Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
Directed by Sam Wanamaker

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

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When Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) returns to the city of Charak from a trading expedition, he learns from his beloved Princess Farah (Jane Seymour) that her father has died and that her brother Kassim, the heir to the throne, has not yet been crowned. Instead, the young man has been transformed into a baboon by his stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting), who happens to be a witch and who wants her own son Rafi (Kurt Christian) to be caliph. Not knowing how to cure Kassim, Sinbad takes Farah and the prince onto his ship and sets out to find a mysterious wise man named Melanthius (Patrick Troughton) to ask him for his help. Pursued by Zenobia, Rafi, and an enormous brazen Minotaur, Sinbad and his crew make their way across dangerous waters and past various obstacles to meet with Melanthius, who reveals he may know how Kassim can be cured. Taking the old philosopher and his young daughter Dione (Taryn Power) with them, the protagonists then make their way to a mysterious land hidden deep in the icy wastes of the Far North.

Sam Wanamaker's Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger may be poorly acted, poorly scripted, and generally juvenile, but it is also among the most fun movies I have ever seen. It is not an impressive work of art, but it is a marvelously entertaining movie, nonetheless.

The film makers have crafted such a genuinely engaging story and filled it with such a rich assortment of marvelous special effects, lavish sets, sumptuous costumes, exciting escapades, and entertaining characters that Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is never boring. Any person who can forgive the movie its faults, which are real, it must be conceded, should be able to enjoy one of the most truly captivating stories of adventure ever to have been filmed.

Almost certainly, the movie's single most entrancing quality is its special effects. Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is absolutely packed with a multitude of strange, magical beings, including Zenobia's bronze Minotaur, the Minaton, chirping demons who spring out of a campfire, a giant one-horned troglodyte, a saber-toothed tiger, an enormous wasp, a chess playing baboon, and a monstrous walrus. All these fantastic beasts have been brought to life by Ray Harryhausen using stop motion animation, and all are absolutely enthralling to watch. Even had the director not crafted as thrilling an adventure as he has, Harryhausen's inspired creations are so delightful and so effectively realized that, by themselves, they would captivate the viewer. They are certainly among Harryhausen's finest work.

Thanks to Harryhausen's talents, the movie's action sequences are also consistently well realized. The actors are made to interact with and fight against the various creatures with which the film is populated so that their struggles evoke not only a potent sense of excitement in the viewer but also real feelings of wonder. The viewer is, consequently, so drawn into the enchanting world which is being presented to him that he is likely to be completely enthralled by the movie.

Unfortunately, the film is burdened both with a fair amount of bad acting and an occasionally ludicrous script. Although Patrick Troughton is competent as the kindly and wise Melanthius and Margaret Whiting gives a wildly exaggerated and tremendously fun performance as the fiendish Zenobia, their contributions are more than offset by those of some of their fellow cast members. Patrick Wayne, in particular, is astonishingly wooden. While he does bring a dashing charm to his role, his lack of any real acting talent is a constant distraction. The story too has its occasional absurdities, although these are rarely so bad that they will provoke more than a brief grimace from the viewer.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, whatever its limitations, is able to evoke real feelings both of awe and heroism. It is, consequently, one of the most exciting and enjoyable films I have had the pleasure of seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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