G | 1h 28min | Action, Adventure, Family | 1958
“The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958) is a great addition to the ’50s adventure films—films often rife with creativity and fun (and often goofiness)—that I’ve been reviewing lately. The film is actually part of a trilogy that also includes “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” (1973) and “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” (1977).
Sinbad (also known as Sinbad the Sailor) is a fictional Middle-Eastern character who has been popular throughout the world for many years. He is a distillation or expression of the expansion of the Abbasid Caliphate in ancient times, most notably the many Arab sailors who explored the world and established trade routes. Therefore, it’s not a coincidence that Sinbad’s birthplace is Baghdad (once a capital of the Abbasid Caliphate) and that he is often featured as a sailor.
Our grand tale begins with Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) captaining a ship through foggy seas on his way to Baghdad, where he’s about to marry his sweetheart, Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant). He and his crew are searching for any sign of land because their food stores are running low.
Sinbad and his sailors come across the mysterious island of Colossa, which they initially believe to be uninhabited. It looks like the perfect place to land, grab some grub, and continue on to Baghdad.
The only problem is that the island is not deserted. Instead, it’s populated with many bad-tempered beasties that aren’t exactly hospitable to pesky, soft, and fleshy little humans.
The starving men make landfall on the island just in time to see a man carrying a golden lamp being chased by a gigantic cyclops. As the sailors engage the monster in combat, the man on the run, a sketchy magician known as Sokurah (Torin Thatcher), unleashes a genie that looks like a young boy. The genie proceeds to restrain the cyclops so that the sailors, now with Sokurah in tow, can take their dinghy back to the ship.
However, in all of the splashy chaos, Sokurah loses the lamp, and it falls into the oversized paws of the cyclops. As they cast off for Baghdad, power-hungry Sokurah offers a “king’s ransom in jewels” to Sinbad if he will return to the island. But Sinbad refuses the offer. His upcoming wedding is a symbolic gesture that can broker peace between the caliph of Baghdad and the father of Princess Parisa’s realm, Chandra.
When the ship returns to Baghdad, Sokurah doesn’t waste any time hatching his nefarious plans. The dastardly magician’s machinations include manipulating Baghdad and Chandra into war and secretly shrinking the princess down to miniature size while she’s asleep.
Thus, when Sinbad seeks out Sokurah, the magician hoodwinks the sea captain by proclaiming that the only way she can be restored to her normal size is by obtaining a piece of eggshell belonging to an enormous, two-headed monster called a Roc. Of course, such eggs only exist back on the island of Colossa.
Amazing Visual Effects
When I began watching this film, I’d forgotten that I’d already seen it as a kid. Although I was born too late to have watched it for the first time on the silver screen, I can see how it influenced many filmmakers—burgeoning and veteran alike.
This movie’s special effects were amazing for its day. Handcrafted effects known as “dynamation,” a form of stop-motion model animation, were utilized for this film and for select other films such as “It Came From Beneath the Sea” (1955) and “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963).
Legendary special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen used this new technology to breathe life into the many monstrosities that Sinbad encounters, such as the Roc, a skeleton warrior, and so on. Although these effects may look dated to folks who grew up with CGI effects, they were revolutionary for the time and used for several decades. They allowed filmmakers to give literal form to their cinematic fantasies.
Besides the effects, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” is a gripping adventure romp that is just plain fun to watch, even by today’s standards. It’s relatively fast-paced, packed with action, and has lots of beautifully crafted sets.
The acting is pretty decent, too—if a little stilted in places. One could only imagine how much fun the cast and crew must have had while making this rip-roaring adventure.
I know I enjoyed it, and I hope you do too.
‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’
Director: Nathan Juran
Starring: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Torin Thatcher
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 23, 1958
Rated: 4 stars out of 5