Tag Archives: stop-motion animation

My Thoughts on: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

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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.

Kali dances for Koura

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.

Centaur vs. Griffin

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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Jason and the Argonauts (1963): Ray Harryhausen Blogathon

This post is part of the Ray Harryhausen Blogathon hosted by Wolffian Classics Movie Digest

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To the best of my knowledge, Jason and the Argonauts is the first film I ever saw with special effects done by Ray Harryhausen. I’d known what stop motion animation was before I saw this film (having seen the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special dozens of times), but I’d never seen it rendered so lifelike before.

To  summarize: Jason and the Argonauts is an adaptation of the ancient Greek epic of the same name, and it tells the story of Jason, the rightful king of Thessaly, who seeks the magical Golden Fleece (which brings good fortune to whichever country possesses it) as a means to unite the people behind him against the evil rule of King Pelias (who killed Jason’s father at the beginning of the film). To do this, Jason has a great ship, called the Argo, built, and holds an athletic competition to select the bravest and strongest warriors to join him on this dangerous quest (because the Golden Fleece lies on the other side of the known world). Among the “Argnonauts” are Hercules, Argus (the builder of the Argo), Hylas (who wins his place by besting Hercules in a contest, and seemingly had the help of the gods in doing it) and Acastus (who is actually the son of Pelias and out to get the Golden Fleece for himself).
 

Speaking of the Greek gods, we see a great deal of them in the story too: Hera sets herself up as Jason’s protector, and with the permission of Zeus is allowed to help Jason five times during his quest. In their palace on Mt. Olympus, Hera and Zeus are seen playing a “game” on a huge board depicting the world. It is implied that they are subtly manipulating events in a sort of contest against one another, though neither bears any real malice towards Jason.

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During their trip to Colchis, the Argonauts have three adventures: they come to the isle of Bronze to re-supply, and inadvertently disturb the bronze giant Talos (which guards the treasure of the gods hidden on the island). Jason defeats Talos by removing a plug in his heel that keeps the magic liquid powering him inside his body.

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Jason and the Argonauts “Talos Awakens” (1963)

They then visit a blind seer named Phineas, who is tormented daily by the Harpies because he blasphemed against Zeus many years ago. In return for the Argonauts capturing them, Phineas tells Jason how to get the rest of the way to Colchis, but warns him of the “clashing rocks”, giving him an amulet to protect him along the way.

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Jason and the Argonauts “The Harpies” (1963)

At the clashing rocks, they first see a ship from Colchis get destroyed by the rocks, and then slowly make their way themselves. The ship is nearly destroyed and in a fit of anger Jason throws the amulet into the sea, unwittingly summoning a huge merman (implied to be the sea god Triton) that holds the rocks in place until the ship passes through. On the other side, they find the priestess Medea, barely clinging to life and they bring her with them to Colchis.

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Jason and the Argonauts “Clashing Rocks” (1963)

Even though the Argonauts have safely arrived in Colchis, their troubles aren’t over yet. Acastus showed his true colors and in the course of a fight went missing and was presumed dead. In reality, Acastus made it to the royal palace first and told King Aeetes his version of the truth, painting Jason and his friends as mere robbers. Upon arrival, Jason and company are taken prisoner, but Medea (who is already in love with Jason), breaks them out of jail and promises to lead them to where the Golden Fleece lies. Acastus is already on his way there, and Aeetes is in pursuit with his soldiers. When Jason and Medea arrive at the tree holding the fleece, they are greeted by the seven-headed Hydra, which already holds a badly wounded Acastus in its coils.

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Jason and the Argonauts “Jason vs. The Hydra” (1963)

Jason fights and eventually kills the Hydra, but it is too late for Acastus. Taking the fleece and running, Medea is shot by an arrow and badly wounded, but the fleece is used to heal her wounds and she is taken to safety by some of Jason’s men. The rest stay behind with Jason, as Aeetes has one more trump card to play: calling upon the goddess Hecate, Aeetes takes the teeth of the slain Hydra and sows them into the ground, calling upon the “children of the Hydra” to rise up and avenge them. One by one, living skeletons rise from the ground, and on the king’s order, move to attack Jason and his men. It’s a vicious battle, but Jason and company have no hope of winning, as the only way to defeat a skeleton is to completely smash it into pieces, otherwise it will just keep fighting. The final solution is to dive into the sea far below the cliff that they were fighting on (the skeletons smashing into pieces on the rocks).

Jason and the Argonauts “Skeleton Fight” (1963)

Jason has the fleece, and Medea, but will they be able to regain the kingdom of Thessaly for Jason? Sadly, the film doesn’t tell us as it ends right there. I remember hearing somewhere that there were some plans for a sequel that would’ve finished the story, but it ultimately never came to fruition. Jason and the Argonauts is full of spectacular monsters that only Harryhausen could’ve brought to life. My favorites are Talos, the Hydra and especially the skeletons. Harryhausen actually first did a skeleton fight in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), only that fight was one on one between Sinbad and a skeleton. The movements of the skeletons are so smooth, it’s easy to forget that Jason and the other actors are fighting things that aren’t really there.

Talos is another exciting creation. He’s meant to be an impossibly huge statue of bronze that comes to life to defend the treasure (and he wields a huge sword too). The music for this entire sequence that Talos appears in is absolutely menacing! Bernard Herrmann composed the score for this film and he did such an amazing job of conveying the fact that Talos is big and terrifying and greatly to be feared!!

My one big frustration with this film is that it technically doesn’t finish the story it started telling. The movie starts as a conflict between King Pelias and Jason, the man who will eventually kill him. You would think that the story would end with Jason confronting Pelias with news of his son’s death and that he has the Golden Fleece, but we never get that closure. Regardless, I love watching this movie, as I love watching all films where Ray Harryhausen was involved.

Hope you enjoyed my contribution to the Ray Harryhausen Blogathon, have a good rest of the day!

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