I’d been meaning to revisit Ray Harryhausen’s first and best Sinbad picture for a while, and it occured to me that Fiona’s brother Roderick might also enjoy it. In the event, brother and sister formed an excellent double act, and a good time was had by all.
Fiona: “What’s with her hair? What’s that? It’s horrible!”
We all liked Kathryn Grant, the spunky princess, but her cowlick was an abomination. For a fifties kids movie, the film finds a lot for her to do, especially considering she spends most of the movie miniaturized.
Roddy: “Is their any insects in this one?” Roddy likes bugs and spiders in movies. It might seem that MYSTERIOUS ISLAND or SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with their big bees, would suit him better, but 7V is such a superior film to those two, I felt the choice was justified.
F: “Oh, he’s a sweet talker, that Sinbad!”
Ken Kolb’s screenplay provides surprisingly decent dialogue, allowing the romance to convince more than usual. Kerwin Mathews is an appealing hero, more so than John Philip Law or Pat Wayne in the sequels. None of them were exactly major personalities, but at least this time Sinbad has a personality, kind of.
F: “She is cute. Needs to get that hair fixed though.”
The story hits the ground running, with Sinbad transporting his new bride by sea, hopelessly lost in the fog. A mysterious island is discovered and then, in a scene that had seven-year-old me torn between fleeing the television and leaping forward to switch channels in terror, Torin Thatcher comes fleeing from a cave pursued by the Cyclops.
As always with Harryhausen, the mythological animal gets an upgrade, with satyr’s goat-legs and a horn added to the design. The legs are a nice touch: a purely humanoid giant could be played by an actor, but only stop-motion “Dynamation — the new wonder of the screen” could allow a creature’s legs to bend backwards like Cy’s.
F: “That hair’s going to drive me crazy.”
Torin is after a magic lamp, the perfect Arabian Nights MacGuffin, but he loses it escaping the giant. (In one of the original Arabian Nights tales, Sinbad does meet a giant, and although he’s not specified as of the one-eyed variety, the story is clearly plagiarized from Homer’s Odyssey, so Harryhausen is fully justified in making the monster cyclopean.
F: “Nice outfit. It’s gone: the cowlick.”
Torin is trying to persuade everybody to return to the accursed island to help him get his lamp. Kerwin speaks of the magician’s obsessive desire which consumes him, and Kathryn sweetly turns the subject around to love, saying she pities Torin as she already has her heart’s desire.
But, after a brief turn by a serpent lady with four snaky arms, the princess is miniaturized by the evil Torin Thatcher (how well the words “evil” and “Thatcher” go together) and is discovered tiny upon her pillow, like a talking mint.
A shame the princess’s pillow looks so lumpy here — possibly it’s stuffed with peas.
To cure his pocket-sized fiancee (marriage seems impractical until this is sorted out), Sinbad embarks for the isle of the Cyclops, taking with him a Dirty Dozen crew of convicts, including Danny “One-Round” Green from THE LADYKILLERS, the only Cockney Arab in the Middle East.
F: “And don’t stand on my fruit!”
Mutiny! A slightly unconvincing fight among the crew: well, they only had three weeks to shoot the live action part of it.
R: “Cheez — missed him! Come on, Sinbad! Go for him! Look out! Whoops.”
The island is reached at last, and Sinbad’s crew start building a giant crossbow designed by Torin.
Fiona, to Roddy: “You need to say more interesting things so David’s got something to write about.”
R: “I’ll say something. Right. He is wandering about, looking at rocks.”
R: “It’s a club, that’s what it is. Told you.”
R: “Sh, sh!”
F: “He could at least kill him before he roasts him alive.”
I fail to point out Fiona’s schoolboy error in the above sentence, and merely add: “Or undress him.”
As the Cyclops prepares to feast on human flesh, Roddy belches, loudly.
R: “I’ve got interjestion.”
Sinbad cunningly plots to escape the giant’s cage with the aid of little Princess Kathryn.
R (confused): “Cannae escape. How can he, when she’s here?”
R: “We’ve got a woman like that at Canning Place.”
“That small?” I ask.
R: “Don’t stand there, push, woman! Give it all your strength! Well done.”
R (to the Cyclops): “Look out!”
R: “Going mental, that monster, is he? Cheesy peeps!”
“Cheesy peeps!” is a strange expression almost unique to Roddy, who doesn’t swear. Being a true Dundonian, he doesn’t use negatives, either, so “Isn’t he?” is pronounced “Is he?” Somehow this is never actually confusing.
F: “You’d be going mental too if you were there, having spears chucked at you.”
R: “I’m not, though. I’m here.”
The logic of this is inarguable, and we all fall into silent contemplation for a bit.
R (apropos of nothing): “I’d like to be a vampire. In a horror movie, I mean. Do you think I’d make a good vampire?”
Fiona and I: “No.”
The Cyclops, blinded, falls off a cliff.
F: “And, as usual, you do feel slightly sorry for him.”
Sinbad’s crew decide to break open a roc’s egg.
F: You can’t get the staff.”
Harryhausen can’t leave the mythic roc alone either, so this one has two heads.
R: “There’s two of them!”
F: “It’s all cute and fluffy. Don’t tell me they kill it and eat it. Oh no.”
R: “What are they playing at?”
Torin raises a skeleton to attack Sinbad. “Kill! Kill!”
F: “They can’t just say “Kill!” once in these films, can they?”
F: “He knocked down his crocodile.”
R: “That was typical, is it?”
The skeleton fight was of course trumped by Harryhausen in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, where there are seven screaming skeletons, a brilliantly choreographed and incredibly elaborate piece of live-action/animation. Wishing he’d set that scene at night, for greater atmosphere, he re-staged it AGAIN in SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with three bug-eyed “ghouls” who look like starving Selenites.
R (general advice to the cast): “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
R: “That dragon’s no happy, is he?”
F: “Where are all the female cyclopses? How do they reproduce?”
R: “He’s happy, is he?”
R: “He’s still got a – in his -um, what do you call it?”
R: “I wish that was all mine as well. I would save it all up and go on holiday with it. On safari. Or Transylvania.”