Thursday, October 9, 2008

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Nathan Juran, 1958, USA) Sinbad trolls the seven seas, his mission to find the magical elixir that will banish the curse of Princess Persia. He must bring peace to Bagdad before it is laid to ruin, becoming a crumbling mass of broken stone and bloated corpses. (Yes, I am talking fantasy and not polemics.) The engagingly juvenile story is conventionally structured and progresses in standard fashion: this is Saturday Matinee entertainment. Sinbad wears his white shirt and the evil magician Sokurah veils himself in darkness; there is no question of morality, no doubt of good and evil intentions. Nathan Juran’s direction and editing is boilerplate with lackluster acting, though Thorin Thatcher as Sokurah zealously utters his campy dialogue with a vile stare and furrowed brows. When the Cyclops attacks, it’s commanding roar pierces the hearts of frightened sailors, its cloven hoofs trampling unlucky victims. Harryhausen’s Dynamation brings the film to life as the three dimensional creatures almost seamlessly interact with the actors. I would argue that the monsters are more lifelike than the characters: Harryhausen imbues his creations with emotions, subtle gestures, and body language. Just watch the Cyclops expression as he prepares his tasty meal! Ray’s unique skill has not been mastered in today’s CGI infested films, where personality is a distant second to glossy visual realism. Bernard Herrmann’s imaginative score is one of my favorites: from the bombastic opening credits to the clacking castanets of Sinbad’s battle with the skeleton. When Princess Persia is cursed, listen closely to the ingenious music: John Williams blatantly stole it for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. There are two fantastic reasons to see this film: Ray Harryhausen and Bernard Herrmann! (B+)

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