Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eastern Dreams by Paul Nurse, review

My review of Paul Nurse's Eastern Dreams: How the Arabian Nights Came to the World (2010) published by Penguin/Viking Canada is now online at the Journal of Folklore Research.

You can read the review here:

Paul Nurse's book has been out for several months now but is limited in its release to primarily Canada, which, given the book's scope and applicability, is too bad. Perhaps future editions will be given a wider distribution. You can, however, buy it from Amazon Canada with your Amazon user ID from the US or anywhere (

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arabian Adventure

My award for creepiest film genie goes to Milton Reid (see his bio: who was also involved in an Aladdin film and an adult film version of the Nights as well as a couple of James Bond movies.

You can witness his genie in the cursorily Nights related 1979 film Arabian Adventure (, which, like most Nights films has little to do with the Nights but features flying carpets, a genie, an evil wazir and other assorted Hollywood Orientalismos.

The movie, by the way, features a big name cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mickey Rooney and John Ratzenberger (Cliff!), among many others, and is directed by Kevin Connor, director of one of my favorite 80s horror flicks Motel Hell.

Here's the genie clip from youtube:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pasolini's Il Fiore Online

For those of you with access to Netflix ( the online dvd rental company now has a streaming version of Pasolini's 1974 movie Il Fiore Delle Mille e Una Notte (

The film on netflix is in Italian with English subtitles. It is a fairly rare, out of print film and rated NC-17 though the sexuality is not over the top. The movie does, however, have lots of naked people!

I'm not sure how netflix works with non-USA users (can you buy a subscription only to watch their extensive online collection?) or if it's even possible. I know there are several "torrent" versions available but many of the torrent sites are unreliable. Google videos removed a free version I had posted a link to a long while ago.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Arabian Nights

Here's a great audio interview/synopsis of the history of the Nights from the BBC with Interviewer Melvyn Bragg, Robert Irwin, author of The Arabian Nights: A Companion and Professors Marina Warner and Gerard van Gelder.

Some text from the page:

"Melvyn Bragg discusses the myths, tales and legends of the Arabian Nights.

Once upon a time a wealthy merchant grew hot in the sun and sat down under a tree. Having eaten a date, he threw aside the stone, and immediately there appeared before him a Genie of enormous height who, holding a drawn sword in his hand, approached him, and said, “rise that I may kill thee”.

This is from The Arabian Nights, a collection of miraculous tales including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Sinbad the Sailor. Forged in the medieval Arab world, it became so popular in Europe that the 18th century Gothic writer Horace Walpole declared “Read Sinbad the Sailor’s Voyages and you will grow sick of Aeneas”.

Its origins are Indian and Persian but it was championed initially by an 18th century Frenchman, Antoine Galland. Celebrated for its fabulous stories, it is a patchwork of sex, violence, magic, adventure, and cruelty – a far cry from the children’s book that it has become.

With Robert Irwin, Senior Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; Marina Warner, Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex; Gerard van Gelder, Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Aladdin's Lamp

From 1001 Nights

I came across this great picture of a book that is currently up for "adoption" by the American Antiquarian Society ( where you can adopt books for preservation.

The book's information from the website:

Adopted by Cleota Reed

Aladdin or the wonderful lamp. (Little Delights). New York: McLoughlin Bros., [ca. 1868-1874]

This copy of Aladdin is an excellent example of McLoughlin Bros.' attractive editions of fairy tales in an economical eight-page format.
~ Laura Wasowicz

Sunday, October 10, 2010

1001 Nights in Croatia

Booksellers in Croatia are finding it hard to keep copies of the Arabian Nights on the shelves and several publishers are filling the gaps by producing more versions there.  This run on the Nights though has little to do with the book and more to do with the Turkish Soap Opera called Binbir Gece ( even though the TV show has little to do with the story collection (has that ever stopped anyone from using the name??).  Turkish Soap Operas are a craze unto their own as followers of the hit show Nour will readily tell you ( but this current Nights-craze is a precedent.  Publishers are not speaking out against the sales of the books despite the discrepancy between the show and the text however...neither are the Turkish language classes in Croatia...

