Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) – Directed by Sam Wanamaker – Starring Patrick Wayne, Patrick Troughton, Jane Seymour, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, and Ray Harryhausen’s Puppets.
For the opening third of this film the focus is on Sinbad. This is not terribly surprising since its his name in the movie’s title, but as soon as Sinbad, Princess Farah (Jane Seymour), and her brother the baboon make their way to some secret island and hook up with the Greek alchemist Melanthius (Patrick Troughton), the movie belongs to Troughton, Taryn Power (playing his daughter, Dione), the baboon, and the rest of Ray Harryhausen’s monsters.
I’m not saying this because Troughton is the best actor in the movie (which he is) or because Melanthius is the most interesting character in the film (which he is) but because the movie pushes Sinbad aside to give the old dude the majority of screen time and puts him at the center of the film’s plot.
Hey, at least the filmmakers are utilizing their best assets.
Troughton is fantastic from start to finish. Melanthius is this old scientist living on a reclusive island with his hot daughter. There’s a bunch of natives on the island who like to stand on the tops of cliffs and throw rocks at strangers, but they’re not important because when Dione tells them to go away, they go away. I like to think they came down to burgle Melanthius’ lab when the crazy old guy was gone and were disappointed by what a mess it is.
Maybe that’s just me.
Sinbad and Farah need Melanthius’ help because Farah’s evil stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting) has turned her brother, Kassim, into a baboon so her blood son can become the caliph.
The way this movie unfolds is that you have to suffer through the stiff acting of Wayne and the amateurish acting of Seymour (she really does get a lot better as her career advances) until Troughton and Power show up to make things come off better than a freshman play in high school. Sinbad is all, “I will do this for you, my love,” and Farah is all weepy, and I honestly thought I might have to start hitting the fast-forward button just to get to the Harryhausen monsters.
But then Troughton and Power show up and suddenly it’s the baboon that comes to the fore of the film as Wayne and Seymour slip into the back. The baboon instantly has a thing for Dione and Melanthius agrees to help Sinbad turn Kassim back into a human because, you know, what the hell, right? He wants to see if Hyperborea really exists.
I mean, he’s got a map of the place laying around, and a key to the secret sacred temple, but maybe whomever gave those things to him was really just pulling a prank. He doesn’t get out much, so it wouldn’t be that hard.
With Melanthius and Dione aboard, Sinbad sets sail for Hyporborea and we get treated to a really, long, really poorly paced ship chase to the Arctic.
Zenobia has built a gold metal Minotaur and brought it to life with dark magic. This minotaur is awesome and he single-handedly rows their boat all over the place so they don’t have to pay a crew. As awesome as the minotaur is, however, he’s also one of the most disappointing of Harryhausen’s creations because he doesn’t really do anything except row the boat and move some heavy stuff. He gets taken out by falling rocks.
The hell is that?
Let’s see a fight!
There’s some lackluster stop-motion fighting against skinny demon things and a giant bumblebee, but a better fight later on with the Troglodyte and a sabretooth tiger. What’s awesome about that latter fight is that for most of it Sinbad just stands there with his sword out and watches.
The best work Harryhausen does in this film is with Kassim the Baboon. He feels alive and conveys that sense of a lost grip with his humanity. It’s some of Harryhausen’s best work, especially the baboon’s growing relationship with Dione. Farah gets a little pissy about being replaced (which is creepy, since she’s Leia to the baboon’s Luke) in the baboon’s eyes for the blonde, but the baboon doesn’t care.
Later, Dione calms the Troglodyte later after he spies on Dione and Farah’s nekkid bathing. Melanthius is all, “Daughter, go calm the beast,” and she’s like, “I hope you f*cking die, old man, so I can just find a nice normal guy somewhere and not feel guilty about leaving you alone back on No Treasure Here Island.”
Almost as an afterthought, Melanthius eventually sends Farah in, too, but the ancient pre-human only has eyes for the blonde.
Everyone ends up in Hyporborea but we don’t get as many fights as you’d suspect. That’s okay because the movie is so ploddingly paced that I was just wanting it to wrap up so I could do something else.
This isn’t a bad film, but it does go on too long. Skim the first 30 minutes, watch the next hour, and skim to the finish.