The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) **Ĺ
Talk about a long wait for a sequel! The 7th Voyage of Sinbad appeared right when the 60ís sword-and-sandal craze was getting startedó the same year, in fact, that Hercules/Le Fatiche di Ercole played in American theaters. If the succession of Harryhausen fantasy bestiary flicks that Columbia cranked out during the next six years or so is any indication, it must have made a pretty penny, but for some reason it wasnít until sixteen years later that producer Charles Schneer did the obvious thing and put a direct sequel in the works. The resulting film, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, is in most respects rather better than its distant predecessor, but it lacks something of the originalís flair, and isnít quite as much fun. Nevertheless, I imagine most Harryhausen fans will be basically satisfied with it.
One of the side effects of waiting so long to shoot a sequel was that the original star, Kerwin Matthews, was much too old to be believable in the part. So instead, the role of Sinbad the sailor goes to John Phillip Law (from Barbarella and Alienator) this time around, an actor who is, if anything, even less charismatic. The opening credits find Sinbad and his crew at sea. One of the men notices a strange creatureó obviously no seabirdó flying over the ship with something shiny clutched in its talons. The lookout fires an arrow at the thing, and it drops the trinket right onto the deck of Sinbadís vessel. Itís some sort of gold medallion, or perhaps only part of one. The intricate pattern wrought into it doesnít seem to add up to a coherent whole, so there may very well be more to the object than what the creature dropped when it was shot at. In any case, Sinbad rather likes the thing, and decides to keep it despite the warnings of his first officer, Rashid (Martin Shaw), that doing so will bring nothing but bad luck.
Rashid may be right. Certainly storms and high winds would seem to count as bad luck by most sailorsí definitions, and that is exactly what Sinbadís crew encounters that night. The captain, asleep in his cabin, dreams meanwhile of the flying creature that dropped his snazzy gold widget, of a sinister man in a long, black cloak, and of a shapely dancing girl with her face in the shadows and a staring eye tattooed on the palm of her right hand. The next morningís light reveals that the storm has carried the ship all the way to land, though I somehow doubt that the land in question is anywhere near Sinbadís original destination. Still, Sinbad has a premonition about the place, and he goes ashore alone. This isnít the brightest thing he could have done. On the beach, Sinbad meets a man on horseback (Tom Baker, from The Mutations and ďDr. Who,Ē doing his best Christopher Lee impersonation), dressed in a strangely familiar cloak, who informs him that the medallion the captain wears around his neck is his property, and demands that it be returned. The man with the scimitar who comes up behind Sinbad further underscores the seriousness of the mounted manís request. But even though heís dense enough to come ashore alone in a strange country, Sinbad is at least sufficiently with it to figure out that a man who has creepy little flying things to run his errands for him would probably find a way to use that medallion for evil, and he bolts instead, seizing the horse that apparently belonged to the cloaked manís flunky. And whatever his intellectual faults, our hero is a rather better rider than his pursuer, and makes it inside the gate of the nearby city with enough time to spare to lose himself in the crowd. The cloaked man obviously has some sort of history with the local constabulary, too, for he withdraws the moment the city guards see him.
Sinbadís explorations in town lead him eventually to the rulerís palace. In its outer courtyard, he (or rather, the medallion around his neck) catches the eye of the grand vizier (Douglas Wilmer, from Jason and the Argonauts and Sword of the Valiant), who hurries over to talk to him. Evidently that medallion is part of some magical puzzle that the vizier has been working to solve ever since his master, the king, was killed some years ago. And big surprise, the man in the black cape is implicated in the kingís death. We (and Sinbad) now learn that he is called Koura, and that he is an evil wizard. Not that such an identification is in any sense surprising, mind you. The grand vizier isnít sure how, but Sinbadís amulet, together with one in the vizierís possession and perhaps another that still hasnít turned up, form the key to locating a tremendous magical power source, which would make Koura invincible if it fell into his hands, or give someone else the ability to overcome him with just as much assurance. And though the vizier again doesnít understand how, the medallions will give up their secret only in conjunction with a strange, abstract mural on the wall of an underground chamber beneath the palaceís foundations. The vizier is fortunate indeed that heís talking to a sailor, for when Sinbad happens to hold up the medallions at just the right angle, he recognizes the pattern of shadows they cast on the mural as forming a nautical chart depicting an unknown island in the ocean to the south. If Sinbad is right, that can only be the fabled lost land of Lemuria, the Atlantis of the South Seas. What better place to hide a peerless magical doodad than there? He and the vizier get busy copying the map down at once, Sinbad having already decided in the back of his mind to take on whatever adventure is sure to follow from the effort.
