Color, 1958, 88 mins.

Directed by Nathan Juran

Starring Kerwin Matthews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer, Torin Thatcher, Alec Mango / Written by Ken Kolb / Produced by Charles H. Schneer / Music by Bernard Herrmann / Cinematography by Wilkie Cooper

Format: DVD - Columbia (MSRP $27.98)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) (16x9 enhanced) / Dolby Digital Mono


The definitive Saturday matinee movie, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad inspired waves of impressionable little kids to go into the special effects business and made Ray Harryhausen a cinematic god for fantasy fans. A pioneer in the art of stop motion animation, Harryhausen had already made an impression with his black and white sci-fi spectacles like 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came from Beneath the Sea. However, Sinbad offered the first time his effects could be seen in vivid color, and even better, Harryhausen provided a whole slew of imaginative creatures, rather than one simple octopus or alien. Sinbad proved so popular that Harryhausen remained busy doing other fantastic literary adaptations and even two more fun Sinbad adventures.

Arriving with his crew at the mysterious island of Colossa, Sinbad encounters a shifty bald magician, Sokurah (Torin Thatcher), who uses his magical powers (including a child-like genie, Baronni) to help the men escape from a beastly cyclops. However, the magician loses his magic lamp on the way back to Baghdad, and he insists that they return to Colossa. To get his way, Sokurah shrinks the Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant) down to miniature size and abducts her. The only potion which can restore the princess to normal size requires a fragment from the egg of a Roc, a mythical giant two-headed bird. Sinbad and his men embark on an adventure to retrieve the Roc egg, save the princess, defeat the magician, and deal with any monsters they may encounter on the way.

While Harryhausen is obviously the major creative force behind his films, some credit should really be given to his directors, too. Doing his best work here, director Juran had already proven himself on 20 Million Miles to Earth and showed an expert hand with turning junk into fun drive-in fodder (The Brain from Planet Arous, The Deadly Mantis, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, etc.). While Sinbad isn't as beautifully paced and lyrically executed as Harryhausen's crowning masterpiece, Jason and the Argonauts, it really was the first of its kind and still delivers everything it promises. Kerwin Matthews is the first of Harryhausen's unorthodox, non-muscular heroes who use their wits and personalities to deal with obstacles, though they manage to come through with sword-swinging in a crisis. The famed skeleton battle is still the highlight of the film (repeated even more effectively in Jason), but all of the creatures are memorable and ingeniously executed. Thatcher makes a terrific villain, and Grant's fetching princess makes Sinbad's quest all the more believable. Of course, the rich, roaring score by Bernard Herrmann doesn't exactly hurt, either.

Columbia's DVD of Sinbad is generally satisfying but displays a few oddities in the presentation of the film itself. The anamorphic video looks excellent for a film of this vintage, with especially strong and stable colors (after the noisy opening credits), but the image has been severely matted at 1.85:1. Previous video incarnations were completely unmatted at 1.33:1 and allowed plenty of breathing room, but this edition looks very tight. No crucial information appears to be missing, but the creatures and actors often scrape perilously close to the upper matte, making the film more claustrophobic than it was probably intended. The mono audio is fine and clear throughout (oddly, the alternate Portuguese track contains a completely different main title cue) but seems extremely flat compared to the rich stereo track prepared for the Pioneer Special Edition on laserdisc and Columbia's subsequent Sinbad box set. The stereo track consisted of the original mix for Herrmann's music, and it's odd that Columbia wouldn't at least include it as one listening option. In the extras department, however, the disc cannot be faulted. This Is Dynamation, a three minute featurette produced to plug the release of Sinbad, examines some of the more basic effects in the film, while an 11 minute television interview with Harryhausen and the John Landis interview from the Jason and the Argonauts disc are included for more recent examinations of Harryhausen's craft. The Ray Harryhausen Chronicles, a treasure trove of creature feature tidbits, examines all of Harryhausen's big screen work and includes some peeks at the various time-consuming technical processes used to bring his models to life. A large helping trailers ranging from 3 Worlds of Gulliver to The Golden Voyage of Sinbad rounds out this appetizing package.


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