Princess of the Nile (1954): Classic Movie Review

Princess of the Nile (1954) staring Debra PagetThe recent recommendation of my fellow “B” movie fan, John Knight, prompted me to dig out a VHS tape of Princess of the Nile. I’d recorded the movie quite a while ago and finally caught up with it tonight. John’s right — this one is grand fun. Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef in a den of thieves? Yes, please!

Debra Paget plays Egyptian princess Shalimar, who masquerades as a dancer in the local marketplace in order to know what’s going on with her people and politics.

Two men enter her city — evil Rama Khan (Michael Rennie) and handsome young Prince Haidi (Jeffrey Hunter). There’s all sorts of intrigue, as Rama Khan and Prince Haidi battle for the princess and control of the city; Haidi is aided by a merry band of thieves loyal to the princess, including the aforementioned Elam and Van Cleef.

There’s a secret entrance to swim into the palace, lots of beautiful handmaidens (including Dona Drake and Merry Anders), sword battles galore, a couple of steamy love scenes (one with rather surprising inferences for 1954), and Debra performing a succession of rather eye-popping dances. Paget fans should be in heaven with this movie.

This is 71 minutes of pure escapism, a lighthearted Saturday matinee adventure in the tradition of movies such as Flame of Araby (1951). It’s all preposterous and played out against some not-very-convincing matte paintings, but who cares, when you’ve got Princess Shalimar in her gorgeous bathing pool or Prince Haidi and Rama Khan dueling with scimitars? Plus Lee Van Cleef has a line partway through which made me sputter with delighted laughter.

The film was a reunion for Paget and Hunter, who played a young couple in Fourteen Hours (1951) and also appeared together in Belles on Their Toes (1952); they were later both seen in White Feather (1955). Both were young and attractive and appear to be having a good time amidst all the silliness, which counts for a lot in a movie like this.

The supporting cast includes Edgar Barrier, Michael Ansara, Wally Cassell, and Billy Curtis. The film was directed by Harmon Jones from a script by Gerald Drayson Adams. The Technicolor photography was by Lloyd Ahern. As one of the reviewers at IMDb says, Princess of the Nile is “a cheerfully mindless, breathlessly fast-paced, dazzling testament to the glories of 3-strip Technicolor — and the seductive charms of Ms. Paget.” I really enjoyed this and will be looking to pick up the DVD in the future. Recommended.

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Laura G. is a proofreader and homeschooling parent who is a lifelong film enthusiast.  Laura’s thoughts on classic films, Disney, and other topics can be found at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, established in 2005.  Visit her website at