Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Tits & Sand: The Adventures of Hajji Baba (1954)

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It’s been a while since I last reviewed a Tits & Sand movie – to use the label coined by Maureen O’Hara. These 1001 Nights-style movies were a staple of my childhood, and I thought I had seen them all, repeatedly. And yet, I’ve just found a movie I had missed – which is quite strange.

The film is called The Adventures of Hajji Baba, and it was directed in 1954 by Don Weiss, a director with a long TV experience, whose best known films are probably The Affairs of Dobie Gills and the beach party classic The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, with Boris Karlof.
The Adventures of Hajji Baba features John Derek, an actor I always found insufferable, and this might explain why I never watched this specific film. Opposite Derek – who portrays the titular Persian barber – is Elaine Stewart, in the role of bratty, spoiled princess Fawzia of Ispharan.

The story is based on a popular book series from the previous century, that started with The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan (1824), by British diplomat and author James Justin Morier. The stories are a series of picaresque historical adventures If you’re interested, the Project Gutenberg has an ebook version of the novel, available for free. If you are in antiquarian pursuits, it would be a nice idea to look for a copy of the 1937 edition, illustrated by Cyrus Leroy Balridge

The story unfolds as adventure-seeking barber Hajji Baba hooks up with the aforementioned bratty Fawzia, who’s escaped her caliph father’s palace to join rogue prince Nur-El-Din. Hajji accepts to escort the princess – for a price – and along the way they meet a caravan, fall foul of all-women band of Turkoman raiders and while they are hanging in the sun waiting to die, discover they have fallen in love. Once Nur-El-Din comes to the rescue, it’s up to hajji to find a way to get the woman he loves back.

And the movie is quite fun, and beautifully shot in thrilling locations. It manages to keep the viewer’s attention despite the fact that the two leads are extremely unsympathetic: Fawzia is spoiled and capricious, and Hajji is greedy and superficial; their bickering has nothing of the charm of classic screwball comedies, and they grate on the viewer’s nerves.

Hajji also shows somewhat dubious tastes in women – considering he gets the option of joining the queen of the Turkoman women, a smart, enterprising redhead portrayed by Gunsmoke‘s Amanda Blake.

And yet, the movie works, and is filled with chases and duels and beautiful, scantly-clad women. It features the inescapable dance scene – here courtesy of Rosamarie Bowe, the real-life wife of Robert Stack, wearing one of the unlikeliest exotic costumes ever seen in an adventure movie.

There is a title song, performed by Nat King Cole, and a very bombastic soundtrack by Dimitri Tiomkin. And all in all delivers the exotic thrills as promised.
There’s sand in it, and lots of it. And ditto tits.

And if anyone’s interested, a fine copy of the movie is available on Youtube.

Not a bad way to waste one hour and a half.

Oh, and as a curiosity – the film was distributed in Spain with the title “Black Amazons”, shifting the whole focus on the Turkoman bandit women, admittedly much more fascinating than the two leads.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Tits & Sand: The Adventures of Hajji Baba (1954)

  1. “Black Amazons” eh?
    One of Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark adventures was titled “Black Amazon of Mars” (Planet Stories March 1951) She wasn’t racially black, she wore black armour and helmet. Long before Doctor Doom or Darth Vader, and she kicked ass as hard as either of them.
    I must look at this movie and read the novel online. When you say something is worth a look, I pay attention.

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    • I love Brackett, and “Black Amazon of Mars” was one of the first stories of hers I read.
      And in the movie the Amazons are not black and do not wear black but in one scene – but movie titles in translation can be pretty wild.
      The film is good, if not great. I hope you’ll like it.

      Like

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