The Secret of the Vanishing Cap is Egyptian director Niazi Mostafa’s belated follow-up to his 1944 smash The Vanishing Cap. Mostafa was a prolific contributor to Arabic popular cinema during its golden age, and was also responsible for such previously 4DK-ed titles as Antar The Black Prince (starring his wife -- and, during his early days as an editor at Egypt’s Studio Misr, former assistant -- Kouka) as well as the irreverent farce Ismail Yassin’s Tarzan.
Afrita Hanem and Ismail Yassin’s numerous supernatural romps.
Although Secret of the Vanishing Cap proved to me that I am indeed capable of disliking an old Egyptian comedy, despite what had previously seemed like a knee-jerk affection for same, I can’t call it a complete wash. Far from it, in fact. For buried within it is a hula hoop themed, nightclub musical number that’s possessed of an almost hypnotic awesomeness. Perhaps the Citizen Kane of hula hoop themed, nightclub musical numbers, even.
In it, a group of strapping, Jack LaLanne types work the hoop while extolling its virtues as a -- well, as a preserver of virtue. Hula hooping, they say, “cools down the fire of love” and, as such, is “the sport of real men”. (The also say “we invented it”. And by “we”, I’m not sure whether they mean men, the nation of Egypt, or the human race as a whole.)
And then, of course, a bunch of girls come along and ruin everything. As the hoops spin around their suggestively swiveling hips, these sirens opine that hula hooping in indeed all about the booty -- that it, in fact, “feeds the fire of love”! In response, the men can only linger ineffectually in the background, trying vainly to keep their hula hoops from falling limply toward the floor as the women distract their efforts with their undulations. Sadly, we never see how this debate is settled -- for, instance, was the Koran consulted? -- but the questions raised by it hang over the remainder of The Secret of the Vanishing Cap like a disconcertingly musky philosophical fog.
Now, whether you greet this evidence of the Middle East’s lack of immunity to staggeringly frivolous pop culture fads like the hula hoop with despair or celebration, you have to admit that you want to see this number. Luckily for you, there is a magical device that can make the remaining portions of the movie on either side of it disappear, and its only as distant as your remote.