This week’s offering of Saturday night pizza and bad movie night was a classic. We watched it with Svengoolie.
While bringing the Princess Parisa home for their wedding at Baghdad, Sinbad stops at the island of Colossa for fresh water and supplies. While there, the crew notices enormous cloven footprints, and an entrance to a cave carved to look like a giant mouth. Sinbad sees it as an invitation to explore.
Before they get far, a man comes flying out of the cave’s mouth. Hot on his heels comes a giant cyclops with cloven hooves and an anti-social attitude, which causes a general exodus to the boats. The stranger, however, rubs an oil lamp he has and calls on a genie to protect the men he’s with. In the ensuing chaos, he drops the lamp over the side of the rowboat on his way to Sinbad’s ship. The cyclops, however, picks it up.
The stranger introduces himself as Sokurah the Magician and demands that Sinbad takes him back to the island to retrieve his lamp. Sinbad demurs. He’s got things to do as well. He’s getting married for one. The marriage is part of a peace treaty between his home of Baghdad and the Princess’ home of Chandra. They’ll come back for the lamp later.
Sokurah schemes. When an elaborate display of magic fails to impress the prospective fathers-in-law enough to outfit him with a ship, Sokurah takes to drastic measures, sneaking into the Princess’ room and miniaturizing her until she’s small enough to fit in the palm of normal human’s hand.
In the morning, the court is dismayed at the discovery of the Princess’s condition. (She, however, remains almost pathologically chipper.) Sokurah claims to have a remedy for her condition. All he needs is some shells from the eggs of a roc, which nest on the island of Colossa and to take it to his lair, where he keeps his potions.
Sinbad agrees to head the expedition, but where is he going to find a crew? No one in their right minds—he hires from those condemned to die. In exchange, they will receive full pardons. Yeah, what could go wrong?
The Princess accompanies the crew in a contraption that looks like an elaborate pool cabana cabin Sinbad somehow tucks away in his waist sash. Barbara Eden has nothing on her in the chipper department.
From the moment you hear the over-the-top Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) score in the opening frames of the film, you know this going to be a silly, fun adventure movie. And it is.
The various monsters are the stop-action creations of Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013), whose work includes the films The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). While the latter remains his most famous film, he seems to have pulled out all the stops on the present one. Not only is the viewer treated to a goofy, terrifying cyclops, but also a snake-like creature with four arms, created when Sokurah tries to wow the fathers of Princess Paris and Sinbad. He cajoles the Princess’s maid into hopping into a giant jar then throws a snake in after her. That’s just the beginning. A dinosaur guards the entrance to the Magician’s cave/lair/secret laboratory. Sokurah later animates a skeleton, which then engages in a sword fight with Sinbad. And the rocs—the mythical birds of unusual size—have two heads here.
While these effects may strike the jaded 2020 viewer as cheesy, especially when watched on a television or computer screen, they were the height of technology when they first appeared just before Christmas in 1958. And they are laid on thick. These remain fun.
There are no surprises in the story. The good guys are good guys. The bad guys are bad guys and get their comeuppance. If the evil magician had a mustache, he would twirl it. Sinbad’s crew drop like flies around him.
The costumes are fanciful and colorful—except for the bad guy, who wears the traditional black. They appear to my dilettante eye to be more Indian-influenced than of medieval Arab origin. Just the same, the movie is not exactly a documentary. I’ll leave this as a small point. The Sinbad tales originated early in the time of the Abbasid Caliphate (that is, 8-9th centuries C. E.) and appear in One Thousand and One Nights.
This is not a movie for intellectual stimulation or for quiet contemplation. This is just an escapist romp.
Title: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Ken Kolb… (written by) (as Kenneth Kolb)
Ray Harryhausen … (story) (uncredited)
Cast (in credits order)
Kerwin Mathews … Sinbad
Kathryn Grant … Princess Parisa
Richard Eye … The Genie
Torin Thatcher … Sokurah the Magician
Alec Mango … Caliph
Released: December 23, 1958
Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes