I have always been a fan of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation and his three Sinbad films are among my favorites. I particularly enjoy The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the second Sinbad film that Harryhausen worked on. The film follows the legendary sailor (John Phillip Law) as he discovers a mysterious gold tablet before finding himself driven to the country of Marabia. There he meets the Grand Vizier (Douglas Wilmer) (who wears a golden mask to hide his burned face) and finds a second gold tablet that interlocks with the first. It turns out the tablets are a map to the lost island of Lemuria and Sinbad organizes his crew to sail there. But Sinbad and the Vizier aren’t the only ones interested in finding Lemuria: this place is also sought by Prince Koura (Tom Baker), an evil sorcerer who is angry that Sinbad has taken the gold tablet that a magical servant was bringing to him. Both sides race to find Lemuria and the secrets it contains.
As with any Ray Harryhausen film, there are a number of stop-motion creations in this story. These include:
- the homunculus: a tiny winged creature that Koura uses as a spy
- the Siren: Koura uses his magic to bring the wooden figurehead of Sinbad’s ship to life.
- the one-eyed centaur
- a griffin
All of these creations are amazing to watch, but my favorite out of all of them is Harryhausen’s work on “Kali” a six-armed statue that Koura brings to life in a Lemurian temple. While named Kali, the statue bears more resemblance to the Hindu god Shiva (particularly in its initial pose before it comes to life). There is a beautiful scene where Koura orders Kali to dance and the statue obeys, all six arms moving throughout. Given how much care needs to be taken in stop-motion animation, I always find myself wondering just how long it took to animate the statue.
While the film is enjoyable, it also has several flaws. The one that bothers me the most is how Margiana (a slave girl that Sinbad frees after seeing her in a vision connected to the tablet) received a tattoo of an eye on her palm. It is revealed late in the film that this tattoo marks her as sacred to one of Lemuria’s gods but this revelation is extremely problematic because if Lemuria is a lost island that no one has found in centuries, then how did Margiana receive the tattoo for one of their gods? It seems awfully convenient to the plot that a mysterious tattoo just happens to coincide with the place Sinbad and company are trying to reach.
Time for some interesting trivia!
-That is indeed the same Tom Baker who played the Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who. In fact, Baker got the role of the Doctor because of his performance in this film.
-Christopher Lee was a front runner to play Prince Koura
-Miklos Rozsa scores this film and parts of the score are very similar to segments in Ben-Hur (1959)
One thing is for sure, they definitely don’t make films like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad anymore, which is a real shame since it is so much fun to watch. Let me know what you think of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad in the comments below and have a great day!
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