'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' - The Film | 'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' - The Film
'The only way to restore Kassim is to undertake a journey to… Hyperborea, a warm and green valley at the northernmost point of the world surrounded by wide seas of ice.'
Sinbad travels to Charak, where he intends to ask the newly crowned Caliph Kassim permission marry Princess Farah, with whom he had previously had a relationship. On his arrival he discovers that Prince Kassim has not, in fact, been crowned, having been transformed into a baboon by his wicked stepmother, the sorceress Zenobia, who wishes her own son, Rafi, to inherit the throne. Sinbad agrees to help Kassim and, with Princess Farah, travels to the island of Casgar, home of the legendary knowledgeable hermit Melanthius and his daughter Dione.
Joining the quest, Melanthius advises Sinbad that Kassim's only hope is to travel to the land of Hyperborea, located at the north pole, where the Shrine of the Four Elements is located. They must travel quickly, as if Kassim is not crowned Caliph within seven moons he loses the right and Zenobia's son Rafi will inherit instead. However both first Farah and later Melanthius blurt out all their secret plans to Zenobia, who pursues and will stop at nothing, not even the foulest black magic, to stop them.
|Princess Farah||Jane Seymour|
|Queen Zenobia||Margaret Whiting|
|Prince Kassim||Damien Thomas|
|Vizier Balsora||Bruno Barnabe|
|General Zabid||Bernard Kay|
When casting Sinbad, they never considered recasting John Phillip Law who had played the character so well in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. This was in an attempt to avoid this film being given the stigma of a sequel, rather than an independent film exploring the same themes. Actors considered for the part including Michael York, who had been successful as the swushbuckling D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, future James Bond Timothy Dalton and even Michael Douglas, however Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne, was cast.
Continuing Sinbad's relationship with Doctor Who, Second Doctor Patrick Troughton played the good, knowledgeable scientist Melanthius. He would later play a similar figure in the BBC's adaptation of poet laureate John Masefield's classic The Box of Delights, and had been Phineas in Jason and the Argonauts. Taryn Power, daughter of Tyrone Power, was cast as his daughter Dione. Jane Seymour, famous for being Solitaire in Live and Let Die as well as Apollo's wife in Battlestar Galactica.
Bette Davis was offered the part of the villainous tiger-eyed Zenobia, however her fee was out of the price range for the small-budget production and so Margaret Whiting was cast. She played the role throughout filming without an accent, but it was later decided by Charles Schneer that Zenobia needed an extra dimension to make her character more menace, and so Margaret was brought in to re-record and dub over all her lines with a thick, mysterious accent. Her on-screen son, Kurt Christian, was the only actor to appear in two Sinbad films, having previously been Haroun in The Golden Voyage.
Peter Mayhew, famous for later being Chewbacca in Star Wars, appears as the Minaton in background shots, to avoid having the expense of having to animate the Minaton miniature model in every scene.
The story was based on a story by Ray Harryhausen with the screenplay by Beverley Cross, who would later write the screenplay for Clash of the Titans (1981) and had co-written the screenplay for Jason and the Argonauts (1963).
Finding a director proved quite difficult. The director of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Gordon Hessler, was unavailable and after many other possible directors pulled out, actor Sam Wanamaker was hired. Although an experienced actor who would later appear in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, at the time he had extensive stage-directing experience, but none directing a special-effects heavy film of this nature, where his directional instincts would by nature be subservient to Ray Harryhausen's requirements. Sam Wanamaker would later be pivotal in setting up The Globe Theatre replica in London.
The Making Of
After making The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Ray Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer spent some time considering what film project to make next. After considering stories as varied as The Hobbit, Conan and The Food of the Gods, after the enormous success of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and having many story ideas that had been developed for that film but were edited out before the final storyline, they decided to make another Sinbad film. Curiously, however, Harryhausen and Columbia Pictures were determined that this would not be a sequel, but instead be a separate, standalone Sinbad film.
In 1974 Harryhausen developed a 15-page step outline entitled Sinbad in Hyperborea including key drawings, with many scenes inspired by plot points left out of the previous film, including the key plot of a prince who has been transformed into a baboon and a journey north.
Beverley Cross developed this story and, after some name changes including Sinbad Beyond the North Wind and Sinbad at the World's End, the final story outline was developed. Filming first began in late 1974 with Harryhausen filming Sinbad's trek through the frozen polar landscape at Picos de Europa, before the main actors had been cast, using long shots of extras in thick coats as well as taking photographic plates to be used in the backgrounds when later filming in the studio was done. Similarly, when filming in Petra, which appears as Melanthius' home, to save money to avoid flying the cast to Jordan, the filming was done using long shots and extras dressed as the actors, with shots showing the actors achieved in the studio with the actors in front of background plates1.
Filming with the actual actors began in Spain in June 1975. Avila was used for Charak, and Manzanares was the valley of Hyperborea. However costs of filming in Spain had increased greatly, and so in September the production moved to Malta. There Sinbad's boat was built along the quay at Rinella studios. Zenobia's boat was built as a full-sized set, a basic shell over oil drums with just about enough room for rowers inside, although after five days filming the boat fell apart. Both boats also existed as 5-foot long remote-controlled models that could be shot in the tank next to the sea, to give a full, natural horizon.
