Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

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Sinbad must travel to the North Pole in the search for a cure for an Asian prince who has been turned into a baboon by an evil witch, desperate to get her hands on his kingdom. On the way he encounters many perils which he must overcome including ghouls, a giant walrus and a sabre tooth tiger.

 

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger was the last of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films and it’s easily the weakest. Hiring Patrick Wayne, son of legendary film star John Wayne, for the lead role and then getting a supporting cast with the likes of Doctor Who stalwart Patrick Troughton and eye candy in the former of Jane Seymour, the foundations were set were set for another fantastic voyage. But alas by this time the era of stop motion was beginning to flag as the era of Star Wars heralded in a new dawn in special effects. The fan base for films like this had begun to dwindle as science fiction and outer space became the fashion, consigning the old fantasy films to the scrap heap. With lower budgets than previously given, it was going to be an almost impossible task for the entire team to be able to work their magic and go out on a high.

Ray Harryhausen tries his best though and creates another army of stop-motion creatures although the majority of them just aren’t as good as his previous efforts and just seem to be recycled from his earlier creations. The ghouls look good during their brief fight at the start but it’s over almost too quickly (and they bear an uncanny resemblance to the aliens in First Men in the Moon) and the troglodyte is also quite impressive, if looking similar to the centaur and cyclops from his previous films. Minoton looks awesome too but is completely wasted in the film in a secondary role (and is vaguely Talos-like). I mean I thought he was going to duke it out with the troglodyte or fight Sinbad’s men instead of being discarded before any confrontations occur. He’s built up to be this deadly, unstoppable force early in the film and then is killed off on a whim before he gets chance to do anything of note.

Also for some inexplicable reason, the producers of the film decided to let Harryhausen animate a stop-motion baboon for the cursed prince. “So what?” you may ask. Well this baboon appears on screen for most of the film either in the background or as the focus of the scene. This would have taken ages to animate and seems to be a bit of a waste. Why not use a real monkey and have the prince turned into one of those instead? You may not have got the effect of him appearing human and the monkey may not have been co-operative on set but at least it would have saved poor old Ray messing around with animating the baboon. It would also have allowed him to create some other monster to fill up some of the long, boring gaps in the film between monster scenes. There’s also a giant walrus and a giant bee but the problem Harryhausen had when he created monsters like this is that we don’t want to see ‘normal’ animals being stop-motion animated. We want to see fantastical creatures from mythology come to life like fire-breathing dragons, cyclops, two-headed birds, six-armed statues, centaurs, griffins, etc.

Where did it all go wrong here? The problem begins with the script and it seems content to either rip-off previous Sinbad films or just use the unwanted ideas from those scripts. There’s nothing here to really grab your attention like there was in the other films. I mean the film starts off well with the fight with the ghouls and the usual mumbo jumbo about curses and evil witches. It also has a decent-ish finale inside the pyramid featuring the token stop-motion monster fight. But for the duration of the rest of the film hardly anything happens. There is a lot of talk and threatening dialogue between characters and unnecessary travelling around the world. What made the other films so exciting was that this was continually inter-cut with action scenes and battles with mythical monsters. The lulls between monster scenes were never this long and overly uninteresting. The special effects in the earlier films seemed to service the story but now it’s the other way around and the story is purely there to link together the monster scenes.

Acting was never a strong point for these fantasy films and this one is no exception. Patrick Wayne is quite wooden as Sinbad and seems to have been cast purely because he looks like a fantasy hero (and most likely because of his infinitely more famous and successful father). Margaret Whiting hams it up completely as the villain with a dodgy accent. Jane Seymour adds some female presence (and a hell of a lot of flesh too) to the film but it’s a pointless role really. At least Patrick Troughton adds a touch of class as the token elderly wise man who helps Sinbad on his mission. Casting wise I would expect nothing less than some decent British talent and that’s what we get, it’s a shame that the script gives them nothing worthwhile to say.

 

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger has still got enough going for it at the start and end and despite not being up to his earlier standards, Harryhausen’s monsters still look impressive and still create a timeless sense of awe. But younger viewers (and older ones for that matter) may find themselves falling asleep during the middle.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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