Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Princess of the Nile (1954)

The recent recommendation of my fellow "B" movie fan, John Knight, prompted me to dig out a VHS tape of PRINCESS OF THE NILE. I'd recorded the movie quite a while ago and finally caught up with it tonight. John's right -- this one is grand fun. Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef in a den of thieves? Yes, please!

Debra Paget plays Egyptian Princess Shalimar, who masquerades as a dancer in the local marketplace in order to know what's going on with her people and politics.

Two men enter her city -- evil Rama Khan (Michael Rennie) and handsome young Prince Haidi (Jeffrey Hunter). There's all sorts of intrigue, as Rama Khan and Prince Haidi battle for the princess and control of the city; Haidi is aided by a merry band of thieves loyal to the princess, including the aforementioned Elam and Van Cleef.

There's a secret entrance to swim into the palace, lots of beautiful handmaidens (including Dona Drake and Merry Anders), sword battles galore, a couple steamy love scenes (one with rather surprising inferences for 1954), and Debra Paget performing a succession of rather eye-popping dances. Paget fans should be in heaven with this movie.

This is 71 minutes of pure escapism, a lighthearted Saturday matinee adventure in the tradition of movies such as FLAME OF ARABY (1951). It's all preposterous and played out against some not-very-convincing matte paintings, but who cares, when you've got Princess Shalimar in her gorgeous bathing pool or Prince Haidi and Rama Khan dueling with scimitars? Plus Lee Van Cleef has a line partway through which made me sputter with delighted laughter.

The film was a reunion for Paget and Hunter, who played a young couple in FOURTEEN HOURS (1951) and also appeared together in BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952); they were later both seen in WHITE FEATHER (1955). Both were young and attractive and appear to be having a good time amidst all the silliness, which counts for a lot in a movie like this.

The supporting cast includes Edgar Barrier, Michael Ansara, Wally Cassell, and Billy Curtis.

The film was directed by Harmon Jones from a script by Gerald Drayson Adams. The Technicolor photography was by Lloyd Ahern.

I watched the movie via a recording from Fox Movie Channel. It's available on DVD-R in the Fox Cinema Archives line; John Knight gives the print high marks. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

As one of the reviewers at IMDb says, PRINCESS OF THE NILE is "a cheerfully mindless, breathlessly fast-paced, dazzling testament to the glories of 3-strip Technicolor -- and the seductive charms of Ms. Paget."

I really enjoyed this and will be looking to pick up the DVD in the future. Recommended.

7 Comments:

Blogger Kristina D said...

Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef ANYWHERE, yes please. :) just missing Neville Brand...
Wow. Jeff Hunter and Debra Paget, just wow. Eye candy. Looks really interesting!

3:26 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Dear Laura,
Thanks for the mention on your wonderful blog,it just does not get any better!
So glad that you enjoyed PRINCESS OF THE NILE,I know its more of a pantomime than
a movie but what great fun.
I guess this film is far too lowbrow for the likes of Blake and Colin....only kidding
guys!..but I really admire Laura for highlighting these obscure gems.
Love that handmaiden with the immortal line..."I am Zoe!"
Loved your review of GUN DUEL IN DURANGO, its great to see a cheaply made minor film
get such an informed write-up.
Well,this time tomorrow I will be in London and I still do not know if I can get
onto Google Chrome.
Laura,while I am away and you start reviewing lots of George Montgomery,Sam Katzman
Pine-Thomas,Louis King,Lesley Selander I am going to go nuts if I cannot chip in
on-line,though I will check to see whats happening on a daily basis.
I am kidding of course,getting that mention has put me in a really silly mood
or I should say a sillier mood than usual!

4:06 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Nothing is too lowbrow for me, John. But I did comment on PRINCESS OF THE NILE earlier--caught up with it just a few years ago. Maybe I was expecting more of an Egyptian movie than an Arabian Nights movie or something and so was disappointed but even with Elam and Van Cleef I was kind of underwhelmed.

But I want to stress that I do like Arabian Nights movies. My favorite is THE PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF (directed by Rudolph Mate and a U-I movie that provided the first starring roles for Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie)--that one is quite magical and beautiful. My second favorite is 40s classic ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (Arthur Lubin) with Maria Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu--a wonderful and at times outrageous (in the best way) movie. And next would probably be THE GOLDEN BLADE (Nathan Juran) so Universal, at one time or another, seems to have cornered the market on the best ones, but on the other hand one shouldn't forget Juran's later THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD with its Ray Harryhausen sequences and a great score by Bernard Herrmann.

