By Chaz Lipp
Way back in 1958, the late, great visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen co-produced and created the stop-motion model animation for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The film has since become a fantasy classic, included in United States National Film Registry. Years later, Harryhausen (who passed away at age 92 in May of 2013) returned to the classic Middle Eastern hero for two additional films. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) were issued on Blu-ray for the first time ever by specialty label Twilight Time. As with all titles in TT’s “Limited Edition Series,” a total of 3,000 copies each were pressed. Fans of Harryhausen and/or vintage fantasy will definitely want to snag these before they sell out (Twilight Time sold-out editions routinely command high prices on the collector’s market).
Neither of the films is quite a classic, with similar stories involving a race between the virtuous Sinbad and some dastardly villain to harness some form of magical power. Golden Voyage involves the search for the Fountain of Destiny, which provides a guaranteed source of youth and wealth. A mysterious bird-like creature delivers part of an amulet to Sinbad (John Phillip Law), who later has a prophetic nightmare that helps send him on his journey. The actor best known as the fourth Doctor Who, Tom Baker, plays the evil Prince Koura – Sinbad’s arch rival for this particular adventure. The stunningly gorgeous Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me) co-stars as Margiana, a slave freed by Sinbad.
Between the wooden figurehead on Sinbad’s ship to a fearsome centaur, plenty of amazingly animated creatures and objects leap to life. While nowhere near as slick as today’s digital F/X, Harryhausen’s unique creations are anything but generic (the same can’t be said of lots of today’s CGI). Not to be outdone, Eye of the Tiger – which centers on Sinbad’s quest to restore a central character to his original human form – includes, if anything, even more jaw-dropping stop-motion animation. That central character is Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas), sister of Sinbad’s girlfriend Princess Farah (Jane Seymour, a vision of exquisite beauty, outfitted in a variety of sexy costumes). Sinbad seeks Kassim’s permission to marry Farah. Kassim and Farah’s stepmom, Zenobia (Margaret Whiting), rather inconveniently transforms Kassim into a baboon. The Prince was set to receive a royal promotion (to that of caliph), but Zenobia wanted the job to go to her biological son.
Adding to the dazzling feminine beauty of Jane Seymour is Taryn Power, portraying the daughter of Sinbad’s friend Melanthius (Patrick Troughton). Though rated a family-friendly G, Seymour and Power even do some skinny-dipping, followed by a little leisurely sunbathing to dry off. Nudity is, of course, only hinted at, but it’s quite tantalizing nonetheless. Sinbad fights off a huge wasp, battles a gargantuan walrus, and meets a peaceful troglodyte. All in a day’s work for our Arabic hero (played, as most of the roles are in both films, by a white guy – it was a different era, but still not excusable). The most remarkable of Harryhausen’s creatures is the baboon (that’s really Prince Kassim), a strangely emotive creature that is the crown jewel of this effects-laden head-trip of a movie.
Both Golden Voyage and Eye of the Tiger look splendid on Blu-ray, each one given an outstanding 1080p transfer. Naturally quite grainy, even more so during the effects sequences (optical effects of the era involved lots of handling and multi-layering of the original negative), these presentations accurately preserve the film’s original look. Each film also has a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is arguably a bit overkill considering their original mixes were mono. Still, they sound great, especially sound effects like the creaking of the ship’s wooden figurehead.
Not much in the way of special features, though each film has a DTS-HD MA isolated score track (a hallmark of Twilight Time releases). The Golden Voyage of Sinbad includes a half-hour’s worth of Harryhausen-related featurettes. There’s a very brief featurette on Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger that also deals with Harryhausen’s “Dynamation”
Those interested should proceed directly to Twilight Time’s exclusive distributor, Screen Archives. Each film is limited to one copy per customer.