The incomparable Sinbad the Sailor presently ranks alongside Luke Skywalker in AFI’s most memorable heroes and villains, which puts him in some very good company so far as this online reviewer is concerned. To their benefit, the films of Sinbad feature some ground-breaking special effects provided by the grandmaster of Dynamation himself, Ray Harryhausen. Granted, contemporary audiences may find all of the story and the look more than a bit dated (what with the prevalence of CGI today even in television commercials), but THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD remains a masterpiece in storytelling, the original experience a long time ago in a land far, far away …
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
With the promise of bringing peace to their two peoples, Sinbad the sailor (played by Kerwin Mathews) heads toward Baghdad with his bride-to-be, Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant). Our hero and his men brave a stop on the dangerous island of Colossa, where they rescue the magician Sokurah from the jaws of an angry Cyclops. Despite refusals by Sinbad to return to Colossa so that he may recover his magic lamp, Sokurah will stop at nothing to obtain a ship and its crew, even if it means disrupting the sailor’s wedding by shrinking Parisa to the size of a doll! Then, he tricks Sinbad into agreeing to take him back to the island where the potion to restore the princess awaits … along with dangers aplenty!
The single greatest reason to toss in any DVD release of SINBAD is that you can enjoy a much simpler tale for a much simpler time when there wasn’t as great a reliance on special effects in storytelling; but, when they were needed, they were nothing short of movie magic for their time. The Cyclops remains as impressive today as it was when it first appeared on silver screens – a terrifying creature hungering for a taste of meat – thundering across the shoreline in pursuit of Sinbad’s crew in retreat. Of course, nothing beats the snake-woman – a visual charm that found modest re-design and reincarnation as Medusa in 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS – and it probably sparked fear in the hearts of children for years to come. To my delight, nothing is greater and grander than Sinbad’s final sword fight with the armed skeleton; it remains one of the most inspired passages in all of filmdom, and I can’t begin to imagine the difficulties it took to render a sequence that would be vastly easier with today’s technology however they accomplished it in the late 1950’s. I watch it today, and I’m still awed.
Plenty has been written about the greatness of the film – and written by significantly greater scribes than I’ll ever be – so let me leave it at this: see it. Any DVD release is fine. Yes, you can probably find a greater appreciation of it by watching some of the special features (they vary from standard DVD release to the latest Blu-ray issue), but, if you’re a kid at heart like I am, you don’t need any of them. Enjoy the film as is, and remember what it’s like to partake in an awe-inspiring cinematic breakthrough not unlike the first STAR WARS, THE MATRIX, or THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Filmmaking doesn’t get any better than this.
THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD is produced by Columbia Pictures Corporation and Morningside Productions. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds remarkable, especially given its age. As I stated above, there are a variety of special features available to commemorate the picture, and any of them are worth their modest investment of your time. Rated G.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Forgive me if my age is showing, but THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD is classic movie magic. In my youth, I had the chance to see it theatrically at a special matinee (in the very early 70’s), and I’ve been in love with it ever since. It has a swashbuckling hero; it has a princess; it has a wicked magician; and it’s all set in magical locations against the backdrop of adventure, dark sorcery, and man-eating monsters. How could it not be? As a matter of fact, in 2008 it was added to the U.S. Film Registry where it would be preserved for all time because of its “aesthetic significance.” That’s no small honor for the legendary hero and his brave crew.
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