Director: Grigori Lomidze
Release Date: 1959
Rating: ★★★

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves © SoyuzmultfilmFilmed in two colors, ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ is a long puppet animation film from the Soviet Union.

The short takes half an hour to retell the famous story from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights quite faithfully. The film features the death of two characters, but the grim ending of the original story is lacking. Instead of being killed, the forty thieves are captured by the townspeople.

Interestingly, Ali Baba is not the real hero of the story, but rather his wife, a girl he bought on a slave market, unfortunately run by the very thieves he had robbed earlier. It’s this slave girl who decoys and fools the thieves to their own destruction.

The film uses a narrator who does all the voices, and a very lush score by composer Eduard Kolmanovsky. The film is quite slow and the puppet animation isn’t as sophisticated as in contemporary films by Jiří Trnka. The puppets have no facial expression whatsoever, and cannot move anything in their face, except for the gang leader, who can roll his one eye. Only occasionally their emotions become apparent. The best example of this may be the terror of Ali Baba’s neighbor when he realizes he’s trapped inside the thieves’ cave.

About the film’s director, Grigori Lomidze, little is known. He also directed the propaganda film ‘To You , Moscow‘ (1947), which combines live action and cel animation. Nothing points to a long experience in stop motion, and unfortunately, it shows. Nevertheless, ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ is a charming film, succeeding in evoking the typical atmosphere of the Arabian Nights.

Watch ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ yourself and tell me what you think: