‘I was there; I was in that picture, fighting
the Cyclops on the beach, running from the dragon! I was enthralled. It's one
of my strongest childhood memories.’ It’s very hard to argue with director John
Landis’s vivid account of his earliest memories and the fantasy films of Ray
Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer. They seemed to touch us all in an
indelible manner and took us into a fantasy realm far beyond our imagination.
Indicator has (for the first time in the UK) combined the three Sinbad
adventures in one very handsomely produced package. It’s a magical box that has
very little trouble in sending us on a journey, and back to a place called
The Seventh voyage of Sinbad (1958) was
something of a revelation back in its day. Ray Harryhausen’s pioneering stop-motion
animation had worked so well in films such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
(1953), It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and 20 Million Miles to Earth
(1957). However, he was about to enter a new period and face a new set of
challenges. Along with his producer Charles H. Schneer, Harryhausen was about
to embark on their next collaboration, The Seventh voyage of Sinbad, and it was
to be made in full colour.
The story of The Seventh voyage of Sinbad was
quite simple and uncomplicated. Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) and Princess Parisa’s
(Kathryn Grant) plans of marriage are interrupted by the evil magician Sokurah
(Torin Thatcher). Sokurah insists that Sinbad return a lamp that he lost on the
island of Colossa. Sinbad at first refuses, which leads to Sokurah shrinking
Parisa and blackmailing Sinbad and his crew on a dangerous adventure in order
to save her.
Exciting as the story was, the real magical
elements were of course in the monsters and creatures the Sinbad would
encounter along the way and was very much were Harryhausen stepped in.
Considering its age and taking into account the combination of early colour
film and special effects techniques, Harryhausen’s work was nothing less than
miraculous. From that startling entrance of ‘the Cyclops on the beach’ that
Landis so excitingly refers to, we as an audience are hooked. The blending of
an enormous, mythical creature and real life people, seemingly in a real
location, was enough to take any child’s breath away and leave them both complexed
and in wonder. There was naturally more to come, the giant Roc, the mysterious
snake woman, the fire breathing dragon and perhaps most enthralling of all
sequences, Sinbad’s sword duel with the living skeleton. The results were not
only seamless, but utterly mindboggling.
The new 4K restoration of The Seventh voyage
of Sinbad (from the original camera negative) really brings it to life. Colours
are both rich and vivid. Certain backgrounds may occasionally look a little
grainy, but nevertheless perfectly acceptable and no doubt down to separate
film elements used in the film’s original production. The high resolution scan
perhaps highlights these limitations to some degree. It’s necessary to also
remember, this production was working to a tight schedule and an even tighter
budget. However, simply look at the level of detail in close-ups and location
shots, and the real revelation of the restoration becomes extremely clear. The
audio also sounds marvellous and is presented in both mono and DTS
Speaking of revelations, Indicator’s
collection of bonus material is exhaustive – ‘exhaustive’ in the most
complementary way I might add. Firstly, we have a commentary track (from 2008) which
not only features Harryhausen at the helm, but a whole host of industry
wizards. Producer Arnold Kunert, visual effects experts Phil Tippett, Randall
William Cook and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven Smith all provide fascinating
insights and their respect towards Harryhausen’s work is undeniable.
Also included are the original Super 8mm cut
down versions. As any serious movie fan of a certain age will recall, these
were essential, especially if you were growing up in the 70s. Before the
introduction of videocassettes, these 200ft spools contained around 8-9 minutes
of film and featured condensed sequences or key scenes from the movie. You
could buy these in different versions such as b/w silent or colour sound (which
were a lot more expensive). Four parts were released for The Seventh Voyage of
Sinbad – The Cyclops, The Strange Voyage, The Evil Magician and Dragon’s Lair –
which was the reel I owned and watched over and over again. Each of these
segments is presented in their raw state, complete with speckles and tram line
scratches, but to be honest, I wouldn’t really want them any other way. They
are a wonderful, retrospective reminder of those glorious days. I should also
point out that parts 1 and 4 are in their colour / sound versions while parts 2
and 3 are in b/w / silent. There is also an option to play individual reels or
The Secrets of Sinbad (11.23) is a featurette
with Phil Tippet (in his workshop) recollecting on how he grew up on
Harryhausen’s films. He talks about the whole period and Forrest J. Ackerman’s
Famous Monsters magazine and how this became a key influence in his own career
Remembering The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
(23.31) has Harryhausen talking about the struggle in getting the film made. He
talks about various elements including the shooting in Granada, Spain, and
Majorca. Kerwin Matthews, the building of giant props, his creature designs and
his disapproval over the English censoring of the skeleton fight are among the
many other subjects discussed.
