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Omar Khayyam
Adventure , Romance

1957 | 4:3 | Color | Quality: Excellent

Cornel Wilde

Michael Rennie

Debra Paget


The often-drunk and likable poet, mathematician and philosopher Omar Khayyam (Cornel Wilde) spends his days indulging in intellectual and carnal pursuits, while being friends to both the rich & poor alike. Although happy on the outside, he secretly longs for his sweetheart who the Sultan keeps in his harem as his third wife. Khayyam also works in the Sultan's court as a mathematician who is drawing up a new calendar, but proves himself as an able advisor in other areas. However, when the Sultan dies, Omar stumbles upon a plot to kill off the Sultan's successor. The poet must then go off under the guise of researching his calendar and work to foil the plot. There he discovers a deadly assassin sect whose members are brainwashed by their leader into believing they are in paradise when they actually are in a hashish-induced zombie-like state!

Based around the real-life 11th century scholar, "Omar Khayyam" has all the hallmark 1950s Arabian Nights ingredients - harems, slaves, sultans, thieves and intrigue. It is a type of movie which sadly will not be made again any time soon, because these days the words Middle East bring up visions of fanatical terrorists, not the highly-developed intellectuals who lived amidst the magnificence of ancient Baghdad. This era of Islamic achievement should not be overlooked as it was due in large part to the efforts of Islamic scholars that many of the Greco-Roman classics were preserved while Europe sank into Christian dogmatics and medieval barbarism. Arab scholars were able to master and build upon the ancient knowledge of architecture, mathematics, and astronomy - and this is where Omar Khayyam enters the picture. Well-versed in the natural sciences and mathematics, Khayyam was indeed the author of an improved Muslim calendar and he was able to measure the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days - which we now know was outstandingly accurate. Renowned also as a warrior and a poet, his greatest fame stems from the collection of quatrains called the "Rubaiyat." Unfortunately, we know precious little about the actual life of Omar Khayyam, and here is where Hollywood has stepped in and created a story for him. Cornel Wilde plays Omar Khayyam not as a dashing swashbuckler, but instead as a gentle poet and scholar around which tumultuous events unfold. A stellar cast supports him - Debra Paget is the great love of his life, Raymond Massey as the dignified yet wry old Shah, John Derek as handsome young Prince Malik, and - as Omar's old schoolmates - the always endearing Sebastian Cabot as the minister Nizam al-Mulk, and Michael Rennie as the imposing, capable Hassan-i Sabah. Other colorful characters keep things hopping - a scheming Queen, her petulant son and half-brother to Malik, a timid but loyal slave girl and, just when you think it can't get any better - Edward Platt as a prior in the sect known commonly as the 'Assassins', who menace the Shah's rule from within while the Byzantine Romans threaten from without. The cast all look great in beautiful costumes and sets designed to make maximum use of technicolor.

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