Arabian Nights' Entertainment

Arabian Nights (TV miniseries)

This is about the TV series; for alternate uses, see Arabian Nights (disambiguation)
Arabian Nights is a three-hour, two-part miniseries that was made by Hallmark Entertainment, originally shown over two nights on April 30, and May 1, 2000 on ABC in the United States and BBC One in the United Kingdom.

The series was written by Peter Barnes and directed by Steve Barron and is based on the medieval Oriental stories from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. The series consists of five stories which are framed within a sixth, which maintains the traditional style of stories within stories that is synonymous with the Nights.

The series is notable for its witty script, its high production values (featuring lavish costumes and eye-catching Asian locations), and for its star-studded cast, which includes Alan Bates, Rufus Sewell, Dougray Scott, Andy Serkis, James Frain, John Leguizamo (in a dual role), Jason Scott Lee, Vanessa-Mae, Alexei Sayle, Jim Carter, Mili Avital and James Callis.

Plot

The series starts in Baghdad, with Sultan Shahryar (Dougray Scott) who has gone mad after his first wife was killed by his own hand during a failed coup d’état, that she planned with Shahryar’s own brother (James Frain). Now, five years later, Shahryar believes that all women want to kill him, unfortunately the Sultan must get married or the throne will be passed to his brother. In his madness, Shahryar decides to take a wife and have her executed the next day. In order to prevent this, the clever Scheherazade (Mili Avital), a childhood friend of Shahryar, who is secretly in love with him, marries the troubled Sultan and tells him stories every night, stopping at daybreak with a cliff-hanger. In order to hear the rest of the story, Shahryar must keep Scheherazade alive until the next night. Cunningly, Scheherazade has hidden a moral within every story, to slowly bring the Sultan out of his madness.

The Stories

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Ali Baba (Rufus Sewell) is a poor peasent who lives with his extremely lazy brother Kazim (Andy Serkis). One day who comes upon a magic cave, guarded by tamed dragons. The cave belongs to the Forty Thieves, a tribe of murderous bandits that have plagued the kingdom. Their leaderis Black Coda, a master of disguise, he hides the gold and loot they've stolen inside the cave, which can only be opened by the magic word "Open Sesame!". After the Forty Thieves leave, Ali Baba uses the password to enter the cave. There he swipes as much gold his camel can carry. He awakes his lazy brother Kazim, showing him the fortune he's stolen. Kazim demands his share, so he returns to the cave.

Taking two rolls of Sesame bread to remember the password, he enters the cave. But he feeds the rolls to the dragons, forgeting the password to get out and is trapped. Eventually he remebers, only to flee the cave as the thieves have returned. Black Coda slays him then leaves his body for the buzzards. Ali Baba and his neighbor, Morgiana, find Kazim and use some of the stolen treasure to give him a hugh proper burial. Black Coda and the Forty find out, and they swear to track the thief and kill him.

Meanwhile Ali Baba and Morgiana are living in the lap of luxary in Damascus. Ali Baba starts to fell an attraction to her, but then one of the thieves in disguise locates Ali Baba. He tells Black Coda, and he prepares his men to sneak in and kill all that live in his estate. The next day he enters the city as a merchant, while the thieves hide inside forty oil jars. That very night he parks the car containing the concealed theives outside Ali Baba's house. When Morgiana is told by a servant that the merchant did not pay to keep the cart at their doorstep, she knows something is up. She investigates and hears one of them breathing. She tells Ali Baba and they work together to tip the cart over. The Thieve's jars roll down the street, shattering and revaling them inside. Dazed from the rolling, the thieves can't get on their feet, so the city guards capture them instantly. Black Coda watches as thier arrested, then hung that very morning.

Ali Baba and Morgiana celebrate their victory by hosting a feast. They invite all around royalties and nobels. As she preforms an exotic dance for Ali Baba, she takes one gentlemen's sword and stabs him. Everyone is shocked, until she removes the man's false beard, revealing him to be Black Coda planning revenge there. Ali Baba then proclaims his love for Morgiana and marries her in an even larger celebration. They live of course happily ever after.

This is the first of Scheherazade’s cliff-hangers. Andy Serkis, who was soon to become famous for his portrayal of Gollum in Lord of the Rings, has a minor role as Ali's ill-fated brother Kasim.

