youtube

Title: The Little Match Girl
Director: Percy Nash
Year: 1914
Duration: 10 minutes
Watch: BFI Player; youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Der Fliegende Koffer (1921)

Der Fliegende Koffer (The Flying Suitcase) is another lovely Lotte Reiniger papercut animation, telling the fairy tale story of a princess imprisoned by her father in a tower to prevent a prophesied curse, only for her imprisonment to be the cause of that curse (this is why time travel is bad).

Anyway, the moral of the story is never imprison your daughter in a tower.



1. I watched this on Blu-ray (it’s an extra on the Adventures Of Prince Ahmed video).

2. But got the images from this version on youtube.

3. The disc version is music-less, if that makes any difference.

4. But I think I preferred it that way.

5. Another Lotte Reiniger film, Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens, was the very first thing I ever reviewed on here.

6. Which is nice.

7. I would have reviewed more if I could find any trace of the ones she’s supposed to have made in 1920

8. But I couldn’t, unfortunately.


Film Information

Title: Der Fliegende Koffer/The Flying Coffer/The Flying Suitcase
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Year: 1921
Duration: 8 minutes
Watch: youtube