The two great American directors contribute a commentary to the Criterion Collection's double-disc DVD version of the 1940 fantasy classic, an "Arabian Nights"-like tale complete with a genie in the bottle.
Scorsese and Coppola try to stick to their knitting -- breaking down the early Technicolor film's dazzling special effects, the editing and acting and such -- but for the most part they're nostalgia-sodden fans, remembering how it was as boys, letting the "Thief of Bagdad" magic wash over them.
"It's like a family heirloom," says Coppola, who passed his love of the film on to his director daughter and son. A recent gift from the kids to dad was a 35mm version of the film.
Scorsese tries to explain how the film's appeal never faded: "It's childlike but not childish. ... Irony free."
"Every scene was a masterpiece of composition, of color and particularly the costumes. ... Magic on the screen."
Criterion's long-awaited release includes a beautiful restored version of the film, the audio commentaries with the directors (recorded separately), a second fact-filled talk by film historian Bruce Eder (another lover of the film), and a music and effects track.
On disc 2, the supplements include a talky but solid half-hour docu about the film's special effects innovations, including blue screens; audio tapes of director Michael Powell talking about the project, the effects of war breaking out, and working with top-billed producer Alexander Korda; and a 1976 audio interview with maestro Miklos Rozsa.
The film features high-energy work from boy star Sabu (the thief) and John Justin (the dashing hero), but everyone on the DVD wants to talk about the power of the German actor Conrad Veidt ("Doctor Caligari," "Casablanca").
Veidt played the villain, a hypnotist and magician. "His eyes were extraordinary," Scorsese says.
Director Powell recalled, "I never forgot that I was working with a great star who knew where the camera was -- as well as I did."
Coppola coos over Veidt's performance -- "so mysterious and so passionate" -- adding that he actually paid money for an autographed photo of the man.
Also circling the DVD blog's players this week:
- Cassandra's Dream: Woody Allen continues his explorations of the dark side of life across the pond with a tale of two brothers talked into committing murder for profit. Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell are splendid as the dumb and dumber duo who do the deed. Like a lower-caste "Match Point," only better.
- Gunsmoke: Second Season, Vol. 2: I have a new appreciation for "Gunsmoke," having reviewed a couple of these box sets from the CBS perennial's early years. Season 1 was the best, I suspect, but here is more action from the same era. Check out Kitty as a hottie and Matt as a death-dealer. Cool.
- The Invaders: The First Season: Appointment TV for 13-year-old me. Can't say if it holds up.
New and notable:
Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything (BBC Video/Warner)
Cassandra's Dream (The Weinstein Co./Genius Products)
The Color Honeymooners Collection 3 (MPI Home Video)
The Dario Argento Box Set (Anchor Bay)
Grace Is Gone (Weinstein/Genius)
Gunsmoke: Second Season, Vol. 2 (Paramount)
Holocaust (miniseries, Paramount)
The Invaders: The First Season (Paramount)
Jackass Presents: Mat Hoffman's Tribute to Evel Knievel (Paramount)
Rambo (also Blu-ray, Lionsgate)
Rawhide: Season 3, Vol. 1 (Paramount)
The Take (Sony)
The Thief of Bagdad (The Criterion Collection)
The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 2 -- 1937-1939 (Sony)
The Walker (ThinkFilm)