Friday, January 30, 2015

Another Look: THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD


In 1958, when this movie came out, I was 10 years old. I still remember it vividly, albeit with the aid of a handful of re-viewings. What I also remember vividly is the bombardment of TV commercials that came with it. That's not to say I recall clearly the content of said commercials --- except for the impact made by the first sight of the Cyclops as presented in Ray Harryhausen's much-touted Dynamation. Even on our tiny, grainy, black-and-white TV screen I knew I was looking at something special and spectacular and I couldn't wait for a chance to see the movie.
This was probably my first awareness of big motion picture hype.
(1958 was also the year of Joseph E. Levine's uber promotion for Steve Reeves' Hercules, but that's a story to be covered another time.)

As film entertainment, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is an epic adventure filmed in rich Technicolor with state of the art special effects (for the time) that stands the test of time and can be watched and enjoyed over and over. One could quibble about the lousy acting, the poorly choreographed fight scenes, the inaccuracy of Sinbad's ship, and so forth. But the 10-year-old kid who saw these things for the first time nearly six decades ago didn't find fault in any of those things … and the remnants of that 10-year-old who recently sat down and once again watched 7th with his youngest grandson didn't give a hoot about them, either.
While some of the fights and fisticuffs were poorly staged, the sword battle between Sinbad and the evil magician's skeleton was top notch. (This was such a popular scene that Harryhausan used versions of it twice more in Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger – each perhaps technically better, but none more exciting or effective.)

The stop-action special effects methodology that Harryhausen learned from his mentor Willis O'Brien (the original King Kong, Mighty Joe Young) then went on to hone and refine throughout his career, holds a special place in my heart over today's admittedly superior cgi techniques … and none of the creatures thus created (except Kong himself, of course) are stamped more indelibly in my mind/imagination that the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Another thing that made an ever-lasting impression on me was the chant to call out the Genie of the lamp who played such an important part in this film. Say it with me: "From the land beyond beyond, From the world past hope and fear – I bid you, Genie, now appear!"
I don't think there's been a point at any time in my later life when, if asked, I couldn't have remembered and recited that for you. Same is true for "Klaatu barada nikto", the critical message for Gort the robot, in the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. I bet there's a high percentage of guys my age (especially the adventure-minded daydreamers, again like me, many of whom probably aspired to and/or became writers) who could also make that claim … Spare me the forced memorization of passages from Edna St, Vincent Millay, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, etc., that they tried to pound into my head in high school --- give me quotes from impactful action movies, and I'll nail 'em every time.

Anyway, back to The 7th Voyage of Sinbad … If you haven't seen it in a while or somehow have never seen it, I urge you to grab a DVD copy or catch it on TCM or whatever, and give it a look. It holds up really well. If you can corral a youngster to sit down and watch it with you, I bet they'll get a kick out of it, too. And that will enhance your own viewing enjoyment.

7 comments:

David Cranmer said...

Very much liked it as a kid. And I came along a few years after you, Wayne. And, agree, I can appreciate the art that goes into those old effects that are laughed at today.

Charles Gramlich said...

I saw them much later than 10 but loved all the early Sinbad movies, including this one. Stoked my imagination.

Bill Crider said...

“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!”
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

RJR said...

WAYNE, I remember this movie very well from my childhood. Back then I thought Kerwin Matthews was the ultimate leading man for this and Gulliver.
As for chants, I always turn to the one Green Lantern used to power his ring.

wayne d. dundee said...

Bill - you shame me for my short-sightedness and smarmy dismissal of Ms. Millay. The passage you sent was beautiful and meaningful.
Bob - You sent me clicking through Wikipedia to check out Green Lantern's chant. I drew a complete blank. Apparently there were two, but the later one, after I saw it, was somewhat familiar.

Thomas Pluck said...

I love this movie. I think the first Harryhausen flick I saw was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, or maybe Mighty Joe Young... but either way I was hooked forever, and Sinbad was a blast!

leela said...

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