The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Sinbad auditions for the Home Shopping Channel.
Stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen created the special effects for three Sinbad movies in total, though the films were not related to each other in any way and were made over a period of twenty years. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is the middle film of the three, and it is a good example of Harryhausen's fantasy films.

John Philip Law (Barbarella) is Sinbad, daring captain of the seven seas. Sinbad becomes involved in the affairs of a country called Morabia when one of his sailors shoots down a tiny gargoyle that flies over Sinbad's ship. The gargoyle drops a big ugly gold artifact, and this being a movie made in the seventies, Sinbad decides to wear it on a chain around his neck.

As soon as Sinbad lands in Morabia he becomes the target of Koura (Tom Baker), an evil sorcerer. It seems the artifact had been stolen by Koura, and he wants it back. Before that can happen, Sinbad hooks up with Morabia's Vizier (Douglas Wilmer), who always wears a golden mask to hide his scarred face. The Vizier has two other gold artifacts that, when combined with Sinbad's, form a map that leads the way to the lost island of Lemuria. Sinbad agrees to take the Vizier to Lemuria, partly because he thinks there may be lost treasure on Lemuria, partly because he's up for any adventure.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad
"It slices, it dices, it chops! Buy now and we'll
throw in a free set of ginsu knives!"
Before leaving Morabia, Sinbad picks up two passengers for the journey. The first is Haroun, the shiftless opium-addict son of a local slave merchant. It seems his father wants to build the boy's character, and he thinks a few years on a sea voyage will do the trick. The merchant also throws in a slave named Margiana (Caroline Munro) to sweeten the deal. Margiana catches Sinbad's eye because of an eye-shaped tattoo she has on her palm, and Sinbad has had a prophetic dream in which he saw just such a tattoo. The funny thing is that Margiana never plays any vital part in the adventure, so Sinbad's prophetic dream was essentially fulfilling the role of a dating service.*

And off we go. It takes a while for the heavy monster action to kick in, but there's plenty of it. We get to see the masthead of Sinbad's ship come to life, and a fight between a cyclopean centaur and a griffin. That particular fight comes out of nowhere, and the creatures look threadbare -- it's not Harryhausen's finest moment. The undisputed highlight of the film is a scene wherein Koura brings a six-armed statue of Kali to life, then makes it swordfight with Sinbad and his sailors. Now that's good watching!

Golden Voyage of Sinbad
"Leela? Sarah Jane? I'm trapped in a 1970's fantasy
film, and I can't find my way out! Adric? Anybody?"
John Philip Law makes a capable and charismatic Sinbad, but as often happens in these kinds of films, the supporting actors are much more memorable than the handsome hero. Tom Baker, known to science-fiction geeks everywhere as the fourth Doctor Who, plays the evil Koura with all the scenery-chewing gusto he can muster. If you've seen his fourth year as the Doctor, you know that he can muster a whole lot of gusto. Baker is almost unrecognizable, between the skin coloring they use to make him look like an Arab and a bushy beard, but his voice and his eyes give him away.

If one person steals this movie from the hero, however, it's Caroline Munro. It's kind of strange that, despite the fact that she's the only woman on Sinbad's ship, somebody thought to bring along at least three changes of female clothes. All of the tops are at least two sizes too small for Munro -- not that we're complaining. It's also a bit odd that every time we see her reacting to something, they shoot her from the waist up -- again, no complaints here. And she leans over a lot. We're certainly not complaining about that! Munro is by far our favorite of the British scream queens. If all the scream queens were to get together in one room, all of the other women should lick Munro's boots. We're not speaking metaphorically, that's just something we'd really like to see.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad
"I don't mean to complain, sir, but that's
the third time in ten minutes you've asked me to set
the tea tray down on the table."
Beyond the obvious charms of Munro, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad also has some terrific dialogue. The examples that come to mind include the film's unofficial motto ("Trust in Allah -- but tie up your camel") and an exchange between Sinbad and Haroun.

Sinbad: Fill your heart with courage!

Haroun: My heart is filled with courage, but I have cowardly legs.

All of these things are merely the icing on the cake of Harryhausen's animation. In most Harryhausen films, the plot is merely something to be tolerated between animated sequences, but Golden Voyage is entertaining throughout. Sinbad knows that adventuring should be fun, darn it, and movies should be too.



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Review date: 3/6/99

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* Okay, it's true that at one point the eye tattoo momentarily saves Sinbad's bacon, but it hardly justifies all of the other danger into which Margiana puts the adventurers. Go back!