This movie is a racist movie. Rather stunningly so, in certain moments. But it’s also, somehow, not so bad, at least with the character of the Witch of the Fiery Mountains.
First, it’s important to note that everyone besides the main characters are racist caricatures.
But the character I really want to talk about is the Witch of the Fiery Mountains. She’s also a black woman, though she’s not lacsivious like Pari Banu’s serving girls; she’s enormous and apelike, and something of a Magical Negro with her voodoo powers.
Appearance-wise, there really isn’t anything redeemable in this character. I feel kind of bad posting these pictures, they’re that bad! And I am not defending them, or any of the other caricatures in this film.
However, I want to say that the Witch of the Fiery Mountains is not as bad as she looks. She’s practically the hero of the story from the moment she arrives, actually– Achmed meets her after he’s been beaten by the African magician, her mortal enemy, and she summons up some anti-demon armor and weaponry for him, and goes off with him to rescue Pari Banu. However, the rescue attempt is unsuccessful; the demons carry Bari Panu back to Wak-Wak, and Achmed will need Aladdin’s lamp to get through. Woe! He does not have Aladdin’s lamp! Joy! He meets Aladdin! Woe! Aladdin does not have his lamp either! It has been stolen by the African magician.
So the Witch of the Fiery Mountains kills the African magician (in a really cool battle sequence), and returns the “wunderlampe” to Aladdin! Aladdin and Achmed go off to rescue Pari Banu, but even with the magic armor and Aladdin’s lamp, they aren’t strong enough. They’re about to die, when the Witch comes to save the day again! She reclaims the lamp from the demons, and uses it to call forth hordes of good spirits, who destroy all the demons and traps them in a mountain.
Yep, the female sidekick got to kill the Big Bad! I dare you to come up with a modern movie in which that happens. Most of the time, women only get to fight other women, and if they’re fighting the main villain, even if they ought to be able to win (super kung-fu training or whatever), something will happen and the guy will have to step in to give the killing blow. I truly expected this movie to go the same route– Achmed had his magic weapons and armor, after all; while the Witch was distracting the African magician with her awesome fireballs, he could have snuck over and stabbed the magician. But no, he and Aladdin just cowered in the corner until the Witch had defeated all the demons!
It was also nice that she wasn’t motivated in any way by romance– she wanted to kill the magician because he was evil and she was good, and therefore he was her mortal enemy. She considers Achmed a friend because they’re on the same side, but she doesn’t particularly care about him. She’s just a person, with her own life and her own goals, which happen to partially overlap with Achmed’s. And she’s way, way more powerful than either of them– and they’re grateful for it.
This is not to say that her character is unproblematic. Just that it’s not as bad as it looks.