Ray Harryhausen spent 13 months doing all the stop-motion animation sequences. The effect of the power beam in the heart of the pyramid was created out of dental floss lit out of focus. The film took 3 years to make at a cost of $3.5 million US dollars.
In common with the previous Sinbad films, several scenes were proposed that never made it into the finished film. These included:
Zenobia was to have sinister, dwarfish shadow assistants who would be seen constructing Minaton in Zenobia's lab in her castle from molten metal in a scene inspired by James Whales's 1931 Frankenstein, and later being given a heart made of uranium. Sadly this was considered too expensive to film, and so was replaced by a simple shot of Minaton cooking in the oven and later being brought to life with a clockwork heart.
Zenobia sending a Giant Clam shell after Sinbad, inside which is a giant woodworm that eats Sinbad's ship and, when cut in two, becomes two worm-creatures consuming the wood of Sinbad's ship.
A fight between Sinbad and a frozen mammoth in the Arctic. Although one of Harryhausen's first models was that of a woolly mammoth, inspired by the displays in the Los Angeles County Museum2 as a child, he had never animated a mammoth in his professional life. Sadly the man versus mammoth fight was replaced by Sinbad's encounter with a walrus.
One sequence which went through many different versions was one in which Trog was to be introduced. Originally he would be first seen fighting a sabre-tooth tiger, which later changed to being either an arsinotherium or a pack of wolves. Trog may even have been first seen trapped in a tar pit, similar to the La Brea tar pits which had inspired Harryhausen as a child. The arsinotherium is a prehistoric rhinoceros which Harryhausen had first wanted to animate for One Million Years BC. Harryhausen argued that the scene in which Trog is first seen should be exciting and attention-grabbing. Everyone agreed, and instead introduced Trog with a scene in which he sees both Dione and Princess Farrah go skinny-dipping in the warm rivers of the North Pole and sunbathe nude for a bit. This was considered to be cheaper and much easier to film, and considered by many to be extremely visually exciting.
Fight between Trog and a huge snake in the Valley of the Vipers - Harryhausen again hoped to animate a giant snakes, as he had proposed in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad as well as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. However producer Charles Schneer was still afraid of snakes and once again vetoed the scene.
A fight between Trog and Minaton. This had appeared in the earliest step outline, and seeing a combat between the two heavyweights would have been a climax of the film, but sadly Trog and Minaton, the primitive with a heart of gold and the mechanism with a heart of evil, never meet.
One of Harryhausen's finest creations, and indeed the whole film is based on the audience's belief that the baboon is a prince transformed. Two baboon models were created, one five inches and a second 24-inch model.
Originally to be called Zomboids, the diminutive ghouls were inspired by an anatomy book that showed a body's muscles, without skin. The bug-eyes and antennae were to assure viewers that the creatures were not played by men in suits. It had originally been conceived to have four undead ghouls, but to reduce costs the number was reduced to three.
Inspired by the legendary Minotaur of Greek myth fame, the Minaton was a giant bronze half man half bull that served Zenobia. A silent, ruthless and deadly threat. The Minaton model was 16 inches high, although in some scenes a Minaton costume was used.
To animate the sabre-tooth tiger Harryhausen studied cat and feline movements. The tiger versus Trog sequence was the last animated sequence to be filmed.
A giant, horned Troglodyte who is less a creature, more a primitive person. The model of Trogg is one of Harryhausen's finest and most detailed, with tremendously emotional and subtle facial movements visible in every scene in which he appears.
Identified by Melanthius as Walrus Gigantica, this giant walrus was used to keep the audience entertained during the Arctic trek. It was a challenging animal to animate due to the amount of thick, latex rubber surrounding the model, making moving the armature in the model's middle difficult to manipulate. Sinbad nets the Walrus in a similar fashion to the nets seen capturing the Ymir in 20 Million Miles to Earth and the Harpies in Jason and the Argonauts.
Zenobia's potion transforms a bee into a wasp the size of a bird, allowing her to escape from Sinbad's grasp. Giant bees had featured in Mysterious Island.
The film's central triumphant image is the splendid creation of Hyperborea, the tropical paradise at the North Pole. Inspired by Greek legends told by Virgil, the film shows this with a pyramid, the Shrine of the Four Elements, at the very top of the world. Who does not wish that, instead of drifting ice, the North Pole3 were marked by a giant pyramid?
Hyperborea was a mythical land in the north, where the Boreas or North Wind came from. It was believed that the sun there shone every hour of the day. Hyperborea is mentioned in many Greek writings, including Herodotus' Histories, Plutarch and Ptolemy. In some legends, the people of Hyperborea were giants 10 feet tall, about the size of the character of Trog. The Arimpaspi people that, according to Melanthius dwelt in Hyperborea, are a mythical mountain-dwelling race said to be in perpetual battle with gryphons.
