Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
The director, while he has not created anything that could possibly be described as a work of art, has, nonetheless, crafted such an exhilarating story and so filled it which such a variety of outlandish sets, lavish costumes, thrilling action sequences, and truly astonishing special effects that only the most cynical of individuals could possibly fail to be completely entranced by the experience of watching the movie. Hessler is successfully able to arouse in the viewer a wonderful feeling of tingling excitement throughout his enchanting film and has, as a consequence, made one of the most fun movies I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a genuine delight.
While the film is packed with a diversity of enjoyable elements, Ray Harryhausen's various puppets, all of which are brought to life by means of stop motion animation, are especially bewitching. The viewer is treated to such creations as a tiny winged homunculus, a living figurehead, a ferocious griffin, a giant one-eyed centaur, and more. The interactions of all of these brilliantly realized monstrosities with the human actors, with whom many of the puppets are made to fight, are particularly well done and infuse Sinbad's adventures with a intoxicatingly magical quality.
Sadly, the movie does include a few ethnocentric moments that do detract from its enjoyableness. The worst of these occurs when the protagonists arrive at a ruined city inhabited by green skinned savages who worship the goddess Kali. After Koura brings her image to life and, by doing so, awes the barbarians with his ability to control their metallic deity, he bids it fight against Sinbad. Clearly, the film makers viewed images of the goddess they had encountered as exotic and thought one would make a good opponent for their protagonist. Such a perspective is, however, indicative of a narrow provincialism married to a low opinion of other cultures. After all, would they have considered bringing to life a statue of Jesus being worshiped by a babbling horde of primitive Caucasians? Such faults, and this is not the only one in the film, do intermittently decrease its appeal.
Despite its occasional misstep, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is, in general, a wonderfully exciting and enchanting film. It is, in fact, among the most entertaining movies I have seen.
Review by Keith Allen
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