BacBac the Hunchback

The next tale is about Firouz and Safil, the tailors that worked for Ali Baba and Morgiana at their wedding. The couple are being visited by and old friend, a hunchback ironically named BacBac (Alexei Sayle). He is one of the most beloved comedians in all of Constantinople, proclaimed the sultan's favorite court jestor. They invite him to stay for dinner where he riots them with his hilarious jokes. But then mid-punchline, he drops dead, his face falling into his soup. Firouz and Safil think this is also a joke, until they see him not moving anymore. They inspect him and realize he choked on his food because he was laughing so hard.

But now they fear that the sultan we be furious upon BacBac's death, blaming them and having them executed. To avoid that kind of punishment, they decide to ditch the corpse. They take BacBac's body to a foreign physician who has just made shop. Safil tries to leave the body but is interrupted by the physcian's wife. So Safil tells her that her friend needs medicial attention. Safil races away while the wife gets the doctor. He then mistakingly trips on the body sending them both falling down the stairs. When he gets up he inspects the body, and believes the fall killed him. Already worried that this wll ruin his medical practice, he and his wife are petrafied when they realize it is BacBac.

Not wanting the sultan's wrath either, they take the body to the roofs and shove him down the first chimney they find. The body falls into the home of a large, chinese man. He thinks the body is a sneak thief, so he begins attacking him with kung fu chops. When the body falls over, he now believes it was his "deadly hands" that killed him. Once more, he finds out that the body is of BacBac's and once more he takes the body away so he is not blamed and punished. He stands it up in a doorway outside on the streets, but is found once again. A drunken english vagrant runs into it, and as it falls on him he believes he is being attacked. He calls the guards and punches the body, knocking it down on the street. the guards arrive, find the body to be BacBac, and arrest the drunk for his murder.

At the trial, the judge deems him a terrible murder, for taking away the joy that poor BacBac brought to many lives. Firouz, Safil, the doctor and his wife and the chinese man watch in the crowd and the english man is about to be punished for their supposud crimes. Before the judge can pass sentance, they take the stand and tell him the truth. But then they fight amongst each other, claming they killed BacBac. The sultan then arrives to investigate the matter. Everyone tells thier side of the story, and the sultan laughs. He proclaims that the whole escapade was BacBac's last and best joke told. Everyone realizes the irony and begins laughing. All is well and they live happily ever after.

Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp

This story tells the classic tale of Aladdin (Jason Scott Lee), a Chinese thief who is down on his luck. While fleeing authorites after pickpocketing a man, he wanders into the path of royalty. Men carry a golden covered box, containing Princess Zubaidah (Vanessa-Mae). For him it is love at first sight, until he is chased off by the authorities and the royal guards. She watches and smiles as he escapes ontot he roofs with acrobatic skills.

He returns home to his beloved mother, who tutors him in the skills of a thief, so he may support her. But then they are greeted by a mysterious traveler named Mustappa (Hugh Quarshie). He tells Aladdin he is a friend of his father, and is willing to pay him much money to do him a task. He agrees, even though realizing that the man was lying about knowing his father. Mustappa leads Aladdin to the outskirts of the kingdom, to the edge of a raging river. He puts a ring on his finger, twists it, then has it's magic open a hole into a cavern called the Cave of Wonders. He tells Aladdin to fetch him a lamp hidden deep inside the cave.

Aladdin ventures down a narrow flight of stairs, then through a maze built around the Terracotta Army. He reaches the farthest end and finds the lamp, as he tries to leave, he tips one soldier over, sending the others falling like dominoes. He races to beat the collapsing chain of soldiers, but as he makes his way up the stairs, they begin to disappear back into one column, he reaches the top where he asks Mustappa to help him out. He asks for the lamp first, but Aladdin knows this is a trick. So Mustappa leaves him down thier to rot, closing the door above. The column for which he stands on begins to descend down into the cave. So Aladdin tries using the power of the Ring, unintenionaly summoning the Genie of the Ring (John Leguizamo). The nervous and low-self essteemed genie helps Aladdin out of the cave, but begs not to summon him again.