But unbeknownst to Sinbad and the grand vizier, Koura has sent his flying pet (which we can now see to be a humanoid gargoyle about a foot tall) to spy on their labors, and the wizard now knows as much about the project as they do. The vizier spots the creature as it is sneaking away, however, and sends Sinbad to catch it. The mental link between the imp and its master may mean that Koura is wise to the general shape of the mission on which the vizier now means to embark, but he and Sinbad can at least prevent the wizard from learning any more by killing the creature at once. Nevertheless, time is of the essence, and the vizier will have to sail immediately if he is to maintain his lead over Koura. Sinbad agrees to set off the following morning.
On the way back to his ship from the palace, Sinbad has a real-life run-in with the third element of his dream from the night before. He stops in at a shop in the bazaar to buy some supplies for the voyage, and the owner begins trying to convince him to take his good-for-nothing son, Haroun (Kurt Christian), along with the aim of making a man out of him. Sinbad initially refuses, even for the price of 400 gold coins, but he changes his tune when he gets a look at the shopkeeperís slave girl, Margiana (Caroline Munro, of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and At the Earthís Core). Sheís quite a prize, certainly, but what really gets the sailorís attention is the odd tattoo on the palm of her right hand, an eye exactly like that of the dancer in his dream. (But donít you go thinking this will ever become important to the story. This whole business of the tattooed slave girl showing up in Sinbadís dreams falls through the cracks in the screenplay at almost the very moment that it is established.) Sensing that Sinbad has taken a liking to the girl, the wily shopkeeper ups his offer to 400 dinars and Margiana, and the captain finally relents. You can bet that Haroun is none too pleased to find out that heís going to be sailing the Indian Ocean in search of Lemuria the next morning, however.
Koura hires a ship of his own, of course, and the one he picks is much faster than Sinbadís. Sinbad, however, has an advantage, in that he has sailed these waters before, and knows of a safe route through an extremely treacherous stretch of shoals. By navigating it at night, under cover of fog, Sinbad can force Kouraís captain to struggle through unaided. That little detour widens the gap between him and the wizard nicely, but Koura isnít beaten yet. All throughout the rest of the voyage, Sinbad and his crew will face a succession of magical attacks, one of which ends up putting the chart Sinbad drew from the medallions into the sorcererís hands. Now Koura doesnít need to keep pace with Sinbad to trail him to his destination.
As is only to be expected, Lemuria bears a marked resemblance to The 7th Voyage of Sinbadís Colossa. It is covered with the ruins of an extinct civilizationís monumental architecture, and serves as home to quite a few mythical monsters. But unlike Colossa, Lemuria is still inhabited by human beings, and these savages make life almost as difficult for our heroes as the monsters and the evil magician do. This is especially so once Koura impresses the natives by bringing to life their idol of Kali, implying that he is even more powerful than the goddess herself. The upshot of it all is that Sinbad, his crew, and the grand vizier will be beset by foes on all sides, and are probably going to need that magical power source theyíre after just to get off the island alive.
Like most of Harryhausenís fantasy movies from the preceding decade, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a somewhat colorless affair when there are no monsters about. It definitely suffers from a more serious than usual case of Hero Blandness Blight, and there are some people (Caroline Munro, for example) who should never, ever try to fake an accent. As is so often the case, itís the villain that carries most of the weight when the monsters are away. Tom Bakerís counterfeit Christopher Lee is obviously no substitute for the real thing, but Baker comes up with enough bad-guy swagger for the movie to get by on. He also does a better than average job of faking age. One of the movieís neater tricks is that it ages Koura whenever he invokes the powers of darkness, and by the time he and Sinbad square off in the wild menís temple, he is quite an old man. It would be easy enough to aim for complete enfeeblement at that point, but Baker takes a more subtle approach which comes off much better. But again itís the monsters weíre really here to see, and which mostly make the movie. Interestingly enough, the really outlandish ones like the gryphon and the cyclopean centaur donít go over as well as the more restrained creations. The animate statue of Kali, battling Sinbad and his men with her six swords, is the obvious standout, but I think my personal favorite monster sequence is the one in which Koura brings the figurehead of Sinbadís ship to life. Itís something I never would have thought of myself, and that to me is always the highest credential a movie monster can boast.