The Seven…Err, Three Movies of Sinbad

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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Seven…Err, Three Movies of Sinbad

Ray Harryhausen's concept of a film starring Sinbad began in 1952, after he had filmed The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.  Harryhausen had always wanted to illustrate a living skeleton, and realizing it would look out of place in contemporary setting, needed a mythological tale to place it in.  His fondness for the Arabian Nights tales seemed perfect, and he wrote a 2 page outline entitled Sinbad the Sailor, drew key drawings, the first of which was of Sinbad fighting a skeleton at the top of a spiral staircase, and had discussions with numerous producers including George Pal and Jesse Lasky Senior.  However there was no interest and instead Harryhausen abandoned the project and instead agreed to work with producer Charles Schneer on It Came From Beneath the Sea.  This began a creative partnership that continued throughout Harryhausen's career.

After having successfully made three films together, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers and 20 Million Miles to Earth, in 1956 Harryhausen persuaded Charles Schneer to pursue the Sinbad film, even though RKO's Son of Sinbad had failed at the box office.  Schneer received backing from Columbia Pictures, and so The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen's first colour film, went into production.  On its release in 1958 it was a complete, unexpected success.  The effects lessons learned during its making led to Harryhausen making The Three Worlds of Gulliver.  This was followed by Mysterious Island, after which Harryhausen considered making a second Sinbad film.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Actors: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Bradbury
Directors: Nathan Juran, Richard Schickel
Writers: Ray Harryhausen, Richard Schickel, Ken Kolb
Producers: Charles H. Schneer, Anna Sofroniou, Douglas Freeman
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Columbia Pictures
DVD Release Date: November 30, 1999
Run Time: 88 minutes

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is a 1958 fantasy film released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Nathan H. Juran and produced by Charles H. Schneer.  It was the first of three Sinbad films made by Columbia which were conceptualized and animated by Ray Harryhausen and which used a special stop-motion technique called Dynamation.

While similarly named, the film does not follow the plot of the tale "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor" but instead has more in common with "The Second Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor", which featured the giant roc bird.

In 2008, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Whilst Sinbad is on his way to Baghdad, transporting the Princess Parisa, who is to become his bride and secure peace between her kingdom and his, the ship encounters the isle of Colossa.  Sinbad and his men are attacked by a gigantic, bestial one-eyed Cyclops, and are saved only when the mysterious magician Sokurah appears and uses a magic lamp to protect Sinbad's men.  But in the process of escaping harm, Sokurah loses the lamp to the Cyclops.  He desperately wants to retrieve it and tries to persuade Sinbad to put about and return to Colossa -- but the captain won't jeopardize the safety of the princess or the success of his mission, and the Caliph of Baghdad feels the same way, even after  Sokurah amazes the court by conjuring up a snake-woman.  It is only when the princess is shrunk by an evil spell, the breaking of which requires the shell from the egg of the giant Roc -- which resides on Colossa -- that  Sokurah can get his expedition mounted, with Sinbad in command.  With a crew made up of a handful of his bravest men and some of the most desperate convicts in the Caliph's prison, he has to contend with potential mutiny at every turn, and the men are driven almost to madness before they even reach Colossa.  Once there, they find terrors as great as the Cyclops and the treachery of the magician, but Parisa -- in her tiny state -- also discovers the beautiful world inside the lamp, and the lonely boy genie who inhabits it.  They strike the bargain that, when Sinbad's bravery is added to the equation, will bring their quest to an end. If, that is, they can all survive the dangers that Sokurah puts in their path.

The film was, and continues to be, well-reviewed by critics and audiences alike.  It has a 100% rating at the aggregate movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, with several reviewers citing its nostalgic value.  Mountain Xpress critic Ken Hanke calls it "Childhood memory stuff of the most compelling kind" whilst Andrew Smith at Popcorn Pictures acknowledged that it was his favorite film, saying "Nothing beats this fantasy film for sheer thrills and entertainment".

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Actors: John Phillip Law, Caroline Munro, Tom Baker, Douglas Wilmer, Martin Shaw
Directors: Gordon Hessler
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: June 6, 2000
Run Time: 105 minutes

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a fantasy film released in 1973 and starring John Phillip Law as Sinbad.  It includes a score by composer Miklós Rózsa and is known mostly for the stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen. The film is the second of three Sinbad films that Harryhausen made for Columbia, the others being The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger(1977).

It won the first Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.