I love all kinds of movies--I hope you know that and I think you do since you said "only kidding." But it's also true that all genres have their ups and downs.

Speaking of which GUN DUEL IN DURANGO is a Western I've never seen (there always seems to be more in the 50s no matter how many I have seen) so thanks for writing it up, Laura. Sidney Salkow directed by favorite George Montgomery ROBBER'S ROOST so my expectations for this are good. And at least one can always count on Montgomery wearing a great hat!

By the way, if anyone wants to see the most jaw dropping erotic dancing by Debra Paget in a genre movie ever, make a point to see the Fritz Lang Indian Diptych THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR/THE INDIAN TOMB (1959), made near the end of Lang's career and high among his masterpieces.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Kristina, I will make a note you need this one. ; I bet you'd enjoy, it's fun!

John, Thanks so much for your comment, it gave me a nice smile to start the week and I'm so pleased you enjoyed my posts on both PRINCESS OF THE NILE and GUN DUEL IN DURANGO. I like your description of PRINCESS! Wishing you a happy trip to London, and we'll all be looking forward to your comments upon your return.

Blake, Glad you could chime in on this one too! Wonder if there's a chance you would enjoy a revisit to this film, having a better idea what to expect. I've found that's been the case in my own viewing on occasion. But in any event many thanks for sharing all these great "Arabian Nights" titles, none of which I've seen! Your description of THE PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF is especially appealing.

In addition to SERPENT OF THE NILE I pulled out an old Fox Movie Channel recording of THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA which I'm curious to check out -- the beautiful Elaine Stewart plus the music of Nat King Cole?!

I'd enjoying knowing what you think if you see GUN DUEL IN DURANGO, Blake. I found it once of those nice well-made "comfort food" type movies, to resurrect a description John mentioned the other day.

Finally, thanks for the Debra Paget recommendation, I really enjoy her. (I see she recently celebrated her 80th birthday.) I wish that DVD were more easily available, perhaps there will be a reissue at some point.

Thanks to you all for the great "movie conversation," you keep my notebook full of future viewing ideas!

Best wishes,
Laura

1:06 PM  
Blogger Jeff Flugel said...

Great post, Laura - and thanks for pointing this movie out to me! It's sounds delightful and that cast and Arabian Nights sort of fodder are right up my alley!

I'll heartily second Blake's recommendation of THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR/THE INDIAN TOMB Lang double feature...Debra Paget's wildly sexy dance is truly something to behold.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Nero Grimes said...

Blake Lucas said..."Nothing is too lowbrow for me, John. But I did comment on PRINCESS OF THE NILE earlier--caught up with it just a few years ago. Maybe I was expecting more of an Egyptian movie than an Arabian Nights movie or something and so was disappointed but even with Elam and Van Cleef I was kind of underwhelmed."

Underwhelmed? With a habitually wet Paget? AND her sword fighting in a barely there chain costume?

This is USDA Prime Low Brow.

Blake Lucas said..."But I want to stress that I do like Arabian Nights movies. My favorite is THE PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF (directed by Rudolph Mate and a U-I movie that provided the first starring roles for Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie)--that one is quite magical and beautiful. but on the other hand one shouldn't forget Juran's later"

I love the U/I 'sand and cleavage' easterners. Piper Laurie's contortionist thief freaked me out as a kid when she twisted her way through those window bars.

Blake Lucas said..."THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD with its Ray Harryhausen sequences and a great score by Bernard Herrmann."

I prefer The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. No annoying kid jinns. John Phillip Law keeps a decent accent, Caroline Munro is the most robust of the slavegirl/sidechicks, and Tom Baker is the best villain.

Besides, the Kali statue fight is too cool.

5:26 PM  
OpenID bunnybunclassicmovies.com said...

Debra Paget to me is one of the best dancers that came out of Hollywood. My other favorites are Vera Zorina, Rita Hayworth and Cyd Charisse but Paget isn't as known and not given credit for her dancing contributions.

6:01 PM  

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