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1001 Arabian Nights (1959)
Topic Started: Jun 23 2018, 02:07 PM (141 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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1001 Arabian Nights (1959) Dir. Jack Kinney(!)
UPA / Columbia
75 min. / Color / 1.85:1
DVD: Shout! Factory

The nearsighted Abdul Azziz Magoo helps his stupid nephew Aladdin avoid the scheming Vizier, free the nebbish genie of the lamp, ride the flying carpet, and woo the princess Yasminda.

Seemed like a good idea... the first UPA feature production, a surefire story, music by five-time Oscar nominee George Duning, directed by one of Walt Disney's favorites, and featuring the Oscar-winning Mr. Magoo, with an impressive voice cast including, naturally, Jim Backus, plus Kathryn Grant, Dwayne Hickman, Hans Conreid, Daws Butler, Alan Reed, and Herschel Bernardi as the genie.

One wonders what happened.

Oh, the result isn't exactly AWFUL, but it's awfully UNIMPRESSIVE, with surprisingly too much Magoo and the Vizier and not enough of Aladdin and his princess. There's no heart in the film, and the gags are the run-of-the-mill "Magoo mistakes one thing for another and goes here when he meant to go there, and thinks he's here when he's not") that works in a lot of the short cartoons but rather bores over the course of a feature. I remember liking the second (and final) UPA feature, Gay Purr-ee, when I was a kid, but I have no memories of ever seeing this one, and if I did, I understand why not - it's quickly forgotten.

Million-dollar Dialog:
The Genie, after the Vizier attempts to masquerade himself as Aladdin's long-lost 'Uncle Ben': "I've known hundreds of Uncle Bens. Every one of them rubs me the wrong way."

A major disappointment. Lifeless.

Also on the Program

We enjoyed the bonus material more than the feature, including a half-hour history of Magoo featuring Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, and others, and a vintage 7 min. short with Jim Backus walking us through the production of the film. Great stuff.

Since we usually show a cartoon with our feature, we paired a live-action short with the cartoon feature: Monsieur Pointu, a 1975 Canadian cartoon with a ghastly-looking mime attempting to play his violin while his instrument, jacket, and hats leap about of their own free will. Would've terrified any children in the room.

More on 1001 Arabian Nights can be found here.
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"Gay Purr-ee" is probably worth another review.

Back in the 60s when there were few animated features available to television -- VERY few that weren't ancient -- it was a semi-big deal holiday show. It's colorful and fun to look at, with some appealing songs and a bit of a Loony Tunes vibe (Chuck Jones's hand is visible in the gags and character designs; his frequent collaborator Abe Levitow directed).

What's weird is the story: a sendup of melodramas where the innocent country girl goes to the big city and falls into the clutches of thinly disguised white slavers (they're selling her as a mail-order bride; marriage makes it kid-friendly). What are kids to make of Judy Garland, as the desperate heroine cat, singing about a cold, heartless Paris and belting "River! Be my lover!"
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