The Golden Blade
Rating: **
Origin: USA, 1953
Director: Nathan Juran
Source: Universal DVD

The Golden Blade

Every year for a while Universal popped out another of these quickie Arabian fantasies, further amortizing the costumes and sets they’d built for Arabian Nights in 1942. It’s a tribute to Piper Laurie that she managed to star in three of these things in succession and still go on to have a distinguished career in film. By this time Tony Curtis had left Bagdad for Camelot, so Universal roped in rising star Rock Hudson to play the male lead, Harun. The story is rudimentary: Harun’s father, the Sultan of Basra, is slain by mysterious assailants whom Harun tracks to Bagdad. There, in the same used-clothing shop, he encounters Khairuzan (Laurie), the incognito daughter of the caliph who likes to go slumming among the commoners, and a magical golden blade, the Sword of the Prophecy of the Destiny of Fate or something, that only exhibits its powers when wielded by Harun. This is never really explained, like at all, but that’s par for the course in this sloppy farrago. For example, Harun’s quest to avenge his father is conveniently forgotten for most of the picture, as he gets drawn by Khairuzan into improbable shenanigans at the caliph’s court. There’s a dumb palace conspiracy involving an evil vizier inevitably named Jafar (the always-reliable George Macready, looking embarrassed), his dim-witted and brutal son, a scheming noblewoman, a Greek merchant, giggling half-clad harem girls, and an endless supply of disposable palace guards.

Sounds like a total loss, right? Not quite: the bad guys wear scorpion medallions (you heard me: scorpion medallions!), Piper Laurie has got the Adorable turned up to eleven, and there’s one amazing, essential scene where Harun, at a palace party, gets totally stoned smoking whatever’s in that tall, pink hookah while watching an “Oriental” dancer undulate in front of him. In his hallucinatory state the dancer transforms into Khairuzan, and he pursues her weaving through an endless hall hung with filmy, fluttering salmon-pink curtains. Far out! I had to watch it twice. Meanwhile his magic golden blade is being stolen and replaced by an imitation, in a plot engineered by Jafar so his doofus son can win a tournament that … nah, never mind, it’s just too dumb to recount.

At least Hudson’s smarmy grin is wiped off his face for a while, as, without his magic sword, he becomes a sad-sack loser who can’t do anything right. The golden blade gets stuck in a marble pillar, and nobody can pull it out, not nohow, except for guess who? (Tony Curtis may have run off to Camelot, but he left Excalibur behind in Bagdad.) When Harun finally draws the magic blade everything wraps up double quick in a spasm of bloodless mayhem, and Harun is reunited with Khairuzan, who was only pretending to hate him. She has a nice smile.