Archive for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

What sorcery is this?

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2015 by dcairns

sinbadeye3

A great good friend having sent me one of Twilight Time’s lush Blu-rays of SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, we decided to watch it. This was the first Harryhausen film Fiona and I saw on the big screen, but we had already had our minds invaded by his imagery, via TV screenings of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. I hid behind the sofa from both Talos and the cyclops, while Fiona, made of sterner stuff, pressed her barely-formed eyeballs against the cathode ray tube in order to squeeze more detail out of those fascinating, fluttering harpies. Only decades later were we told that the models used were so tiny, they basically didn’t HAVE any more detail than you can see in long shot.

S&TEOTT being the penultimate Harryhausen, the inspiration is a little frayed in places. None of that bothered me as a kid — I didn’t find the giant walrus preposterous, for instance. For their sequels, Harryhausen and regular scenarist Beverley Cross basically re-used the story of their first SINBAD film, and did it a little less effectively each time. In all three films, someone close to Sinbad is bewitched and he must travel to a mythical land to cure the victim. In film 1, it’s Sinbad’s bride-to-be who’s miniaturized, rendering any future nuptials a grotesque rather than romantic prospect. There’s no improving on that, although maybe giving Sinbad a kid and having the kid bewitched would ramp the emotion even higher. Instead, a couple of faceless rulers we never even meet properly get the whammy put upon them, and we’re duly unengaged.

But as a kid I didn’t notice the writers’ repetitive strain injury, nor did I notice the crummy direction in the human-centric scenes. Sam Wanamaker was supposed to class up the acting, but he shoots inept coverage and can do nothing with the pasteboard characters. The editor gets bamboozled into frantic cross-cutting to try to escape each terrible shot as soon as possible, but he has nothing better to cut to. Editors — when stuck with two bad angles, pick one and linger, since you can’t motivate a cut to a new shot that doesn’t show the action any more clearly or attractively.

sinbadeye4

Thankfully, the direction improves whenever a monster appears, since for reasons of economy such sequences have to be storyboarded in advance, so Haryhausen is directing those. Suddenly the angles are lucid and dramatic. A couple of years after I saw the movie, my Dad brought a copy of Harryhausen’s Film Fantasy Scrapbook home from the library, and I was able to read all about his film-making and his thinking. It was at that point that I realized that several of the set-piece scenes in S&TEOTT were conscious reworkings of successful bits in earlier Harryhausens. Notably the ghouls attack is a rip-off of the skeleton fight in JASON — Harryhausen thought it could be improved by setting it at night. In fact, the bug-eyed skeletoids are pretty spooky, and the scenes in the tent are excitingly colourful. When it devolves into muddy day-for-night outside though, it’s a disappointing drop in intensity.

Trog still fascinates. The most characterful of the creations (“They’re not monsters, they’re mythological creatures”), even with a silly horn on his head, Trog is charming and uncanny. The film lingers on his un-subtitled exchanges with the baboon prince (yes, there’s a baboon prince) for great stretches, autistically mesmerised by their monkey discourse.

As a kid, I *was* disappointed that Trog never fought the Minaton, Harryhausen’s brass automaton version of the minotaur. I suspect I may have already been exposed to Godzilla double features at the Odeon, Clerk Street, and could imagine nothing better than two humanoids battering hell out of each other, especially in Dynamation. Instead we had to settle for Trog’s battle with the rather fluffy sabre-tooth tiger (you may have noticed that none of these animals have a whit to do with the Arabian Nights) while the putative heroes of the film stand around scratching their underpaid arses.

sinbad-eye-of-the-tiger

Children have terrible taste and great taste at the same time, so I admired Pat Wayne’s shirt. Otherwise, human interest was confined to the glimpses of Jane Seymour’s skin, and a chance to see Patrick Troughton, whom I knew had been Doctor Who, but before my time. He plays the stupidest wise man ever put on celluloid — watch how he interrogates his arch-enemy and contrives to tell HER everything she needs to know, while learning nothing and then allowing her to escape and almost getting himself killed. All of that would have been lovely if the film had established its genius “Melanthius the Greek” as doddering and senile, but the writers seem to want to accept his behaviour as merely unfortunate. Still, the giant hornet he creates successfully freaked Fiona out.

What’s this? I don’t know! Or maybe I DO know and I’m not ready to say? Maybe that’s it? Hmmm…

Things Roddy and Fiona said during “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by dcairns

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.

Bagdad!

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: “No.”

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?”

Me: “Sodomy.”

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.”

UK: Sinbad Collection – Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad/Golden Voyage Of Sinbad/Sinbad And The Eye Of Tiger [DVD] [1958]

USA:The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition) (1958)

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

The Top Ten Sexy Ray Harryhausen Monsters

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Science with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by dcairns

The author contemplates his task.

This was a hard list to make! But a necessary one. So much competition! The anatomical perfection of the skeleton army from THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD… the muscular sheen of Minoton from SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER… not to mention the dazzling intellect and warm personal manner of the Grand Lunar in FIRST MEN IN THE MOON. Finally, the only characters who could be definitely excluded from the running were the giant squirrel in THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER and Bubo the aluminium owl.

10) It, from IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA.

Tentacles… tentacles are sexy, right?

9) Cyclops from THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD

Maybe the one guy I’d go queer for. Spectacular upper body definition. As for the lower body… well, it’s a look, I suppose. Just imagine he’s wearing cowboy chaps.

8) Serpent Woman from THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD

Slinky. I love a woman with vertebrae instead of femurs. Picture the possibilities! Even if her face does put one in mind of Corporal Klinger from TV’s M*A*S*H. That’s why veils were invented.

7) Talos from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS

The Greeks have a word for it,  and the word is “ah-woo-wa-woo-wa-wowa!”

6) Homonicus from THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD

There’s a clue in the name.

5) Figurehead from THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD

A woman with perpetually hard nipples. Because they’re made of wood. Splinters aside, that still seems more organic than silicone.

4) Kali from THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD

Six arms to hold you! Body of Jacqueline Bisset! Legs of Janeane Garofalo! Arms of Jacqueline Bisset AND Janeane Garofalo!

3) Troglodyte from SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER

Kinda cute, if you like Iggy Pop.

2) Medusa from CLASH OF THE TITANS

Maybe CLASH OF THE TITANS was Ray’s male menopause movie? We get an unconvincing body double nude scene for Judy Bowker, Theseus’s mom breast-feeding him, and then this. All this nudity was a new thing for Harryhausen movies, and seems sort of unsuited to the kid audience… Still, Medusa may be lethal and reptilian, but damn she’s pert.

1) Mighty Joe Young from MIGHTY JOE YOUNG

Ah, ya big ape! Who among is can resist the might and musk of the giant gorilla? And since his “gorillahood” is pretty tiny, proportionate to the rest of his physique, you can be confident he won’t be too “boku”. At the end of the day, it’s his winning personality that counts.

Honorary mention: Kate Calendar’s skeleton from FIRST MEN IN THE MOON. Full-frontal x-ray nudity! Who wouldn’t want to jump on those bones?

You’ll note that I avoid speculating on which of the stop-motion figurines would make the best sex-toy (the Kraken, obviously — just add batteries and he’s a reptilian rampant rabbit), and I refuse to suggest titles for porno versions (JASON AND THE ORGYNAUTS, 20 MILLION MALES TO EARTH, IT CAME BENEATH THE SEA, that’s the kind of thing you just won’t find here). Still, I feel I’ve plumbed some kind of new low here. Tomorrow I attempt to claw back some kind of respect and innocence as I write up the incredible evening we had in London at the celebration of Mr. H’s 90th birthday.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 568 other followers