The Blessèd Reverend Repulski was thunderstruck by the Hollywood movie musical “Kismet” on The
Movie Channel yesterday. “I actually saw this thing at the Loew’s Valencia, in 1955,” he recalls.
“But I had no idea of the larger meaning then. It’s beyond gruesome. It’s something Salvador Dali
couldn’t do on a bad day.”
What is the larger meaning? “The most sinister and devastating Al Qaeda plot would be to
distribute 100,000 DVD players and DVDs of that flick on the Arab street,” Repulski says.
“There wouldn’t be a live Americano left from Bombay to San Francisco.”
Shot in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor, “Kismet” centers on a poor Baghdad poet who
attains the rank of Emir in a single day and marries off his daughter to the Caliph.
(As Robert Horton points out, “One comic number revolves around a man about to
have his hand chopped off for thievery.”) The movie was adapted from the 1953 Broadway musical of the
same name, a show that even Amazon considers “Broadway at its most
Directed by Vincent Minelli, the movie starred chesty Howard
Keel, belting Dolores Gray (“Baghdad, this irresistible town!”), wet
rag Vic Damone, Ann Blyth, Monty Woolley and a cast of road-company extras. From the
beginning film critics regarded this musical Arabian night as a Minelli failure.
A half-century on it may be the kitschiest movie musical ever made.
The song list alone is staggering. It includes “Sands Of Time,” “Not Since Ninevah,”
“Was I Wuzir,” “Bazaar of the Caravans,” “Rahadlakum,” “The Olive Tree,” and two pop hits of
the period, “Stranger in Paradise” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.”
“If that’s not enough to incite the Arab street,” Repulski says, “Doug Fairbanks and Sabu in
their Mideast flicker fantasies, distributed in equal quantities, would do the trick.”