The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Special effects in current motion pictures represents a quantum leap forward from the matinee days of yore, but ask any die-hard Ray Harryhausen fan about the legendary animator's stop-motion photography and you might hear something akin to your grandfather talking about newfangled doo-dads while suffering from an ulcer flare-up: "In my day, we didn't have none o' that C-G-I stuff, we just had clay and articulated frames and moving mattes and it was good 'nuff fer us!" And while the "Dynamation" of Harryhausen has been put out to pasture since it's hey-day a few decades ago, it's often entertaining to see what passed for eye-popping special effects before computers altered the cinematic landscape for good. Jason and the Argonauts and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad are two great films from Harryhausen's peak years, and while the 1974 The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a later production that suffers from various defects in the script and performances, the featured creatures are what it's all about anyway, and some of Harryhausen's most famous are on display here. John Philip Law takes on the role of Sinbad in this effort, as the intrepid sailor discovers a secret map to the unknown island of Lemuria, which he intends to visit and learn its secrets. But the evil Prince Koura (Tom Baker), a powerful sorcerer, pursues Sinbad, hoping to thwart his nemesis and harness the mystical powers of the island for himself. And blah blah blah. Okay, while the Harryhausen set-pieces in Golden Voyage are fewer and farther between than in many other Dynamation flicks, it's probably because he spent more time on them, as they are generally more complex and run for a good duration of time. Notables found herein are the six-armed, sword-swinging statue of the Goddess Kali; the wooden Siren figurehead on Sinbad's ship, brought to life by an evil spell and out to kick some booty; and the Griffin and one-eyed Centaur, who have a classic battle to the death. Harryhausen's animation always had a consistent quality throughout his many films, but such cannot be said for the rest of the productions, and Golden Voyage, while a pure Saturday afternoon potboiler, still can't help but acknowledge that it's a product of the 70s. In particular, the large gold charm that Sinbad discovers to be a sailing chart is immediately adorned by the sailor around his neck, worn open on the chest like a funky medallion. Meanwhile, co-star Caroline Munro has little to do, but it appears that she spends a great deal of time maintaining the film's 'G' rating by keeping her amply exposed breasts from becoming too exposed. And a bit part by Kurt Christian, playing a layabout fortunate son who is forced on Sinbad's voyage, differs little from the sort of contemporary blockhead who has nothing better to do than smoke a lot of grass and listen to Dark Side of the Moon endlessly on his headphones (and yes, he's a pothead Sinbad even tells him to lay off the "hashish"). Solid transfer from a good source print, DD 2.0 (mono). Featurettes on The Mysterious Island, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, all with comments by Harryhausen; theatrical trailer; lobby cards; cast-and-crew notes.