A Look Behind the Voyage (11.52) is a TV
featurette from 1995. It looks to be from a video source, which was being used
regularly during this period. This short piece features interviews with both
Schneer and Harryhausen and looks back at the early work such as Mighty Joe
Young and his fairy tale films. It also looks at the importance of his parents
and the role they played, the difficulties in moving from b/w to colour and
working to tight budgets. It’s a nice informative, condensed piece.
Music promo (2.34) – Well this is a nice rare
little piece and the sort of thing that really grabs my interest. In 1958,
Colpix (the record division of Columbia pictures), produced this 7” 45rpm
single to be played in cinema lobbies, radio shows and for giving away as kids
competition prizes. The song ‘Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He’s Been Good to Me’
is as cheesy as hell, but oh so wonderful. It’s presented here in beautiful,
clear sound and played over a piece of Seventh Voyage poster artwork.
The Music of Bernard Herrmann (26.52) is a
fascinating essay on composer Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann biographer Steven
Smith presents an insightful and eloquent account of the composer’s love of
fantasy films. Smith takes us through his early work including CBS radio, Orson
Welles’s Mercury theatre, his innovative instrumentation style and his use of
Theremin, Brass and electronics. All of which is fascinating.
Keeping on the subject of Bernard Herrmann,
Indicator have pulled off a real treat with the inclusion of Herrmann’s full
isolated score. Presented in Stereo, the score is rousing, clean and dynamic,
it is also plentiful as Herrmann leaves very few scenes unscored. I believe
this marks its debut as an isolated score, but 2009 complete score CD (released
by Prometheus) came with a total time of 71 minutes, so expect a lot of great
Birthday Tribute (1.00) features a short
birthday tribute to Harryhausen from Phil Tippet’s studio – complete with
The Trailer Gallery starts with the original ‘This
is Dynamation!’ trailer (3.26). This is a fascinating preview that presents the
process of Dynamation and includes some rare behind the scenes footage, effects
shots and Kerwin Mathews practising with his fencing coach for the skeleton
fight. We then have the same trailer introduced and with a commentary from
Trailers from Hell presenter Brian Trenchard-Smith (4.47). Finally, there is
the re-release trailer which I believe is from 1975 (1.46).
The image gallery is quite comprehensive and
contains approx. 75 steps. This is a little misleading as a great deal of
portrait shots are placed side-by-side, so in reality there’s a great deal
more. Here you will find original promotional material, Harryhausen drawings,
b/w stills, mini lobby cards, comic books and poster art from around the
Determined perhaps by our own individual age group, most of us no doubt have our own individual memory of our first Sinbad experience. For me, it was the second of three Sinbad films The Golden Voyage of Sinbad which arrived in 1974. As a 10 year-old, I could perhaps fully identify with that sense of adulation experienced by director John Landis. As a wide-eyed and extremely influenced kid, experiencing The Golden Voyage of Sinbad on the cinema screen propelled me into another dimension. For this entry in the series we were introduced to a new Sinbad in the shape of John Phillip Law. Born in California, Law was tall and handsome. Gifted with the most incredible steely blue eyes, he instantly became a sex symbol in the 1960s. Law looked every bit the hero and had little trouble in adapting to the role. Naturally, the actors and the simple narrative are again secondary to the spectacular Dynamation sequences meticulously crafted by Harryhausen.
Whilst aboard his ship, Sinbad discovers a golden amulet dropped by a mysterious flying minion. The tablet forms part of a map which reveals the route to a magic fountain. Legend has it that the fountain bestows untold riches and eternal youth. Blown off course, Sinbad arrives in Marabia where he meets the Grand Vizier (Douglas Wilmer). Shrouded by a golden mask to hide his disfigured face, the Vizier has the second piece of the tablet. Sinbad and the Vizier join forces to embark on a journey to the lost continent of Lemuria. Sinbad later meets (quite literally) the woman of his dreams, a slave named Margiana (Caroline Munro) who joins them on their adventure. Of course, no adventure is complete without an evil nemesis and arrives in the shape of Prince Koura (Tom Baker). Koura quite naturally seeks the same prize – for all the wrong reasons.
