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The Adventures of Prince Achmed

The Adventures of Prince Achmed(1926)


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The Milestone Collection, distributed by Image Entertainment, has recently released The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) on VHS and DVD and for animation fans and discerning film buffs, it should spark a revival of interest in the unique artistic gifts of Lotte Reiniger, one of the leading practitioners of silhouette animation. Generally recognized as the world's first full-length animation feature, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a wonderful introduction to Reiniger's specialty - intricately detailed cut-out figures set in motion against vivid hand-tinted backgrounds. An adaptation of several tales from The Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of Prince Achmed's search for the beautiful bird princess, Peri Banu, after she is kidnapped from him by a wicked sorcerer. Joining forces with Aladdin and the Witch of the Fiery Mountains, Prince Achmed battles assorted monsters and demons who try to topple him from his magical flying horse but he will not be deterred from his mission.

The original hand-tinted color print of The Adventures of Prince Achmed was actually destroyed but this restored version was made in complete accord with Reiniger's original tinting instructions. Restored by the Deutsches Filmmuseum Frankfurt with tinting and printing by L'Immagine Ritrovata, Reiniger's exotic fantasy is presented in German intertitles with English subtitles and is accompanied by a new orchestral recording of the original score by Wolfgang Zeller. On a purely visual level alone, The Adventures of Prince Achmed still has the power to dazzle and fascinate children (and adults) with its seductive imagery, which is not like anything you'll ever see on Sponge Bob or The Cartoon Network.

During her early years, Reiniger was a student at Max Reinhardt's theatre school in Berlin and first became adept at the silhouette technique through designing intertitles for German films. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II forced her to move to England, which eventually became her second home. Despite a lifelong struggle to find funding for her work, Reiniger was said to have produced more than 200 animated films, most of them shorts, produced and photographed by her husband/collaborator, Carl Koch; they worked together from 1921 until Carl's death in 1963. Other Reiniger career highlights, besides The Adventures of Prince Achmed, include Carmen (1933), The Grasshopper and the Ant (1954), The Frog Prince (1954) and the work she did for the National Film Board of Canada in the '70s. Of her work, The British Film Institute said, "Lotte Reiniger's silhouettes are in the tradition of the Eastern shadow theatre and retain the decorative ingenuity, the humor and inventiveness of this ancient craft, to which she applies the technical resources of the cinema. Only the cinema screen can do justice to her unique and fragile art."

The Milestone DVD edition of The Adventures of Prince Achmed comes with several bonus features including an optional audio track with spoken intertitles and a stills gallery. But the real treats are a 1921 animated advertising short by Reiniger entitled The Secret of the Marquise and Lotte Reiniger: Homage to the Inventor of the Silhouette Film, an entertaining and informative documentary written and directed by Katja Raganelli.

For more information about The Adventures of Prince Achmed, visit Milestone.To purchase a copy of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, visit TCM Shopping.

by Jeff Stafford