Fencing on the Ceiling

A nice, Magritte-like image from SINBAD THE SAILOR, directed by Richard Wallace of IT’S IN THE BAG! fame.

Might as well have been called SINBAD THE BULLSHIT ARTIST though, as all the really interesting fantasy stuff with djinni and flying carpets is only mentioned by Sinbad in his implausible fish stories about his adventurous past. What’s onscreen is a perfectly acceptable, and blindingly colourful, swashbuckler, with virtually no fantastical story elements, but a fantastical LOOK. Douglas Fairbanks Jnr homages his famous pop with a long acrobatic chase through a shiny palace, availing himself of hidden trampolines and stuntmen in order to mimic dad’s athletic prowess, and throwing in some of Doug Snr’s trademark pantomimic gestures.

But it’s a slight waste of an opportunity for THIEF OF BAGDAD type fantasy, one can’t help but feel, even while enjoying the spectacle of an Arabian Maureen O’Hara and Walter Slezak.

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10 Responses to “Fencing on the Ceiling”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    If I am not mistaken, SINBAD was only RKO’s third Technicolor feature (after Mamoulian’s BECKY SHARP and Borzage’s THE SPANISH MAIN). Notable since no other studio seems to have been so indelibly associated with b & w (Lewton, film noir, etc.)

    Tetzlaff’s SON OF SINBAD (55), Howard Hughes’s sequel, is stupefyingly tasteless, but good for that reason.

  2. Sure how can a film featuring Lili St. Cyr be anything else?

  3. I remember enjoying it, partly for Vincent Price as Omar Khayam, and partly just in wonderment at the way it stopped for a belly-dance every ten minutes.

  4. Christopher Says:

    this is the movie that led me to believe that all arabians will tie you down and beat you on the bottom of your feet..

  5. No, no, that’s the English.

  6. Christopher Says:

    beware!…the Headmaster’s Cane! =:oo

  7. Actually, since it’s called the strappado or something, a latin origin seems possible.

  8. Richard Wallace’s career is interesting. I love his film The Young in Heart which had Fairbanks Jr. and Paulette Goddard at their most charming as well as having Billie Burke, Roland Young and Richard Carlson all in top form. Janet Gaynor, perhaps, could have been put to better use, but she was still quite good.

    I also found Wedding Present to be notable for prefiguring Hawks’ His Girl Friday by having Cary Grant as a newspaper editor in love with his ace reporter. It isn’t as well made as His Girl Friday, but still pleasing and should possibly be given some credit for Hawks’ later use of the idea.

    Tycoon is also worth seeing, not only for the film itself, which I like, but for the character arc John Wayne’s Johnny Munroe goes through as it touches on some darker traits that wasn’t much a part of Wayne’s work before that. One can again see Hawks possibly making some use of Wallace’s film in his use of Wayne in Red River the next year.

    All in all, Wallace was only a good not a great director, but the films of his I’ve seen are all pretty fascinating thematically and they seem to be very slightly ahead of their time.

  9. Well, It’s in the Bag! is good too… I agree about The Young in Heart — if he’d made a few films in that vein that were as good as that, he’d be a major filmmaker. It’s a really nice package of visual style (courtesy of Menzies), comedy and charm.

  10. Yeah, I’d really like to see It’s in the Bag since I’m a big Benny fan in addition to liking Wallace and I’d like to see more of Fred Allen too. I’ll keep my eyes open for it.

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