Back home with his mother, then wonder why Mustappa would go to all this trouble to steal a worthless old oil lamp. She believes it may be in fact a priceless antique, so Aladdin rubs it to clean it off. Rubbing it then ignites the magic, sending smoke shooting out the tip. The lamp goes flying around the room, and as Aladdin and his mother escape the house, the smoke shoots out the roof. From the house rises the tall and powerful Genie of the Lamp ((Also John Leguizamo). The allmighty and sarcastic genie proclaims he grants his master any wish. Aladdin first tries to get the princess to love him, but is told that genies cannot control ture love. His mother then scoulds him, then asks the genie to give them lots of money. He has thier fire place churn out hundreds of gold pieces.

Aladdin's mother quickly uses thier fortune to make themselves look like royalty, buying servants and fancy clothing, even building a incredible palace. Aladdin uses this to asks Zubaidah's father to allow him to marry her. But he states that she is already betrother to another prince, one that will untie the lands of their neighboring kingdom. They two are wed, but Aladdin has the genie help him stop the consumating of it. He fears she will love the other prince after it beacuase as the genie puts it "He is an acrobat in the sexual arena". That night he and the genie create a giant vaccum that sucks the prince into the bathroom and away from the princess. He is trapped in the toilet with finkly matter all over, when he is released, the angered king has the marriage annulled.

Aladdin then proposes to the princess, they wed, consumate and plan to live happily ever after in his palace. But Mustappa finds out Aladdin is alive and escaped from the cave with "his" lamp. So he enters the village and claims to trade new shiny lamps for old ones. A servant in Aladdin's palace hears and trades the magic lamp. The genie under Mustappa's order now makes the palace vanish while Aladdin and Zubaidah were sleeping, then reveals the truth about Aladdin to the princess. He then turns Aladdin's mother into a noisy chicken. Aladdin fights back and summons the Genie of the Ring. The Lamp and Ring Genie are distant cousins, but hate each other with avengence. So Mustappa has the two fight to the death with their magic. Each transforms into one beast after another, until the Ring Genie is trapped in a giant moustrap.

Aladdin loses, but now truely has the princesse's love. So he uses his skills to swipe the lamp away from Mustappa. He then sends him away to a far off land. He returns his mother and his palace, then allows the freedom of both Genies. The Ring takes up the offer, while the always contradictory Lamp Genie stays. Aladdin, Zubaidah and Aladdin's mother live happily ever after.

This story is notable for the fact that most of the lead actors are from Asian backgrounds, and for John Leguizamo's memorable dual portrayals of The Genie of the Lamp and The Genie of the Ring. Vanessa-Mae, who is best known as a violinist, plays the princess in this story. Bert Kwouk, who plays the princess's father, Caliph Beder, will be familiar to fans of the Inspector Clouseau films, in which he played Kato, Clouseau's karate-expert servant.

Amin the Beggar

This story follows Amin, played by Dougray Scott, a lonely begger from Cairo. He becomes a part of a twisted prank by the ruthless Sultan Harun al-Rashid, played by James Frain. To indulge in his sick sense of humor, he decides to play th ultimate joke. He kidnaps the begger at night, and when he awakes he is in al-Rashid's palace.

He asks for the royal servants, who claim he is the Sultan. The real sultan watches the events unfold from secret chambers behind the palace walls. He has the entire palace make the begger believe he is the true sultan, tending to his every whim. The begger thinks he has lost his mind, but the perks of being royalty soon bring him pleasure. He takes a liking and decides to be the greatest sultan.

During a meeting with offcials, he decides to make some drastic changes. Amin intends to cut taxes on lower classes, and cut the frivelous pleasures indulged by them at the palace. He intends to save hundreds of money within weeks and grow a massive economic system, and create more to help the people. Although shocked at the idea, the officials see the jus and brillance in it. They also note that Amin has gotten more done as sultan than the real al-Rashid has in years. Overhearing this, Harun becomes angered and stops laughing at his cruel joke.

Harun decides the fun is over and plans to end it. Putting a sleeping powder in Amin's drink, he throws him back into the streets as a begger. When he awakes he is traumitized and having been a powerful sultan, then lose it within a day. He pleads to ongoers that he is al-Rashid, beckoning men to put him in an insane asylum. The experience of this and becoming a lonely begger again drives Amin into insantiy. The real sultan watches with joy as the begger suffers. He eventually confronts him about the events in disguise. After leaving he decides the joke was so fun, he'll try it again.

