Review: The Adventures of Prince Achmed / Cert: PG / Director: Lotte Reiniger / Screenplay: Lotte Reiniger / Starring: N/A / Release Date: Out Now
I see a silhouetto of a man. Not Scaramouche, doing the fandango (predictable joke), but Prince Achmed, riding his magical flying horse. Based on stories from The Arabian Nights, Lotte Reiniger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed is one of the earliest ever feature-length animated films. And, with the others sadly no longer with us (presumably forever lost, along with those Doctor Who episodes and The Day the Clown Cried) this right here is a genuine piece of cinematic history. No, it's not Pixar, but it is strikingly beautiful. Haven't you had enough of cuddly cartoon characters by now, anyway? Archaic this may be, but outclassed? Never.
Otherwise known as The Tale of the Magic Horse, it tells the story of young prince Achmed, a brave fellow, hungry for adventure and excitement. This comes in the form of his mechanical horse, created by an evil sorcerer. From Baghdad to China, via Fiery Mountain and across the enchanted land of Wak-Wak, Achmed adventures his way to a final showdown with the sinister sorcerer of the piece. All of this and an appearance from Aladdin, too! Created over a period of three years, using intricate shadow puppets, it's aged very well. As with Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Nosferatu, inventive special effects serve it well. Racing through a series of colourful setpieces and beautiful designs, Prince Achmed is fun for all the family, laying down the very foundations for Disney and Pixar as it trundles on its merry way.
BFI have done a great job with this restoration, which comes with a number of soundtracks and must-see special features. Along with the original orchestral score by Wolfgang Zeller, there's a brand new narration of the story, based upon Reiniger's own translation, read by actress Penelope McGhie. Both bear watching, giving Prince Achmed even more replay value.
Animation aficionados, cinema historians and those bored of the current slew of CGI cartoons would be well recommended to seek out their copy of The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Again, I see a silhouetto of a man. Prince Achmed, I will do the fandango with you anytime.
Extras: Five short animated films / Illustrated booklet