While the title evokes images of the legendary adventurer running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum Of Art in order to get in shape to fight a giant, stop motion Mr. T (fuck, I’d pay to watch that movie!), Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger is in fact the last of Ray Harryhausen’s trilogy concerning the vigorous seaman.
However, at this point in the animator’s legendary career, the swashbuckling quests of Sinbad, Jason and his Argonauts were starting to look a little quaint compared to a modest little phenomenon called Star Wars that detonated cinema with a fresh, new attitude and a cool, sci-fi treatment of wizards and the Hero’s Journey. Released in the same year as George Lucas’ lightspeed titan, Eye Of The Tiger instantly looked passe and tired and felt as creaky and worn as one of the sailor’s ships – but have the years since been kind to this genre, or had the land-locking of Harryhausen’s particular brand of derring do finally gone the way of myth, the Greek Gods and the dodo?
Sinbad (played by John Wanye’s son, Patrick, no less) has arrived at the kingdom of Charrak in order to ask for the hand in marriage of Princess Farah (an absurdly luscious Jane Seymour) from her brother Kassim, who at this point should have been crowned Caliph, but instead has fallen foul of an evil spell. Inconveniently transformed into a baboon by evil stepmother Zenobia, everybody remains thankful that Kasim hasn’t regressed to the point where he flings his shit at people while in a strop, but unless a way can be found to restore him within a certain time, he loses his claim to the crown which passes onto Zenobia’s son. Sinbad, possibly thinking with his penis, volunteers to embark on yet another voyage with Farah and monkey-Kassim in tow to find a way to reverse the transformation by trying to locate Greek wise man Melanthius. In pursuit is Zenobia, her son and a huge bronze minotaur she’s used her hocus pocus to give life to so he can be her dedicated boat version of an Uber Driver (Minoton, five stars!) and she unloads the full range of her ill-defined dark magic to stop her foes dead. As the voyage throws all sorts of obstacles in Sinbad’s path like bug-faced demons and – for some reason – a giant prehistoric walrus (I guess Harryhausen was running out of ideas that day), the crew forges ahead to un-monkey Kassim, but can they possibly succeed in time…?
Arguably the least of the three Sinbad adventures released by Colombia Pictures between 1958 and 1977, Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger has become one of those films destined to be something you fall asleep in front of on a rainy Sunday lunch time, simply because it belonged to a genre who’s time had come. The stilted performances and pedestrian direction from Sam Wanamaker (father of Zoë) usually found in these sort of films only tends to work because your desperately waiting to get to the next stop-motion set-piece, but while the movie doesn’t do anything wrong per say, it most certainly must have felt horribly dated as the adventures of Luke Skywalker and co. blew minds across the world.
That being said, while the film is perfectly fine in a throwback sort of way, it’s loaded with a vast array of the usual, head scratching plot holes, chief being that unless you count the chonky, sabretooth that menaces our heroes at the end of the film, Sinbad And The Eye Of Tiger doesn’t actually have any tigers in it at all. I’m assuming it’s supposed to be referring to the powers of it’s sinister protagonist who mainly uses her powers to transmogrify into a squawking sea bird – but then I suppose Sinbad And The Eye Of The Seagull doesn’t have quite the same ring to it… While we’re on the subject of the villainous Zenobia; I’m possibly thinking that maybe a life of evil witchcraft maybe isn’t the life for her as she’s quite plainly a bit shit at it. Transforming the Kassim-to-be is fair enough, but it’s so fucking obvious that she’s responsible it’s actually hilarious, plus a section where she tries to spy on Sinbad’s plans cause a fair few unintentional gaffaws as she’s instantly caught despite being the size of a Smurf and botches her escape by transforming into a seagull while not having enough position to fully change back, leaving her wailing with despair with one, comical, giant seagull foot. Having a villain with a disability is one thing, it’s worked wonders for the Bond movies over the years after all but metal hands, or a milky eye is pretty cool – a raging case of gull-foot is just stupid…
Luckily for Zenobia, Patrick Troughton’s Melanthius may well be one of the dumbest wise man in fantasy cinema who, when he’s not waving a secret map in front his enemy’s face or accidently letting guarded information slip without barely any prompting, he tests Zenobia’s magical compound on a wasp – nature’s answer to a knife wielding lunatic – and then has the audacity to looked shocked when it grows to the size of a christmas turkey and attacks everyone it sees.
Also coming up short is the rogue’s gallery of fantasy beasts that Sinbad has to duel with a trio of emaciated bug-people falling way short of the Skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts and the aforementioned enlarged wasp and walrus fail to get pulses going. However, whereas it’s usually the murderous creatures that get noticed in a Harryhausen film, it has to be said that it’s the Maestro Of Motion’s good-guy characters that stand out this time, with Kassim’s simian form and a friendly, brillo haired Trogoladyte exuding a massive amount of likable personality traits despite the latter being introduced by having him perv out on a nude Jane Seymour… got to love those 70’s family films, eh?
While Harryhausen took one more shot at the stop motion epic with Clash Of The Titans, it was obvious that the writing was on the wall for this particular genre and it arguably never really took off again until Peter Jackson took the reigns of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but the years have been exceptionally kind to these kinds of movies and watching them feel like the soothing equivalent of sliding on a pair of comfy slippers.
Nevertheless, it’s past time to bid this particular sailor bon voyage…