With this entry, special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen and fellow producer Charles H. Schneer would conclude their Sinbad trilogy, following the previous successful entries of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, but with Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lightning was not going to strike a third time as not only would this film be a box office disappointment it would also be the penultimate film Harryhausen’s career as he would retire from filmmaking following the release of Clash of the Titans, but where exactly did this Sinbad film go wrong?
Is there anyone whiter than Patrick Wayne? Hollywood has certainly not had a good history when comes to casting actors in ethnic roles and this is definitely the case of the character of Sinbad, whose whitewashing dates back to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the 40s and then on to Brad Pitt voicing the character in the animated film Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas, the less said about Lou Ferrigno’s turn as the quintessential sailor in Sinbad of the Seven Seas the better, and though the previous two Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films cast white actors in the lead the choosing of Patrick Wayne is beyond baffling and unlike John Phillip Law in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, who at least tried for a Middle Eastern accent, Patrick Wayne’s performance fails the minute he opens his mouth, yet it is all made worse by the fact that his characterization of Sinbad was also flat and without an ounce of charisma, a crime that cannot be forgiven in a performance so wooden that they clearly had to spray Patrick Wayne for termites on occasion.
This particular Sinbad adventure begins with the coronation of Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas) being cut short when a curse is put on the Prince just as he is about to be crowned Caliph. Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) and his men arrive shortly after and they are met with a rather rude welcoming as Kassim’s evil stepmother, the sorceress Zenobia (Margaret Whiting), knows that if anyone were to thwart her plans of placing her son Rafi (Kurt Christian) on the throne it would be Sinbad, but an attempted poisoning and even the raising of a trio of ghouls fails to put an end to Sinbad, which was to be expected, and soon the great sailor is enlisted by Kassim’s sister Princess Farah (Jane Seymour) on a journey to find a cure for her brother, who has been turned into a baboon.
Sinbad is informed that if Kassim isn’t cured within seven moons Zenobia’s son Rafi will become caliph in his stead, and it’s clear to everyone that Zenobia’s dark magic was behind the curse, which makes one wonder why she simply wasn’t seized and tossed in the palace dungeon at the outset. The only person Sinbad thinks could possibly restore Kassim is the legendary alchemist Melanthius (Patrick Troughton), who is rumoured to live on the island of Casgar, and before you can say “Open Sesame” our group of intrepid adventures set sail into danger. Unfortunately, as wise and knowledgeable as Melanthius was rumoured to be he does not have the ability to cure Kassim and thus this is a meer pitstop, along the lines of “Thank You, Mario, But Our Princess is in Another Castle” and our cast of characters, who now include Melanthius and his daughter Dione (Taryn Power), must journey to the land of Hyperborea where the ancient civilization of the Arimaspi once existed, which may hold the key to restoring Kassim’s humanity.
What some fans may find disappointing is the lack of mythological creatures in this outing, a staple of the Sinbad films, but in this outing, Ray Harryhausen and company decided to move away from some of the legendary creatures that had been featured in previous films and use more recognizable if larger versions of animals for our heroes to encounter. This led to a giant walrus, located in the frozen wastelands that surrounded Hyperborea, which was originally to be a yeti but for some strange reason, Harryhausen decided to go with a giant walrus, which is a prime example of the type of lacklustre threats Sinbad and his friends would be encountering this time out.
Not since cavemen battled a giant turtle in One Million Years B.C. has there been such an unnecessary and needless confrontation brought to the screen, and if that is intended to be one of your film’s showcase moments you know you’re in trouble. Sadly, such uninspired “monsters” are the least of this film’s problems as the overhanging threat of the sorceress Zenobia, who’s only a danger to our heroes because they are all bloody idiots, and this makes it all the less compelling. It’s Princess Farah that blabs to Zenobia that they will be seeking Melanthius for a cure and later Melanthius himself shows the sorceress the map of Hyperborea while he’s bloody-well interrogating her, and Zenobia’s dogged pursuit of Sinbad’s ship is also pretty tedious and only made interesting by the fact that her boat is powered by a magical bronze automaton, created by the sorceress with the appearance of a minotaur.
Trivia Note: The bronze Minoton was both a stop-motion creation of Ray Harryhausen and a live suit actor stand-in, played by 7′ 3″ Peter Mayhew who would later take the part of the mighty Chewbacca in a certain fantasy space opera.
With a budget of $3.5 million dollars, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger was the second costliest of Harryhausen films, just behind the $15 million dollar price tag for Clash of the Titans, and at almost two hours in length, it’s also one of the longest, which just adds to the film’s serious pacing issues. Zenobia’s pursuit of our heroes seems to unfold in real-time and “exciting moments” such as her turning herself into a seagull to spy on Sinbad and the subsequent enlarging of a wasp, who Melanthius had stupidly given some of Zenobia’s magic growth elixir to, and when they eventually do reach Hyperborea a fight with that giant walrus it’s a bit of a letdown. The film does try and spice things up by letting us watch Princess Farah and Dione skinny dipping, but any thoughts of gratuitous nudity are dashed by the arrival of a troglodyte.
• This film’s central villain is an “Evil Stepmother” which seems more a Disney trope than that of something to be found in a Sinbad movie.
• The trio of ghouls Sinbad encounters at the beginning of the film come across as low-rent versions of the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts.
• Sinbad having to sail to a dangerous land to save a royal personage who has been transformed by dark magic was also the basic plot of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
• In this film actor Kurt Christian plays Zenobia’s son Rafi, but in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, he played a lay-about who was pressganged into Sinbad’s service by his father, thus his casting here as a villain seems a bit odd.
• A lush verdant valley surrounded by ice is also to be found in Disney’s The Island at the Top of the World.
• When Melanthius finds Zenobia’s vial of transformation elixir he’s not sure there is enough to change Kasim back, so he gives some to a wasp as a test, but how is using even more of the elixir a solution to their particular problem?
• The Minoton is this colossal bronze automaton built by Zenobia but aside from rowing her boat it really doesn’t do much, in fact, Sinbad and friends never even encounter the monster and it dies an ignoble death by dropping a giant stone block on itself. What a waste of a cool creation.
• When our heroes reach the shrine that will cure the Prince, Zenobia orders Rafi to attack Melanthius, despite the man being surrounded by Sinbad and his men, did she expect any other result than that of her son dying?
• With her son dead, and his ability to become Caliph cut short, she transfers her soul into a nearby frozen Smilodon for one last feat of vengeance, another poor tactical decision on her part.
I’ll give it that it was nice to get a female antagonist for this outing, Sinbad having already tackled two different male wizards in the previous films, but Margaret Whiting wasn’t given much to do as Zenobia and her limping around with a seagull’s foot, due to mismanagement of the aforementioned magic elixir, made her less of a threat and more of a continued annoyance. Add to that the additional problem of Patrick Wayne’s listless performance as Sinbad and you have a recipe for disaster, that all said, the Minoton and the troglodyte did look cool and the final fight between the big cat and troglodyte was pretty exciting, it just wasn’t enough to offset all the tedium and bad acting we are forced to suffer through along the way. There are certainly the worst fantasy films out there but one expects more when Ray Harryhausen’s name is attached, and this is a light affair and would be a rather forgettable film if not for a few cool monsters, it simply needed more.
Final Note: These guys may have been low-rent skeletons, who were crushed by a bunch of logs, but they were still better than a giant walrus and an embiggened wasp.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
Movie Rank - 6/10
The Sinbad trilogy goes out with a whimper instead of a bang, even Ray Harryhausen admitted that the picture was too rushed which led to many characterization problems in the animation, but with the horribly miscast Patrick Wayne as Sinbad there was no chance of this film actually succeeding.