The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

I take it for granted sometimes when watching movies that computer generated images – yes, CGI – didn’t always exist. Before computers could crank out some ridiculously cool images, moviemakers had to improve in a lot of ways to get the necessary images to fill out their movies. Just like I pointed out in my review of 1965’s Jason and the Argonauts, one of the best ways to improvise was special effects master Ray Harryhausen who over a long career created a long line of special effects creatures. Now in 2010 they may look a little dated, but that doesn’t take away from their iconic status.

Of course, they’re not all winners that Harryhausen was a part of. But just because a movie overall is below average doesn’t mean Harryhausen’s effects aren’t worthwhile, 1975’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger a prime example. It was the rare movie where his effects were a part of that can’t be included somewhere in the horror/monster/sci-fi/fantasy genres.  So even with the stop motion filming technology, the effects still work and serve almost as a time capsule of a pre-CGI world. Unfortunately for this entry, Sinbad doesn’t have much else going for it. Bad acting, little to no story, and if anything, an overreliance on the effects.

Sailing into port, adventurer Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) is prepared to ask for the hand of Princess Farah (Jane Seymour) in marriage.  Instead, Sinbad and his crew find a city torn apart by an evil curse. Prince Kasim – about to be crowned prince in a week’s time – has been cursed, supposedly by his evil stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting). If Kasim isn’t able to take power, her son Rafi (Kurt Christian) will step in for him. To reverse the curse, Sinbad can think of only one person to do the job, a mysterious man named Melanthius (Patrick Troughton) who may not even exist.  With time working against them, Sinbad, Farah and his crew embark on an adventure that will take them halfway around the world to a place of legend and myth, Zenobia not far behind.

Let’s get the positives out of the way first. Other Harryhausen movies I’ve seen used his effects and skills but sparingly, here and there with the tension building up to their reveals.  That’s not the case here as director Sam Wanamaker goes to town with an abundance of special effects creations.  Just some include three demon fire creatures, a primitive cave man, a giant prehistoric killer walrus, an unfrozen tiger, a Minotaur, and a couple more I might be forgetting. There is A LOT of them. If anything, there’s too many of them. It’s hard to appreciate how cool each individual creature creation is if the second they’re off the screen another is appearing.  Still, in a movie as bad as this, that is THE positive.

If the budget for this movie was $100, I feel safe saying at least $98.50 was spent on paying Harryhausen to create his effects. Everything else is lacking, starting with the script.  The premise of finding a mysterious man with special powers is nothing new and has been used in countless other mythology and fairy tale stories. That’s fine because it opens the door for all sorts of adventures, but that’s it. In between Harryhausen creations, we get long, extended scenes of Sinbad’s ship sailing across the seas or his crew walking across desert and winter landscapes. It feels like there wasn’t much of a script at all so instead of thinking something up, we see shots like that over and over again. Then there’s the whole green screen effect where the cast is shown in close-up clearly on a studio with a digitalized backdrop, then a cut to a 2nd unit crew of stuntmen walking off into the actual desert.  Cheap, cheap, cheap, this movie reeked of it.

Right up there with the lack of script is the next casualty, lack of character. I like Patrick Wayne, but he’s best suited for supporting roles where he can play off bigger stars with more acting ability. As Sinbad, he’s supposed to be courageous, honorable, and a bit of an eccentric. Playing Sinbad though, Wayne is incredibly stiff and his line deliveries always have the same inflection whether he’s in trouble or trying to woo his bride to be. As much as I like Wayne, he just wasn’t cut out for this part. Seymour hadn’t developed as an actress so early in her career, but her part is basically eye candy. She is scantily clad every time she’s on-screen and screams like a champ whenever danger arises.

None of the rest of the supporting cast registers in a positive way, ranging from neutral to bad to just awful. And that's about all I can say.  The movie on a whole is pretty awful, and even Harryhausen's special effects can't save this dreck. If you're feeling adventurous, give the movie a try via Youtube, starting here with Part 1.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger <---trailer (1977): */****

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