Sunday, March 7, 2010

Another Tale of Arabian Nights: Road to Baghdad

My brother and his wife are spending their spring break here, so that can mean only one thing: the Watsons are playing Tales of Arabian Nights again. Tonight's tale of daring do stars Bob Hope as "Singbad" in The Road to Baghdad.

We meet our hero in Baghdad and he's already on the move. Singbad had been working the palace as the music instructor for the sultan's beautiful daughter. Jealous, the evil vizier Al-Fakir (Basil Rathbone) accuses him of being part of a failed attempt on the sultan's life (Bing Crosby). Singbad narrowly manages to escape the palace and becomes an Exile. He must continue to flee every turn lest the vizier's guards catch up with him and bring him back in chains. He flees to the area north of India to try to clear his name with nothing but his Luck, his Quick Thinking, and his talent for Seduction [which I never got to use the last time, so maybe I'll have better luck this time].

Moving through a field at night, Singbad thinks he encounters a ghostly beast (Dean Martin). Terrified, he calls for help, but no one answers and the beast moves on, singing drunkenly.

Arriving in a town, he finds a slave auction underway. As he stares at one of the robed slaves, the sounds of the nearby crowd fade into the background and before he realizes it, he has bid one coin to purchase the Disguised Slave, who turns out to be a cursed wizard and master hypnotist (Cary Grant). The wizard repays him the spent coin and adds many more besides in gratitude for his freedom. Singbad is now Rich.

At the next town, he enters a secret trap door to reveal a beautiful maiden (Dorothy Lamour). She reveals that she has been imprisoned there by an evil creature. A sudden noise terrifies her. She hides Singbad in the closet just before the angry efreet appears and slays her. Lacking Determination, Singbad does nothing but cower in the closet. Grief Stricken, he comes out of the closet ashamed of himself for his cowardice. He may not use any of his talents.

While sailing on a ship, a storm frightens the captain and crew. He observes them chanting in a strange language and making strange motions in the air. He tries to copy them, failing comically, but he passes off the job well enough that the ship is allowed to continue on its way without calamity. This teaches him Acting and Disguise.

As only Bob Hope can do, Singbad grovels before a wise sage (Sir Alec Guiness). Touched by his story, he invites Singbad to dinner, setting him at a place of honor. The other guests are amazed at the honor and respect shown the poor singer. The sage allows him to spend several days at his home, enjoying great pleasure and becoming Respected. He is able to help Singbad prove his innocence and the guilt of Al-Fakir. He must return to Baghdad with the valuable information!

Arriving back in Baghdad, Singbad sneaks into the palace where he encounters an enchanted beast. He tries to summon help, but no one is available. He tries to soothe the beast by singing, but that only frightens it instead. It attacks, Wounding him on the leg. The wound helps him to realize that there was really nothing he could have done to save the fair maiden and he has atoned for his cowardice. He is no longer Grief Stricken.

In a climactic moment, he reveals the vizier's treachery and the sultan executes him, anointing Singbad as the new vizier. He gains Wisdom and Courtly Graces, becomes the Vizier, his Origin is now Baghdad (so he has to return there after every encounter in any city) and is given a new quest to Seek Treasure for the sultan. But first, he waits and his wounds are healed by the sultan's daughter's tender ministrations. Such a pity he has to leave again!

In his travels, he has heard rumors of treasures in Africa, and so he heads south. Singbad meets up with a noble wizard (David Niven). He bargains with the wizard into sending him on a quest. If he returns having completed the task, he will give Singbad two treasures. Singbad is no longer tied down to Baghdad. The task must be performed in the legendary Cave of Wonders.

Following up on the rumors of treasure, he continues south to Bilma. Just outside of the town, Singbad finds a a gem in a tree. An angry Efreeteh turns him into a Beast Form - Singbad's nose grows even more.

In Bilma he also meet up with a Hairless Ape (Johnny Depp; a treasure!) who says he will help Singbad if he befriends him. Using Singbad's wisdom, the Ape is able to take him away to the Cave instantly.

At the Cave of Wonders, knowing his lack of fighting or magic skills, Singbad hires a magician to help him gain entrance. As soon as the passageway opens, however, a large man with a scimitar attacks, kills the wizard, and the cave seals once more. In his frustration, he gains Weapon Use and becomes Grief Stricken over leading to the death of the enchanter.

Here we go again!

No comments: