Judge Roman Martel thinks stop motion animation is awesome and Ray Harryhausen is the king. This will not be an unbiased review.
"From the land beyond beyond. From the world past hope and fear. I bid you genie, now appear!"
All Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver) and his fiance, Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant, Anatomy of a Murder), wanted to do was get back home to Baghdad to get hitched. Unfortunately, a storm blows Sinbad's ship off course and onto the mysterious island of Colossa. Soon they are battling an enormous Cyclops to rescue the mysterious magician Sokurah (Torin Thatcher, Witness for the Prosecution). With the help of a magic lamp, Sinbad is able to escape.
Just when things seem to be settling down, Princess Parisa is shrunk down to a handy pocket size. The only way to restore her, according to Sokurah, is to return to Colossa and retrieve the eggshell of the ginormous bird, the Roc (not to be confused with Dwayne Johnson). Sinbad is pretty sure Sokurah is up to something, but has no choice but to follow his advice. As if the Cyclops wasn't enough for Sinbad's valiant crew meets, they must also defeat Ray Harryhausen's menagerie of a snake woman, a dragon, the two headed Roc, and a fearsome skeleton warrior. It's a fantasy Dynamation extravaganza!
They don't make them like this any more. While some folks do see that as a problem, I miss the old fashioned fantasy adventure films. These movies don't forget to incorporate a sense of wonder and fun. Producer Charles Schneer and stop motion effects guru Ray Harryhausen found just the right mix with The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, turning it into a formula that carried on right up to Clash of the Titans (1981). While the duo had made some fun sci-fi flicks prior to this, Harryhausen's Dynamation was made for fantasy adventures, and those remain my favorites.
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is an amazing showcase for stop motion creatures. But the rest of the production follows suit with lavish costumes, models, and matte painting work, adding scope to the interiors, exteriors, and gorgeous location shooting in Spain. Combined with Bernard Herrmann's lush and innovative score, the movie is practically exploding with creativity.
If there are any failings to The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the story is slight and the performances are all over the place. The script has some ridiculous dialogue and more than a few plot holes, but the brisk pace and short runtime make it all seem reasonable enough to digest. As for the cast, I've long found Mathews to be an average Sinbad, a little too clean cut for a galavanting adventurer. Grant is quite cute as the mini-princess, possessing a bit of spunk that makes her even more appealing. Thatcher is over the top, chewing the scenery as the villainous Sokurah. He's too goofy to pose a serious threat, but that's what the monsters are for.
The Blu-ray is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the images pop off the screen in 1080p. Closeups of the creatures and some of the grand vistas of Colossa are breathtaking, but there are flaws with the source material and visual effects techniques. Some scenes show serious amounts of grain, which proves quiet distracting in places. The worst offenders are the composite sequences where a visual effect or matte painting frames a live human, resulting in a incredibly soft image. Since The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is an effects heavy film, these issues arise quite a bit. Unfortunately, the HD presentation only exacerbates the issue, showing even more seams I've never noticed before. It's one of those cases where the improved clarity actually hurts the film. Thankfully, the True HD audio balance is perfect, balancing Herrrmann's score with the dialogue.
Sony offers an exciting array of bonus features, including commentary track with Ray Harryhausen and an array of visual effects experts. We also get an interview with Harryhausen, a retrospective of the film, a discussion with current filmmakers influenced by Harryhausen's work, a examination of composer Bernard Herrmann's career (focusing on 7th Voyage specifically), a behind-the-scenes featurette, an examination of Dynamation, a photo gallery, and a music video.
From a quality standpoint, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad falls smack in the middle of the Schneer and Harryhausen's Sinbad trilogy. It's innocence and fun is appealing and it makes a great addition to any collection of fantasy adventures. However, I find the darker tone and improved script of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad to be a more satisfying adventure. Plus, it has Caroline Munro looking damn sultry in that slave girl outfit. Wow!
But is it worth the upgrade on Blu-ray? Tough call. I recommend a rental, to see if the HD treatment ruins the experience for you. Having enjoyed the bonus features and improved sound mix, I believe the trade off is worth it.
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