The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
Directed by Gordon Hessler

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * * * ½

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Shortly after having acquired a part of a mysterious golden tablet which was being delivered by a small winged monster to an evil sorcerer named Koura (Tom Baker), Sinbad (John Phillip Law) arrives in the kingdom of Marabia. There he learns from the vizier (Douglas Wilmer) ruling that country that the magician plans to use the tablet to find some mysterious object. This happens to be a magical fountain capable of granting the person who tosses the completed tablet into it youth, a crown of riches, and a shield of invisibility. In order to stop Koura, Sinbad and the vizier decide to acquire the as yet unknown object before the sorcerer does by following a course they have charted using the shadow cast by the fragments of the tablet on a strange map painted on a wall in the dungeons of the royal palace. The two then set out on their quest, accompanied by a beautiful slave girl, Margiana (Caroline Munro), who was given to Sinbad by a merchant as payment for the captain's accepting the man's useless son as a member of his crew.

Although Gordon Hessler's The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is burdened with a fair amount of bad acting and a frequently ludicrous script, it is so enlivened by its exciting action sequences, exotic sets, and fantastic monstrosities that it is a real joy to watch.

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The director, while he has not created anything that could possibly be described as a work of art, has, nonetheless, crafted such an exhilarating story and so filled it which such a variety of outlandish sets, lavish costumes, thrilling action sequences, and truly astonishing special effects that only the most cynical of individuals could possibly fail to be completely entranced by the experience of watching the movie. Hessler is successfully able to arouse in the viewer a wonderful feeling of tingling excitement throughout his enchanting film and has, as a consequence, made one of the most fun movies I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a genuine delight.


While the film is packed with a diversity of enjoyable elements, Ray Harryhausen's various puppets, all of which are brought to life by means of stop motion animation, are especially bewitching. The viewer is treated to such creations as a tiny winged homunculus, a living figurehead, a ferocious griffin, a giant one-eyed centaur, and more. The interactions of all of these brilliantly realized monstrosities with the human actors, with whom many of the puppets are made to fight, are particularly well done and infuse Sinbad's adventures with a intoxicatingly magical quality.


Sadly, the movie does include a few ethnocentric moments that do detract from its enjoyableness. The worst of these occurs when the protagonists arrive at a ruined city inhabited by green skinned savages who worship the goddess Kali. After Koura brings her image to life and, by doing so, awes the barbarians with his ability to control their metallic deity, he bids it fight against Sinbad. Clearly, the film makers viewed images of the goddess they had encountered as exotic and thought one would make a good opponent for their protagonist. Such a perspective is, however, indicative of a narrow provincialism married to a low opinion of other cultures. After all, would they have considered bringing to life a statue of Jesus being worshiped by a babbling horde of primitive Caucasians? Such faults, and this is not the only one in the film, do intermittently decrease its appeal.


Despite its occasional misstep, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is, in general, a wonderfully exciting and enchanting film. It is, in fact, among the most entertaining movies I have seen.

Review by Keith Allen


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