Movie review of Ray Harryhausen’s classic The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) starring John Phillip Law, Caroline Munro, Tom Baker
I do love a cheesy monster movie, and my children share that passion as well. Recently, we got to see the wonderfully cheesy Golden Voyage of Sinbad; we also share a love of the Doctor Who series. I let them know that the villain of the movie was played by Tom Baker. He later became known as the Fourth Doctor in the BBC’s Doctor Who. Despite good performances by the actors (given the appropriately cheesy script), the true star of the movie is the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen, which is beautiful to behold. One of my daughters thought the most memorable scene was with the homunculus. And the other thought it was six-armed Kali. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Synopsis of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Captain Sinbad finds himself in possession of an amulet–one-third of three interlocking pieces–that is wanted by the villainous evil wizard Koura. Koura has already attacked, and disfigured, the benevolent Vizier of the land after causing the king’s death. The Vizier hires Sinbad and his crew to go on a quest, to prevent the evil Wizard from acquiring the evil magicks that he needs to overthrow the kingdom. After recruiting the beautiful slave girl Margiana–and a spoiled son of a rich man as comic relief–the chase in on. The crew fights against Koura’s evil magic (brought to life by the craftsmanship of Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion animation).
The beautiful Caroline Munro, as the newly-freed slave Margiana, has little to do other than being eye candy in her bikini-like outfit. She’s captured by various creatures in order to be rescued by Sinbad and his crew. Captain Sinbad, played by John Phillip Law, is appropriately brave and foolhardy. The villainous Koura is played by the English actor Tom Baker, who went on from here to play the iconic, Bohemian fourth Doctor Who. But here, he’s frankly more reminiscent of Christopher Lee–which is a high compliment. Haroun, as the comic relief, does his job well. My children and I kept referring to him as “comic relief” throughout the movie, and on occasion, he’s actually quite useful.
Another central character is the Vizier (Douglas Wilmer, Jason and the Argonauts), who I kept referring to as a “good” Doctor Doom. Despite having been burnt and disfigured by Koura, and hiding his disfigurement behind a golden mask, he continues to do what he can for the benefit of his people, risking all to protect them from Koura. But the real star of the film is the stop-motion artistry of Ray Harryhausen, who provides the movie with the following creatures:
- The bat-winged homunculus, who serves as Koura’s eyes and ears–while watching the movie, we nicknamed him “Roger”
- The masthead of Sinbad’s ship, animated by Koura’s magic to attack the crew and steal a crucial map
- The animated statue of Kali, who magically grows swords and engages the live action crew in a sword fight
- An evil Cyclops Centaur, who kidnaps Margiana, as well as getting into an epic battle with:
- The good Griffin, beautiful to watch
In all, it’s an enjoyable popcorn movie that my children and I both enjoyed, with cartoonish violence. I wouldn’t let very young children watch it, but my children (aged 11 to 18) enjoyed it very much. I rate The Golden Voyage of Sinbad 3.5 stars out of 5.
Editorial review of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, courtesy of Amazon.com
John Phillip Law stars as the legendary sailor this time around as he finds a talisman and sets sail with his crew for an uncharted island. With a beautiful slave girl (Caroline Munro) in tow, Sinbad takes on the evil sorcerer Koura (Tom Baker), who wants Sinbad’s golden talisman to complete a spell. En route to the island, Koura brings the ship’s figurehead to life to wreak havoc on the ship and crew. Once there, Sinbad and crew must do battle with a six-armed figure of Kali brandishing a sword in each hand, as well as an enraged Cyclops centaur and a winged griffin, and also deal with the treacherous Koura.
This 1974 entry in the Sinbad franchise is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the film’s production values are quite good, and of course the Ray Harryhausen effects are as beautiful as ever. The set design (especially for the scenes inside the cavern) is striking and inventive, and there’s Miklós Rózsa’s score gracing the soundtrack. On the other hand, the story definitely tends to drag a bit, and Law’s indeterminate accent often wavers toward a weird Slavic inflection.
Pointing to the film’s age, Law and company often tend to look like poncey rock stars with their long hair, beards, and harem pants. That’s all nitpicking, though; the action segments, though they’re fewer and farther between than in other Sinbad films, redeem the movie with Harryhausen’s incredible artistry. It’s worth owning just to see the fluid, complex movements of the animated Kali flailing away at six men with her swords. And of course, scream queen Caroline Munro never looked better as the slave girl Margiana. This is rich, well-crafted fantasy fare that the entire family can enjoy. —Jerry Renshaw
Movie quotes from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Sinbad: Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel!
Koura (Tom Baker): He who is patient obtains.
Vizier: The more I study it, the greater the puzzle becomes.
[seeing the Vizier’s mask]
Sailor: I’ve heard of gold going to a man’s head, but this!
Haroun: [Wakes up] Are you a merchant? How long will we be gone for, a week?
[Sinbad raises his eyebrows]
Haroun: Two weeks? Three weeks? A month?
[Sinbad raises his eyebrows]
Haroun: More than a month! How long?
Sinbad: Two or three years.
Haroun: Two or three years! That’s horrible.
[the men laugh]
Haroun: We’ll be ancient.
[the men laugh again]
Sinbad: You pace the deck like a caged beast, for one who enjoys the hashish you should be more at peace.
Haroun: My heart is filled with courage! [pause] But I have very cowardly legs.
Sinbad: Make a rope, out of your turbans and sashes.
Haroun: [Takes off his sash] Come on everyone, use your turbans and sashes.
[his pants fall down]
The Oracle of all knowledge: [the Keeper has summoned the Oracle of All Knowledge from its well and before Sinbad and his comrades, surrounded by licking flames, appears an image of a face like a bearded man with horns like a ram growing from its head, a thick mane of hair and a demonic smile that shows its rotting teeth] Two tablets brought forth to the light, yet a third remains from sight. A final place must still be found, a place that lies deep below the ground…
Sinbad: It speaks in riddles!
Go North, young man, go north
Sinbad: Go north?
The Oracle of all knowledge: North to barren lands of pagan places… The pagan barrens… Before a goddess cast with many limbs and death to all intruders is their whim. In that sacred place HID from the eyes of man is the third gold tablet that completes the plan… GO now… GO now… Go north… Go north…
[the voice and image of the Oracle fade away and returns in a burst of light into the well below it]