Thursday 13 December 2018

On Blu-ray - David Hare welcomes THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA (Don Weis, USA, 1954)

The scrumptious John Derek and equally scrumptious Elaine Stewart (above, click on either picture for an enlarged slideshow) in Don Weis' 1954 Scope adventure for Fox, The Adventures of Hajji Baba. 
The disc is from a stunning new Twilight Time Blu-ray disc with a doozy of a 2K transfer by Fox's Schawn Belston. 
Fox's proprietary version of Eastmancolor, DeLuxe is given a gigantic boost here by Cukor favorites, Production Designer Gene Evans and Color Consultant, George Hoyningen-Huene. As you can see from the screens (above, and more clearly below) only a master of color design could stage a major scene like the prelude to the last act in black and white wardrobe with a single gash of scarlet against the blue desert sky. 
You know you're in for something extra special, when the opening credits finally roll after several minutes of a harem of female slaves awaiting auction, laid out in long lateral tracks for the Scope frame, sharing space with a bevy of mostly topless hairy chested men getting haircuts and oil rubs from the likes of John Derek, the humble barber's son . 
Walter Wanger, probably the most interesting independent Hollywood producer from the "golden years", takes producer credit, with a seductively persuasive "Arabian" score, here in the original 1954 four track audio from Dimitri Tiomkin which carries the movie with grace and excitement. 
The movie unleashes such a visual and musical assault on the senses, you simply take for granted such elements as dressing the entire female cast with startingly modern 50s Dior style makeup and coiffures (Edward Polo), and post Dior Islamic chic wardrobe (ReniĆ©). 
So at one level the movie plays it straight as an exotic period adventure, suitable for the kids, which it does much more convincingly than Minnelli's knowingly camp Kismet from 1955, but the absence of camp here or any other "grown up" savvy in Don Weis' approach to the material basically commits itself to an endless display of beautiful women, playing the game of the ages against an extremely good looking hero, (with the opening possibility of equally beautiful men) all given the ripe visual sensuality only such a spectacle could command. 
This and I Love Melvin must be my top Don Weis movies.

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