Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) movie poster

(1977) dir. Sam Wanamaker
viewed: 09/05/08

With the kids back from England, I querried them on what to rent for Friday night movie night.  Felix was pretty clear: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.  Or rather semi-clear: Sinbad and the Golden Eye.  Eventually we worked it out.

The third and final Ray Harryhausen animation-effect Sinbad film after The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) is certainly the least interesting of the three.  Harryhausen, of course, would produce the visual effects for on more film, 1981’s The Clash of the Titans, which I reckon that we’ll queue up before too long.  It’s interesting timing for Harryhausen, coming out the same year as the original Star Wars (1977), it is the end of an era of stop-motion animation, the end of an era only truly ear-marked by the beginning of a new era, one in which the visual effects folks were the progeny of Harryhausen.

For Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, I distinctly remember when this film hit the theaters, was already a big Sinbad and Harryhausen fan.  It was less inspired than its predecessors, and while Harryhausen would attempt one last shot at a major special effects film, this one was not his most interesting.

Just simply the monsters in this film are less interesting.  Starting with three bug-eyed demons (a poor man’s versions of the skeleton warriors, not so well-designed), and then a giant walrus, giant bee, a baboon, a giant sabre-tooth tiger.  The “minotron”, the all-gold robotic minotaur, doesn’t really get to do a whole lot.  He stabs a sailor and then ultimately gets crushed by a big stone that he clumsily pulls on top of himself.  The best beastie in this film is the trogolodyte, the humanized good guy with a horn and scaly skin.  He’s the most aesthetically pleasing and nice to see a good guy monster.

The film doesn’t feel too inspired.  Some of the effects look less effective, color-challenged transposition of Harryhausen’s DynaRama.  It’s not abysmal.  It’s just weaker.  Felix did enjoy it.  Clara and Victoria were frightened by the minotron, so they skedaddled to watch Felix the Cat upstairs.

I am sure we’ll see more of Harryhausen’s work.  This is one cycle, the Sinbad films, that is now complete.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) movie poster

(1974) dir. Gordon Hessler
viewed: 05/09/08

Furthering my watching of my favorite films of my childhood with my kids, we watched The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the second of the Sinbad films featuring the work of stop-motion animator and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen.  My daughter is actually the one who asked to queue this one up, but mainly Felix and I watched it.  He found it “scarier” than The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958).  I found it somewhat unsurprisingly less satisfying than the earlier film (as I had remembered), though certainly not without merit or charm.

The monsters in this film, Harryhausen’s specialties, are two brought-to-life statues, the first the wooden figurehead of Sinbad’s ship and then the six-armed metalic Kali statue in the oddly pan-pagan/pan-Asian tribal islanders (unusually green-skinned).  The other beasts are a one-eyed centaur and a griffin and a cute little bat-like Ymir-ish creature.

But it takes a long time for the action to build up and the film’s main characteristic other than Harryhausen’s brilliant animation is the excellent performance of a pre-Dr. Who Tom Baker as the villainous magician (channeling Christopher Lee).

My recollections from childhood were that this was the 2nd best of the Sinbad films, not as good as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad but better than its follower, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977).  I always still enjoyed it.  I didn’t have a problem with it.  But it’s not the film that The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.  I have no doubt that soon we will watch the third of the series.

It’s an amazing thing, watching these films with my kids.  It does fulfill something within oneself that is hard to specify.  Oddly enough, Felix had been looking forward to the just released Speed Racer (2008) film (which has gotten critically panned).  And I am wondering if that is something I should take him to or not, especially when I know that he is much more looking forward to seeing Kung Fu Panda (2008) and WALL-E (2008) more than anything.

Who knows?

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) movie poster

(1958) dir. Nathan Juran
viewed: 03/21/08

After watching the DVD of 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), I turned on the little documentary that the DVD featured of Ray Harryhausen and his work, showing lots of clips of all his films, plus discussing his techniques and history.  My son wasn’t all that excited about 20 Million Miles to Earth, but he started getting excited about seeing a Sinbad film and since I am on my little “number marathon”, I figured that The 7th Voyage of Sinbad would work fine.  It was always my favorite of the three Sinbad films that Harryhausen worked on.

I recall seeing it in the 1980’s and being sort of disappointed with the corny acting and some of the effects…I mean the bulk of them are brilliant, but every once in a while you get a shot that is pretty clearly doctored, double-exposed or transposed…but you know, it’s purely silly to complain about that stuff.

Harryhausen was a brilliant animator, who worked with his producer Charles H. Schneer and director Nathan Juron, who also handled the live action direction on 20 Million Miles to Earth.  I always loved the battle between the cyclops and the dragon.   And the original skeleton sword fight.  The cyclops is one of Harryhausen’s signiture characters, images of his films, showing the characterization and performance of the monsters.

The kids actually really enjoyed this film and have been talking about it a lot today, even play-acting the roles and characters.  I think that I’ve figured out that Felix likes the movies with “battles” between monsters or characters.  I think that was his disappointment with 20 Million Miles to Earth, in which the Ymir merely “battles” an elephant.

We watched a little of the Harryhausen doc on this disc, too.  And it’s kind of neat seeing Felix get excited about the films enough to sit through the documentary portions.  But I can tell you, there will be more Sinbad films here, probably relatively soon.  But not until I finish my “number marathon”, silly as it is…I need to see it through.