Plot and narrative complete, Harryhausen’s array of creature features bind the story together perfectly. Among the numerous perils that Sinbad encounters are his ship’s own wooden figurehead, a sword duel with the six-armed Kali idol (arguably the film’s highlights) and a battle between the a one-eyed centaur and the giant griffin. All of this works incredibly well. Gordon Hessler’s direction keeps the film moving at a steady pace and never lets the energy levels subside. Ted Moore’s beautiful cinematography and Miklós Rózsa’s majestic score also add to the film’s grandeur.
Indicator has used a 2K restored print for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and overall the results are very good. There are a few minor instances of grain, generally among the night shots aboard the ships. Some blacks are a little milky and there are a few fluctuations in density. However, in general it’s a very acceptable image and I very much doubt it can be improved to any further degree. The audio is clean and free of any major pops or blemishes. Like Seventh Voyage, there are two options, an original mono track and a DTS HD multi-channel. As a rule, the purist in me often sides with the original audio track (if provided) but I thought the DTS track here provided a much punchier and somewhat improved soundscape.
Bonus features here are also very enjoyable. Firstly there is a very generous (105.00) British Film Institute (audio) interview recorded at London’s National Film Theatre in 1970. Ray Harryhausen and his producer Charles H. Schneer are interviewed together on stage and discuss their work, right back to the days of The Lost World, King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. It’s a thorough, in depth analyses that fans of the genre should find fascinating – a nice unearthing.
Golden Years (37.00) is a new and exclusive feature and is a complete joy. Actor Tom Baker, a natural storyteller and a very humble gentleman, discusses his career as a struggling stage actor, his work on a building site to survive, Dr. Who and his memories of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Like the great Peter Ustinov, Baker simply holds your attention throughout. Yes, he diverts off into all different manner of directions, but he captivates. His enthusiasm, his memory and more importantly his sense of humour is quite incredible.
Golden Girl (15.00) is another new and exclusive interview with the lovely Caroline Munro. As an actress, Munro remains a cult and fantasy legend. She’s done it all, having worked for Hammer films, starred in Bond movie and is a regular on the convention circuit; she’s a much respected figure. Munro speaks highly of the Sinbad production and of actors Law, Baker and of course Harryhausen. She appears courteous and above all, generous. It’s nice to see someone looking back with a complete sense of gratitude and the opportunities that were presented to her.
The Harryhausen Legacy (25.32) is a retrospective look at the career of the effects wizard. It manages to pack a great deal in thanks largely to an impressive list of contributors such as Bob Burns, John Landis, Phil Tippet, Hoyt Yeatman, Ken Ralston, Joe Dante, John Dykstra, Stan Winston and more.
The four episodic Super 8mm cut downs are also included. Running at approx. 8 minutes each and containing ‘Sinbad’s Battle with the Monsters’, ‘Sinbad Duels the Magic Sword’. ‘Sinbad and the Oracle’ and ‘Sinbad Duels the idol with Many Arms’ they again provide a sense of nostalgic fun for those who were there. It’s a shame that again, the continuity of these reels is broken. Only part one is presented in colour / sound, whilst the remaining three episodes are presented in their b/w / silent versions?
Miklós Rózsa Isolated score. It’s great that Indicator have included this gem of a score as a bonus feature. It’s not however an exclusive. Twilight Time’s Mike Matessino is the man very much responsible for that and previously produced it as an extra on their own Blu-ray edition – so kudos to Matessino for making this available. The score sounds excellent, clean and dynamic across its DTS stereo channels.
The Original Trailer (2.47) is what it is and very typical in 70s style.
Image Gallery (approx. 148 steps) Indicator has included a good set of promotional material, colour and b/w stills and posters. Some portrait images are set two per page. Curiously there is no UK Quad poster included, which is arguably the most stunning of all the poster designs.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger came along in 1977. Expectations were high after a relatively short absence from our cinema screens. We were also introduced to another new face. Patrick Wayne (son of John) this time took the lead and in fairness looked quite the part. The film also boasted a respectable cast including Jane Seymour (another former Bond girl), Patrick Troughton (another former Dr. Who), Margaret Whiting and Taryn Power (daughter of another screen legend, Tyrone Power).
The story begins with the coronation of Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas) of Charak. As Kassim is about to be crowned, his diabolical stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting) places a curse upon him which transforms him into a baboon. Sinbad has arrived to seek permission from Prince Kassim to marry his sister, Princess Farah (Jane Seymour). Sinbad and Farah conclude that Kassim's curse is Zenobia's spell, a trick that will see her son Rafi become caliph, should the spell not be lifted after seven moons. Our band of heroes set sail to seek Melanthius (Patrick Troughton), a Greek hermit on the island of Casgar. Melanthius is believed to be the only one who knows how to break the spell. Zenobia and Rafi pursue Sinbad in a boat rowed by a tall, bronze Minoton and so on. The film reverts to a rather formulaic style from here and before long; a sense of déjà vu begins to creep in.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is often regarded as the weakest film in the series, and I have to agree with that. As a teenager, the magic may still had (just) worked, but there was always something missing. In reality, there is no escaping the film’s slow pace or the lack of spectacular set pieces, the film just doesn’t have them. The creatures were nothing to ‘thrill’ us, and the overall concept began to look a little tired and frayed around the edges. I don’t think I was ever going to be fully engaged with a giant walrus, a rather docile troglodyte or a giant sabre-toothed cat. Perhaps it simply wasn’t mythical enough? There is also a heavy over-reliance and dependency on scratchy stock footage, the result of which doesn’t blend at all well. However, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger’s problems do not end there.
Unfortunately, Indicator’s 2K restored print is rather poor, very poor in fact. If this is Sony’s latest restoration from ‘the original camera negatives’ then there is something seriously wrong. It is immediately apparent that this is by far, an inferior restoration. There is a large amount of speckle and debris scattered throughout the print, a lot of which becomes increasingly obvious during the night scenes. There’s a real lacklustre look to the film, no vivid detail and devoid of any genuine freshness or intensity. Should a film from 1977 look poorer in terms of quality and in comparison to an older film from 1974 or even 1958? I can’t help thinking that this has come from an older source. Both of the film’s audio options (original mono and DTS multi-channel tracks), fare rather better. Dialogue is clear, effects are punchy and there is no evident hiss or pops.
The bonus material begins with another (audio) interview (85.28) with Harryhausen, again at the NFT and recorded in July, 1981. Hosted by Philip Strick, the interview tied in with Harryhausen’s latest and final film, Clash of the Titans. Again, it’s all very fascinating but nonetheless covers a great deal of stories that we have already encountered through previous interviews and featurettes contained on the first two discs.
The Princess Diaries (11.38) is a brand new exclusive and features an interview with the seemingly ageless Jane Seymour. Rather sadly, this piece transpires as a rather downbeat interview. Seymour’s recollections of the production are all quite negative. There’s an almost suppressed ‘bitterness’ surrounding Taryn Power being bought to the project (apparently late) and therefore reduced Seymour’s role. There are also issues with the heat and the smell of the furs she had to wear. Cc'est la vie…
Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by John Landis (11.52) is a nice little featurette in itself. However, its entire focus is on the making of Jason and the Argonauts (1963).
The Harryhausen Chronicles (57.56) is a 1998 TV documentary written and directed by the late Richard Schickel. This is a good documentary narrated by Leonard Nimoy and featuring guests such as Harryhausen’s lifetime friend, Ray Bradbury and director George Lucas. It’s far better paced, without trying to cram in every conceivable person involved in the special effects industry – which by this point is something of a welcome relief.
Thankfully, like Twilight Time’s Blu-ray edition, Roy Budd’s excellent score is also isolated in DTS. Soundtrack lovers should take a great deal of pleasure from Budd’s composition which sounds rich, vibrant and absolutely stunning throughout.
The Original Trailer (2.13) is also included.
To add a little further misery to disc three, there does not appear to be any sign of the Super 8mm cut down. It was announced that this set would include ‘Super 8 cut-down versions of all three films.’ I know for a fact that there was a 400ft reel (17 minutes) released by Columbia, but for some reason, it appears to be absent from this collection. Was it ever to be included, or is it something overlooked on Indicator’s part?
A stills gallery completes the disc contents and is provided over 88 steps. Portraits are again sometimes spread over two per frame. Promotional and marketing material is also included, but again absent of any UK quad poster.
In addition, there is a very nicely produced 80 page booklet that accompanies this set. Superbly researched and written by both Michael Brooke and Jeff Billington, the booklet provides insightful essays on each film and the proposed but unmade fourth movie, Sinbad goes to Mars. There is also an interesting interview with John Phillip Law among others.
There is little doubt that Powerhouse / Indicator have produced this collection with excellent intentions and a great deal of love. It certainly has a great deal to shout about. Nevertheless, there is a very niggling problem with its presentation of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. As it is arguably the weakest film in the set and does after all amount to one third of its contents, it does not need to draw any unnecessary attention to itself. I remain unconvinced in respect of that 2K restoration. If it is indeed the latest source, then I’d expect it to look a whole lot better than it does.
Indicator’s region free Sinbad trilogy box set is limited to 6,000 units and can be ordered by clicking here.