He has Amin freed, then knocked unconcious. Amin once again wakes up in the sultan's throne room. All that has happened to him drves him even more insane, not knowing what is real and what isn't. The officials try to calm him, but it is no good. Just then he hears the manical snickering of al-Rashid from in one of the secret chambers. He races over and crazily draws his sword and stabs Harun. He falls out and drops dead on the floor. The officials fear that with the real sultan's death, and no heirs or family, the rest of the officials will fight to control the throne. So to make up, they claim that Amin was chosen to take his place, while continuing to tell Amin that he is Harun al-Rashid.

They approach him, telling him that the recent events have been delusion he has been suffering because of an illness. Amin believs them, then asks who the dead man is. The officials tell him that is was the court jestor, and his last joke was a "killer". The moral of the story, never tell the same joke twice.

The Three Brothers

This, the last story told by Scheherazade. It tells about the rulers of Yemen, the king and his three prince sons. Prince Ali (Alexis Conran), Prince Ahmed (James Callis), and Prince Hussain (Hari Dhillon). The three are each gifted and fight each other over the smallest of matters, destroying most of the palace in the process. But one day, their mother tells them to follow her, as their father is ill. Knowing that is he dies, the always scuabbling brothers will fight to control his kingdom. So he sends them on a quest, each must go and return with what they believe is the most precious thing in the world. They have one year to each go to the ends of the earth and retrieve their artifact.

So each of the brothers sets off across the horizon to find what they believe is the most precious thing in the world. Hussain heads north and learns of a powerful telescope. The owner tells him that he needs only to speak the name of the location, and the telescope shows it to him. The magical artifact works indeed, but the owner refuses to sell it to him. He claims that another noble has agreed to pay a huge sum for it. So Hussain confronts the noble in his cavern throneroom. The noble tells him that if he can defeat his five greatest warriors, he will give him the telescope. Hussain is gifted with powerful strength so it is no contest, he kills every warrior. But the noble uses magic to revive them in a lava pit, ala the phoneix. So every time Hussain kills them, they revive in the lava and continue fighting him. Hussain decides this is cheating and impales the noble, thus stopping th magic and killing the endless warriors to stay dead. Hussain takes his prize and rides back to Yemen.

Ahmed travels east, to a mountain monestary full of monks. There he is told they possess a mystic apple, which when eaten can heal any wound or illness. The monks won't give it to him as a gift, so they challenge him as well. If he can shoot the very apple off the head of a young monk, the apple is his. Ahmed is gifted with excellant accuracy, but is weary that he might hit and kill the boy. But he proceeds and readies to fire his arrow, but stops before he can shoot. He tells the monk that even though is skilled with a bow, he refuse to endanger the life of the monk. The other monks tell him that learning that was the test. He was compassionate enough to know when not to fight. So he is given the apple and allowed to return to Yemen.

The last brother, Ali, travels West to a market being held underground in the ruins of Petra. The market is where hundreds of valuables are sold everyday. He wanders the market looking for what he believes is the most precious thing in the world. He finally comes along such an item a magical flying carpet. The carpet owner allows him to by the rare antique. But when Ali tries to leave, he is provented from leaving by the carpet owner and a couple of his goons. They proclaim hat they only sold it to him to see how much money he has, knwo they will simply kill him and take his money and the flying carpet back. But Ali outsmarts them and escapes, getting away long enough to awaken the magic carpet. He then flies through the market, racing his way past the goons and finally out of the ruins. He happily flies across the desert, headin home to Yemen.

The culminated journies of the brothers take up the given year, and all three meet again at a watering hole. They pledged to meet again at this location to discuss thier adventures and what they found before returning to father. Ali was there first because of the flying carpet. While showing off the magic artifacts, Hussain uses his telescope to view father. but he discovers father is even worse than when they left, on the verge of death. So the three decide to join together and race bac to Yemen to save their father. Ali's carpet gets them their in time, while Ahme'd apple heals father. This shows the brotehrs that they have aquired the most precious thing in the world brotherhood, teamwork and kinship.

Cast

References to Persian and Islamic Culture

The miniseries is notable for making many references to Islamic culture and history. For example, during the Aladdin story-within-the-story, when Aladdin asks the Genie of the Ring who he is, the Genie jokingly says that he is Omar Khayyam. Other examples are when the Genie says Shukur Alhamdulillah when he blows gold out of their furnace.

Awards

The miniseries won an Artios award for Best Casting and an Emmy award for Outstanding Makeup.

References

External links

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