More from

"Bookstores riding the wave of 'Arabian Nights-mania'

Croatian Times
Turkish soap opera fans have been snapping up editions of a book with the same name as their favourite TV series, only to find it has nothing to do with the soap.

The book "One Thousand and One Nights" (or Arabian Nights) is now the country’s most sought after title with thousands flying off the shelves every day, despite it having no connection to the popular soap.

But bookstores are keeping hush about the mix up as orders mount up, with one shop even issuing a golden edition with 736 pages and 38 illustrations.

But customers seem happy saying that the soap opera which tells the story of a beautiful architect and her boss has clearly used the book for inspiration as it borrows numerous romantic quotes from the book."

more here:

Retailers cashing in on Croatia´s obsession with Turkish soap

Croatian Times
Just like the movie "Eat,Pray,Love" has popularized travel tours by the same name, the Turkish soap opera "1,001 nights" has Croatians learning Turkish and flying to Istanbul.

Retailers, tour operators and language schools are cashing in on Croatia's obsession with the romantic affair between gorgeous architect Scheherazade and her boss, Onur. The two protagonists have the nation glued to their TV sets every night of the week at 8pm.

Zagreb school of foreign languages "Sjajna zvijezda" has registered a large interest in the Turkish language. In the last week or two, 50 people signed up to learn; demand has never been so high.

"Our new clients are mainly young women below 30 who are not afraid to admit being motivated by their favourite the TV series. They come having picked up a few words from the show, like "merhaba" (good day) or "iyi geceler" (good evening)," says the school's director Jasmin Selihovic.

Merchandise produced by opportunistic retailers showing pictures of the characters has been flying off the shelves. A shirt with Scheherazade's portrait is selling for 13.5 Euros.

"In addition to the fact that they sell well, they bring a smile to everyone in the shopping center," says a sales attendant in WGW boutique.

Even publishing houses are profiting from the renewed interest in the Arabian classic "1001 nights," a collection of fairy tales and stories from which the series takes its name.

And the Kompas travel agency said that the charter flight from Split to Istanbul on 7th of October has been sold out partly thanks to the popularity of the soap.

"Even though the flight was opened earlier, the space filled up during the showing of the last few episodes of the series," said agency's director Ivan Puksar who is planning another four-day excursion to Istanbul that will include some of the shooting locations, says Croatian internet portal Dalje."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rock as Sinbad

Casting has already begun for the upcoming 3D blockbuster based on the Nights and brought to you by several of the people who were responsible for The Mummy and its offspring.

The latest news has Dwayne Johnson (aka the wrestler known as "The Rock") set to play Sinbad.  Just when the poor hapless (and largely lucky) seafarer felt like he needed more muscles Hollywood steps in to chisel them out.  The more action/adventure warrior Sinbad is remade as the further his character gets away from the original sailor.

This movie is setting up to be even more bizarrely related to the stories of the Nights than the film it is purported to be based on (Maria Montez and Sabu's 1942 Technicolor Arabian Nights (

Here's more about the Rock's role:

From Screenrant:  (

"Sinbad will be one of three main characters in the upcoming 3D film adaptation of Arabian Nights, directed by Chuck Russell (who previously directed Johnson in The Scorpion King). If Dwayne Johnson agrees to play the badass sailor, he’ll be joining Liam Hemsworth (brother of Thor star Chris Hemsworth) as the main protagonist and Anthony Hopkins as the evil sorcerer Pharotu, murderer of Sinbad’s mermaid girlfriend.

And they say movies aren’t realistic anymore…

The overall plot for Arabian Nights, according to Russell (via Variety), is as follows:
“[A] young commander who, after his king is killed in a palace coup, joins forces with Sinbad, Alladin, and his genie to rescue Scheherazade and her kingdom from dark powers.”
Russell goes on to say that using top of the line 3D technology he’ll be giving audiences a carpet ride like they’ve never seen before. Really, Russell? I mean, is it even possible to top Disney’s Aladdin? Highly unlikely!"

and from Worst

and cinemablend: