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'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' - the Film

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The Ray Harryhausen Sinbad Films | 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' - the Film
'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' - the Film | 'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' - the Film
Destiny is a place where both good and evil wait... For it is the very deeds of week and mortal men that may tip the scales one way or the other.
- Oracle of All Knowledge - The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was the second of stop-motion effects genius Ray Harryhausen's three Sinbad films.

Plot

On a routine voyage, a strange animal carrying something shiny passes over Sinbad's ship. One of his men fires an arrow at the creature, which drops a golden amulet. When Sinbad touches the amulet he sees a vision of a man dressed in black as well as a beautiful girl with a tattoo of an eye on her hand.

A short time later he is accosted by the figure in black; it is Koura the magician, who accuses him of stealing the amulet. Sinbad learns that Koura is using the black arts in the hope of ruling the kingdom of Marabia, currently ruled by a wise vizier after the death of the last king. One of Koura's curses cost the vizier his face; however he has a second amulet matching Sinbad's. These two amulets are two of three which can slot together to form a map showing the location of the Fountain of Destiny in the fabled lost land of Lemuria1. Whoever places the amulets within the fountain will be rewarded with power and riches. Will Sinbad get to the Fountain first or will Koura's sorcery slow Sinbad's ship?

Cast

CharacterActor
SinbadJohn Phillip Law
MargianaCaroline Munro
KouraTom Baker
VizierDouglas Wilmer
HarounKurt Christian
Oracle of All KnowledgeRobert Shaw
RachidMartin Shaw
HakimGrégoire Aslan
AchmedTakis Emmanuel
AbdulDavid Garfield
OmarAldo Sambrell

Producer Barry Letts saw Tom Baker's impressive performance in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and cast him as the Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who.

John Phillip Law who played Sinbad was perhaps best known for being the blind angel Pygar in Barbarella. Caroline Munro had appeared in Hammer Horror films including Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, written and directed by Brian Clemens who wrote the script and cast her in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. She later appeared as Naomi in classic James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Douglas Wilmer, who played the Vizier, had previously been Pelias in Jason and the Argonauts. Robert Shaw stepped in to play the Oracle of All Knowledge at the last moment when Orson Welles, who had been cast, pulled out following a demand to double his agreed fee. Shaw happened to be on holiday in Spain, and was more than willing to appear in the film. Martin Shaw has since found fame starring in British television dramas such as Judge John Deed and Inspector George Gently2.

Kurt Christian would be the only actor to appear in more than one Sinbad film, returning in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

Crew

Gordon Hessler, an experienced director who had produced with Alfred Hitchcock and had made many horror films, was hired to direct.

The music was composed by Miklós Rózsa who had composed the Oscar-nominated music for The Thief of Bagdad (1940), the film which had inspired Harryhausen over 30 years earlier. He won three Oscars for his soundtracks, including Ben Hur (1959), A Double Life and Spellbound. Sadly because of budget constraints they were unable to afford a full orchestra, which reduces the score's impact.

The screenplay was by Brian Clemens based on a story by Brian Clemens and Harryhausen.

The Making Of The Golden Voyage

After the success of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in 1958, Harryhausen continued to be inspired by the figure of Sinbad. In fact in December 1960 the earliest drafts of what became Jason and the Argonauts featured Sinbad. In 1964 he made a number of detailed drawings of exciting scenes which could appear in a Sinbad film. These featured Sinbad fighting a six-armed Kali figure in a temple on a flight of steps as well as a gryphon and centaur fight near a Stonehenge-like structure. These scenes would later appear in the finished film. In 1965 writer Jan Reed wrote a basic outline for a film proposal, but the project went nowhere and was set aside in favour of One Million Years BC and The Valley of Gwangi.

After the box-office disappointment of The Valley of Gwangi in 1969, Harryhausen decided to resurrect his recurring Sinbad story by writing a step-outline for the proposed film himself, based on his drawings made in 1964. This was finished in 1971, when screenwriter Brian Clemens, creator of The Avengers, was hired to develop the script. After many discussions the script was finished in July 1972.

At the time the story was developed it had been intended to film in India. The plot was inspired by the Indian Ocean, the location of the fabled land of Lemuria, with Indian Ocean influences including the statue of Kali as well as the city of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Columbia Pictures, who were financing the film, had invested money in bank accounts in India only to learn that, due to Indian law, they could not withdraw the money from India, and so producer Charles Schneer hoped to be able to increase their meagre budget by using some of this otherwise frozen money. However they were warned against filming in India from other film makers who had encountered restrictive bureaucratic red tape and unreliable extras. For a film made on a small budget, problems could not be afforded and so instead principal filming was done in Madrid, Majorca and Malta.

Filming the live action sequences began on 19 June, 1972 and finished on 12 August. As filming at the Alhambra Palace was now outside the budget, the Palace Generalife Palma in Majorca was used as Marabia. Manzanares, a castle close to Madrid, was Koura's castle. Sinbad's ship was a prop with only two sides, made of plaster and built at Verona Studios in Spain, miles from the sea. However models of Sinbad's and Koura's vessels were filmed at Rinella in Malta, where a sea tank was built next to the sea. This gave the impression that the tank was part of the ocean, and allowed the real sea and horizon to be seen in the background.

Harryhausen began animating on 20 September, 1972. The whole film cost $982,351 to make. One example of the small budget can be seen where the Temple of the Oracle of All Knowledge is destroyed. Although in the film it is blown up by Koura's explosives, the miniature was made with a hollow middle which allowed someone to stick their hand into the model and push the bricks of the temple outwards, simulating an explosion.

Unfilmed Sequences

During the drafting of the story many elements were proposed that did not make it into the final film. These included:

  • A pre-credit sequence in which the homunculus attacks the sleeping Vizier and destroys his face.
  • The Valley of the Vipers - Harryhausen hoped to animate a large number of giant snakes as well as feature real snakes. However Schneer, who was afraid of snakes, argued that if snakes were in the film pregnant women would get upset. The Valley of the Vipers scene was never made.
  • It was originally proposed that the Fountain of Destiny would fluctuate from Fire to Water, but this was considered too expensive.

Some plot elements later appeared in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

  • It was originally proposed that the Vizier's face, instead of being disfigured by an explosion, was turned into an ape's.
  • The gryphon was originally conceived as a statue on a plinth by the Fountain of Destiny that unexpectedly comes to life. This idea inspired the frozen solid sabre-toothed cat near the Arimaspi light inside the pyramid.

Creatures Featured

  • Bat
    This appears only very briefly, in Sinbad's prophetic dream sequence. The bat was a modified version of a pterodactyl model used in The Valley of Gwangi.

  • Centaur
    The one-eyed centaur that symbolises Evil is reminiscent of the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and is a devil worshipped by the primitive people of Lemuria. The model was covered in ocelot fur.

  • Figurehead
    Although Arabian vessels would not normally have figureheads, there is one on Sinbad's ship, though not where one would normally expect. A similar female figurehead that comes to life is seen in Jason and the Argonauts. Two models were made, one standing and one kneeling.

  • Gryphon
    Representing the force for Good and the Guardian of the Fountain of Destiny, the gryphon was challenging to animate, with its wings constantly flapping. The gryphon anticipates another four-legged and winged animal that Harryhausen would animate: Pegasus in Clash of the Titans.

  • Homunculus
    Inspired by a homunculus seen in The Bride of Frankenstein, the small, flying homunculus was an extension of Koura's eyes and ears. The sequence where the second homunculus is created is reminiscent of the hatching of the Ymir in 20 Million Miles to Earth.

  • Kali
    A bronze statue of the six-armed Hindu goddess of destruction is brought to life by Koura's magic, first to dance and later to fight. The dance sequence was filmed with the aid of Indian dancer Surya Kumari who had a student strapped to her back to give the outline of four of the six arms. For the fight sequence, three stuntmen strapped together gave Harryhausen a reference to work from.

Review

The 105-minute long The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is perhaps the most accomplished of the three Sinbad films. The Kali sequence is one of the greatest that Harryhausen ever animated, and he succeeds in bringing a bronze statue to life both to dance and to kill. Indeed, six-sword-wielding Kali fighting Sinbad inspired the four-lightsabre-wielding General Grievous' fight against Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

There are plenty of reminders of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, including the appearance of the one-eyed, hoofed, hairy-legged, giant bald-chested centaur, very similar to the one-eyed, hoofed, hairy-legged, giant bald-chested Cyclops in the earlier film. Similarly, the fact that the sorcerer is named Koura emphasises that the role is almost identical to the previous, similarly-named Sokurah. However Tom Baker more than makes the role his own, dominating the film with every line of dialogue.

The appearance of the Fountain of Destiny, surrounded as it is by Stonehenge-like monoliths, is very effective, with the water turning blood red on Koura's death very dramatic. The battle between good and evil represented by the centaur and gryphon also reflects that between Sinbad and Koura. The audience can't but wonder why, having been told by the Oracle that mortal man may tip the balance one way or the other, Sinbad does not assist the gryphon in its fight. That both the gryphon and centaur die does, at least, restore the balance between good and evil. Sadly when Koura becomes invisible with the cloak of darkness and vanishes, the effect now appears sadly dated.

John Phillip Law makes an effective Sinbad, who for the only time in the series actually wears a turban. More effort has been made to give the film an Arabian setting than in the other Sinbad films, and indeed an Arabic language expert was consulted to provide phrases such as 'I always trust in Allah, but always tie up my camel.'

One disappointment is that after an attention-grabbing entrance in Sinbad's dream sequence, Caroline Munro as Margiana is not actually given much to do. The tattoo of an eye on her hand is emphasised in the dream, dramatically building up a promise of some important significance, yet all it achieves is preventing Sinbad from being stabbed in favour of Margiana being sacrificed by the natives of Lemuria. The audience never learns how or why the tattoo was placed on her hand in the first place. It is nice to see Sinbad enjoying a relationship with a slave rather than a princess, his usual end of the social spectrum, and although Margiana is introduced as a character with potential who even considers stabbing Sinbad after he has purchased her in order to protect her honour, she spends most of the film doing little except looking lovely in rather skimpy outfits3.

The Ray Harryhausen Sinbad Films | 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' - The Film
'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' - The Film | 'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' - The Film
1A theoretical land linking India, Madagascar and Australia first proposed in Victorian times to attempt to explain similarities between animals found there. In fact similarities between Madagascar and Indian animals is due to plate tectonics and continental drift.2No known relative of holistic detective Dirk Gently.3Raquel Welch had previously done little except wear a rather skimpy outfit in the earlier Harryhausen film, One Million Years BC.

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