• Adventures of Hajji Baba, The (Twilight Time) Blu-Ray Review

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: October 16, 2018.
    Director: Don Weis
    Cast: John Derek, Elaine Stewart, Thomas Gomez, Amanda Blake, Paul Picerni, Rosemarie Bowe, Donald Randolph
    Year: 1954

    The Adventures-Of-Haji-Baba - Movie Review:

    Don Weis' 1954 film, The Adventures Of Hajji Baba opens with a theme song of sorts by the wonderful Nat King Cole, the words, "Hajji Hajji Hajji Hajji Hajji Hajji Hajji Baba Hajji Baba" repeated a few times before ol' Nat spreads the word of Hajji Baba and his loving ways through the numerous verses. This is a strange and unexpected musical opening, and it creates a bizarre feeling of unrest in the viewer as they wait to see where exactly this adventure is going.

    Thankfully, even though the song pops up quite a few times more in the movie (it feels like about every thirty-eight seconds), the film doesn't waste any more time with silliness, and introduces us to a marketplace of sorts in Ispahan, a small Iranian village, where barber's son Hajji Baba (John Derek) exercises his skills as a masseuse, and delights in the tales of adventure and excitement that the local merchants share. Hajji eagerly joins in the conversation, bragging that he will be leaving the village to make his fortune in the world. The other men are quick to warn him of ambushes and bandits, but the enthusiastic Hajji is not to be dissuaded.

    Meanwhile, the beautiful but very grumpy Princess Fawzia (Elaine Stewart) is arguing with her father, the Caliph, in regards to her upcoming nuptials. The Princess is attracted to the infamous Prince Nur-El-Din (Paul Picerni) and he to her, his reputation as the territory's bad boy of beheading giving her the promise of a lifetime of thrills, but the Caliph is more interested in setting her up with a more respectable man that he approves of. Being feisty and seventeen, the Princess wants none of the Caliph's lame-o friends, and makes her escape from Ispahan when she hears that Nur-El-Din has sent an emissary to the outskirts of the village to accompany her to the Prince's tented bed.

    Through a series of fateful events, Fawzia ends up in the company of the wide-eyed Hajji Baba, who agrees to chaperone her through the desert in exchange for a massive emerald ring. The resulting pursuit from the Caliph's guardsmen and other interested parties provides Hajji the excitement and danger he'd hoped for, but things get kicked up a notch when they encounter the Turcoman women, a brash group of female bandits who spit out their dialogue like Tura Satana (no, really, all of them), led by the sexy-but-tough-as-nails-Tura-soundalike Banah (Amanda Blake). Hajji gets a free pass to Banah's good graces when he provides her with a healing massage that only his skilled hands are capable of, but this gateway backrub also gets him a VIP pass to the back door of Banah's boudoir.

    All things considered, this should end up as a happy ending for the adventurous masseuse and the engaged Princess, but it's about this time that the two realize that their quarrelsome jaunt across the sand has rendered them hopelessly in love with each other. Banah's approach to being spurned falls along the lines of crucifixion, while Nur-El-Din's drifts in the direction of decapitation, and it'll take one heck of a massage from barber's son Hajji Hajji Hajji Hajji Hajji Baba Hajji Baba to emerge unscathed.

    The Adventures of Hajji Baba is a simple story that definitely would have been filed under Romantic Kinda Comedy back in 1954, and as such, relies heavily on the performances and chemistry of the leads to sell it. And thankfully, John Derek pulls this off admirably (for being the most Caucasian Iranian ever) with his enthusiasm and convincing wide-eyed approach to the role, peppering his performance with witty nuances and a dazzling smile. Elaine Stewart is equally competent as the temper tantrum-prone Princess Fawzia, interjecting her lines with enough distaste and exasperation to convey the character without taking the easy way out and going overboard. A solid supporting cast doesn't hurt, and this film parades an impressive number of accomplished actors across the screen, though most would be uncredited. There's a bit of swordplay, even some offscreen suggested violence, but this is not an action-adventure film.

    A swell score and colourful set pieces help to round out the package deal, with a wardrobe expected of films of that era, though the film must be docked a point for the silly theme song. All in all, though, The Adventures of Hajji Baba is a fun watch, and an entertaining accompaniment to the books by James Morier.

    The Adventures-Of-Haji-Baba - Blu-Ray Review:

    The Adventures of Hajji Baba comes to Twilight Time Blu-ray with an AVC-encoded 2.55:1 transfer (the Cinemascope logo takes up the majority of poster space in a number of the advertisements of the time) that looks good, with the colourful look of the film fairly popping on the screen. Bright and sharp, there's a good amount of detail here with a lack of noise and other issues. While there may be a bit of DNR happening here, it's certainly not as distracting or fake-looking as has been seen in the past.

    A number of audio options are available, with the preferred track being the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 selection. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is also decent, but as has been the case with a number of Twilight Time releases, that 5.1 opens things up a bit and gives the film a little more atmosphere. In any event, surrounds are used very lightly, balance is good, and there's a lack of clicks, pops, hiss, and distortion.

    An Isolated Effects and Score track is also available, as are English Subs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

    A Trailer for the film, the Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue, and booklet essay by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo round out the extras.

    The Adventures-Of-Haji-Baba - The Final Word:

    An enjoyable time-waster, The Adventures of Hajji Baba looks and sounds fine on this Twilight Time release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Adventures Of Haji Baba Blu-ray screen caps!