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The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

July 26th, 2006 · 1 Comment

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After a weird flying homunculus drops a golden tablet onto his ship, Sinbad (John Phillip Law) has a vision of a slave girl with an eye tattooed on her hand and an evil sorcerer. He lands his crew in Morabia, where the sorcerer Koura (Tom Baker) has cast a pall over the land.

The Vizier of Morabia tells Sinbad that the golden tablet is part of a puzzle. The Vizier has one tablet, the sorcerer the other. Legend has it that the tablets show a map to the Fountain of Destiny. Hidden somewhere on the lost continent of Lemuria, the bearer of all three tablets will be granted eternal youth, a cloak of darkness and a crown of untold riches by the fountain.

Taking a lazy youth and the alluring, eye tattoo slave girl (played by cult siren Caroline Munro), Sinbad sets sail for Lemuria, where his crew encounter their ship’s wooden masthead come to life, an oracle, green cannibals, a six-armed statue of Kali, a one-eyed centaur, a griffin and an invisible swordsman, all animated in “Dynarama” by stop motion effects master Ray Harryhausen.

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The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was released the same year Dungeons & Dragons was introduced by TSR, and has a plot that only a fantasy geek, or a Dungeon Master, could love. The fact that it’s widely considered second only to Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad as the best Sinbad picture of all time tells you how miserably the character from The Arabian Nights has fared on screen.

To the filmmakers’ credit, the movie made an effort to retain Sinbad’s Arab roots, with Law doing a passable job with the accent, and the costuming and occasional mention of “Allah” meant to remind audiences that these stories started in Baghdad.

The script essentially has Sinbad’s anonymous crew standing around, along with Munro, who was one of the better scream queens of the ’70s but is given absolutely nothing to do here. Her scenes with Law are terrible. Tom Baker – who parlayed his role into being cast as perhaps the most memorable Doctor Who – does his best, but his character is never a real threat to Sinbad.

That said, I enjoyed this flick. The budget was right under $1 million, which for this type of effects spectacle was not much money at all, even for the time. Instead of plastic effects zipping by, the movie transports you back to an era when you could film a model ship in a tub with a painted background. The point wasn’t to make things look real; filmmakers couldn’t. Instead, the production was supposed to stimulate your imagination, which this movie does.

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Of course, Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion effects are the chief reason to see the film. Sinbad’s duel with a six-armed statue of Kali is probably the most memorable sequence he ever animated, second only to Medusa in Clash of the Titans. Kali was such a cool idea, a much more formidable foe than skeletons or a monster, and the lighting during the scene is amazing.

Miklos Rozsa, who composed the music for Ben Hur, El Cid and the original Thief of Baghdad, wrote a rousing score that is well used here.

Movies like Sinbad belong to a genre that has mostly disappeared from theaters: the adventure movie. They showed characters like pirates or slave girls going on an adventure. We really don’t have that anymore. Ice Age is not an adventure movie. Neither is Pirates of the Caribbean. They’re action movies, with slick effects zipping by at 100 miles an hour to the point I can’t wait to get out of the theater, much less find something that reminds me I have a brain.

This movie may put the “bad” in Sinbad, but it’s imaginative, and I’ll take that any day. Directed by Gordon Hessler, who began his career as an apprentice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and infamously went on to direct KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Brian Clemens wrote the script, from a story by Harryhausen.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 alaaabougamra // Jan 2, 2010 at 11:02 am

    very nice movie thank you so much

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