Sinbad and his crew intercept a homunculus carrying a golden tablet.  Koura, the creator of the homunculus and practitioner of evil magic, wants the tablet back and pursues Sinbad.  Meanwhile Sinbad meets the Vizier who has another part of the interlocking golden map, and they mount a quest across the seas to solve the riddle of the map, accompanied by a slave girl with a mysterious tattoo of an eye on her palm.  They encounter strange beasts, tempests, and the dark interference of Koura along the way.

Tom Baker played the role of Koura, the main antagonist of the film, (Christopher Lee was a front-runner to play Koura.)  Baker's performance helped him get the lead role in the TV  series Doctor Who, as the show's producers were impressed with his performance.

On a personal note: Out of all of Harryhausen’s amazing work, the Kali statue is easily the most impressive thing he ever put into a film.  And the fact that everything he has done has left me jaw-dropping in awe that is saying a lot.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Actors: Patrick Wayne, Jane Seymour, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Patrick Troughton
Directors: Sam Wanamaker
Writers: Ray Harryhausen, Beverley Cross
Producers: Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen
Rated: G (General Audience)
Run Time: 113 minutes

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is a 1977 British fantasy film, the third and final Sinbad film that Ray Harryhausen made for Columbia Pictures after The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.  The film stars Patrick Wayne, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Jane Seymour, and Patrick Troughton (Another Doctor Who reference).  It was directed by Sam Wanamaker.

Patrick Wayne (John Wayne’s Son) stars as Sinbad, who seeks the hand of Princess Farah in marriage but cannot get her brother, Prince Kassim, to agree to the match because he has been turned into a baboon by his evil stepmother.  In order to receive the blessing of Farah's brother, Sinbad must travel to a far away realm and find a wizard named Melanthius, the only one who can break the evil spell placed upon Kassim.

Harryhausen originally planned for an arsinoitherium to make an appearance in the film.  The massive, two-horned prehistoric rhino-like creature was intended to fight the troglodyte in the ancient shrine of the Arimaspi in the arctic. Harryhausen did preproduction designs showing the beast defeating the troglodyte, then getting caught and dying in a pool of hot tar.  Harryhausen also said he planned to have Sinbad and his crew fight a yeti in the arctic, but that this idea was rejected in favor of a giant walrus.  Harryhausen's stop-motion animation work lasted from October 1975 up to March 1977.

Because they were shot in close up, many of Harryhausen's models used in the film were larger than normal.  The model of the walrus was 20 inches long and 10 inches high.  The troglodyte was about 16 inches high, while the saber-toothed cat was about 15 inches long and 9 inches high.  Harryhausen made two baboon models: a highly detailed 24-inch long model for most of the animation sequences, and a much smaller 5-inch model for a few long shots.

Unmade Sinbad Movies:

Sinbad in the Age of Muses:  This was the title given on the first notes Harryhausen made in 1960 for the project that would become Jason and the Argonauts.  In this earliest concept, Sinbad would be one of the characters to accompany Jason onboard the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.  Sinbad was written out of the film, as were the griffin and Medusa also mentioned in these first notes.

Sinbad and the Valley of Dinosaurs:  After making the very successful One Million Years BC, starring Racquel Welch, in 1966 Harryhausen briefly considered making a Sinbad film featuring dinosaurs, probably set in Mexico. The idea met with little interest, however, and instead Harryhausen made The Valley of Gwangi, about a valley in Mexico populated with dinosaurs, based on a story his mentor Willis 'Obie' O'Brien had proposed in 1941 but had failed to get filmed.

Sinbad's Voyage to Mars:  In early 1977, the year Star Wars was released, Charles Schneer began work preparing a script for a fourth Sinbad film, in which Sinbad would be transported to Mars from the Great Pyramid of Giza.  The idea behind the film was that Egyptian civilization was based on that of Mars, where Egyptian deities such as Anubis and Horus lived in pyramids among Mars' canals.  There were plans for creatures such as a 3-armed genie, a man-eating tentacled plant, a Roc, an aquatic canal monster and most prominently a sphinx to appear, as well as obelisk-shaped spacecraft.  It may even have tied in with the pyramid seen in Hyperboria in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.  Sadly no film companies were interested, and it was abandoned in favor of Clash of the Titans.

Sinbad and the Seven Wonders of the World:  In 1981, after finishing Clash of the Titans, Harryhausen and Schneer considered returning to Sinbad with a tale of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Sinbad would team up with Ali Barber and assemble a small, gold pyramid, the pieces of which are hidden in the Seven Wonders of the World.

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