The gates to Hyperborea were inspired by the giant gates featured in Harryhausen's mentor's Willis O'Brien's greatest film, King Kong. The pyramid's design itself is effective and exciting, stepped like the early Egyptian pyramids, yet hollow inside as seen in the film's most effective set complete with giant Egyptian statues, filmed inside an aircraft hangar, and complete with one of cinema's largest staircases. The pyramid itself is not shaped like the Great Pyramid of Giza or other Egyptian pyramids, but instead is angled much steeper and taller. This brings to mind many classical pictures of the Great Pyramid. Before its 'rediscovery' by Napoleon, Egypt was considered a distant, almost forgotten land in Europe. In Rome, part of the Grand Tour of Europe, Caius Cestius, died in 12 BC. His tomb is shaped as a steep-sided pyramid, and pyramid art in Europe up to the 19th Century shows Egyptian pyramids to have the same shape as the Pyramid of Cestius. The pyramid that is the Shrine of the Four Elements follows in this European pyramid tradition; Harryhausen would almost certainly have seen the Pyramid of Cestius when filming 20 Million Miles to Earth in Rome.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the last Harryhausen Sinbad film, and the last of the ten films that Charles Schneer and Harryhausen made for Columbia Pictures. In many ways it is the weakest of the Sinbad films, a fact that is acknowledged by Harryhausen who feels that many sequences were rushed in order to be completed on time.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks the outstanding special effects fight sequence that are present with the skeleton in The 7th Voyage and Kali in The Golden Voyage. Of the creatures Sinbad fights, the ghouls, never seem much of a threat, being quite short. Their small stature is emphasised with their being squashed, and their appearance seems a combination of the Sinbad skeleton and Selenites from First Men in the Moon. Sinbad and his crew cause themselves to be attacked by the giant wasp, and so lose the audience's sympathy. Again, it is similar to something previously seen by Harryhausen fans, namely the giant bee in Mysterious Island, only much smaller. Again it is a small threat when compared to the larger-than-life Cyclops or Figurehead of previous films.
It is true that the Giant Walrus is finally an imposing size, however the walrus is not an enemy seeking to destroy Sinbad. It merely is disturbed in its home, acts a bit grumpy, tries to get away and, when Sinbad throws a net over it, acts violently before escaping out of the way. The audience is never given the reason why the walrus has a net thrown over it, or what Sinbad intends to do with a giant walrus4 if he did capture it. It's not as if it would fit on his ship. Animating such a large animal may well have proven a challenge for Harryhausen, but one cannot help but feel that the proposed mammoth or twin-horned rhino the arsinotherium may have grabbed the attention more5.
If the fight sequences are not up to scratch, they are outshone by the subtle and warm characteristics of two of the film's best actors, the baboon and Trog. The chess sequence, inspired by a picture in a volume of The Arabian Nights in which a sultan plays chess with a monkey, is an unforgettable image. The characterisation of the baboon seems ape-like to be distinct yet human enough to engage the audience's sympathy. The baboon also conveys a close relationship with Trog, a 'missing link' between ape and man. Trog is again one of the finest characters Harryhausen has created, and his death sequence, admittedly rushed by Harryhausen in order to complete the film on time, is sadly not given the dramatic impact it should.
The same can be said of the Minaton, the personification of Zenobia's might and power. Minaton is the one threat that could equal the Cyclops of Figurehead of previous films, yet it is killed off too quickly so that Sinbad never even meets the machine. That due to time constraints Trog and Minaton never fight is a tragic disappointment.
The film certainly comes across as being rushed, especially in its abrupt ending. After the Trog versus sabre-tooth tiger fight, one of the best sequences in the film, having endured a long, difficult journey to get to the North Pole and succeeded in their quest, the end credits roll with a brief reprise of the pre-credits coronation sequence, this time without Kassim becoming a baboon.
The Sinbad films never have been based on character development, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is no different. Sinbad's shipmates are interchangeable, there to be killed off when a creature threatens. Princess Farah does little except cry about her brother and blurt out Sinbad's secret plan to her wicked witch of a stepmother. The other heroine, Dione, is given a really strong introduction. Unarmed and alone, she commands the vicious, savage people of Casgar who obey her, while revealing that she has telepathic powers. Yet these powers are never used again in the film and within minutes she is making tea for her father and relegated to being banana-peeler for the baboon. Both women then contribute little to the plot except to go skinny dipping.
More background would have been appreciated on the character of Zenobia. Did she bewitch her way to the throne? Why does her son Rafi risk poisoning Sinbad in person when as far as they are aware, Sinbad is merely a merchant with a crush on the Princess, and no threat to their plan which they believe no-one can stop?
There are many classic Harryhausen motifs in the film. Trog resembles the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The race against Queen Zenobia to the shrine plot is in many ways a retread of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad's race against Prince Kourah to the Fountain of Destiny.
Yet despite disappointments, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is an entertaining, if not outstanding, film.
|The Ray Harryhausen Sinbad Films|