Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

I kind of don't want Chris to tell me whether he chose this as the Harryhausen tribute because (as mentioned in the review), it's one where you can draw a pretty direct line between Ray and the evil wizard. To be fair, almost all of Harryhausen's fantasies are going to have at least one scene where a villain brings an inanimate object to life, but how often is it so specifically his thing?

Not that I necessarily made this particular connection right away; I'd kind of liked that Koura's magic was consistent rather than all over the place, but the likely-silly connection came as I was writing the first paragraph of the review, deleting, having an idea come into my head and go nowhere, etc. The funny thing is, the first thing that made an impression on me was seeing Tom Baker's name in the credits; the last time I saw some Harryhausen, I noted that one of the cast members was Patrick Troughton and spent a good chunk of the movie saying "is that him? maybe..." It turned out to be the blind guy, and it never clicked for me. Tom Baker playing the villain was pretty obvious this time, fortunately, so I was much less distracted by it.

Anyway, another fun late night at Somerville on the big screen. I don't know that I'll do the Cinema Slumber Party this weekend - there's potentially a lot of stuff going on - but it's another different take on the midnight movie - The Blair Witch Project - with a potentially nifty lecture on found footage horror that evening at 8pm.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 June 2013 in the Regal Theatre (Cinema Slumber Party, 35mm)

Few people went to movies with special effects by the late, great Ray Harryhausen for the stories; they went to see him bring impossible things to life while his collaborators wove an entertaining enough tale of high adventure to make up for the fact that, back then, a movie couldn't just be an hour and a half of monsters fighting. He made a great many of these movies, but I suspect The Golden Voyage of Sinbad held a special place in his heart - and held it because he empathized with the villain.

First, though, we meet the hero. Sinbad (John Phillip Law) and his crew don't seem to be sailing anywhere in particular when they spot a strange animal flying over their ship; a bowman shoots it down and they find it is carrying a strange amulet. Visions lead Sinbad to a nearby port, where the masked Vizier (Douglas Wilmer) has a second amulet that links with the first, providing direction to the fabled isle of Lemuria and its magical fountain with a local merchant's layabout son (Kurt Christian) and a lovely slave girl (Caroline Munro) whose tattooed hand matches one of Sinbad's visions in tow. They are pursued by the wizard Koura (Tom Baker), who has reasons to find this fountain beyond his desire to take control of the city.

Wizards in fantasy stories - especially the evil ones - often have broad, vaguely defined powers, capable of doing anything the story requires until the writer realizes they're too powerful and says all that expenditure of mystic energy has worn them out, so they'll be of no use until the climax. It's noteworthy enough that Koura isn't like that - he's basically got one trick, and using it takes a visible toll on him. The fact that his main skill is bringing inanimate objects to life, seeing through their eyes, directing their actions, and feeling some sort of pain when Sinbad dispatches them... You have to admit, that's a pretty interesting guy to have as a villain in a Harryhausen movie, more human than the typical evil wizard, right down to having a henchman who seems genuinely concerned with his welfare.

Full review on EFC

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