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Thursday, June 11, 2009

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)


The fantasy world created via the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen is one of the great deposits of ‘guilty pleasure’ in cinema. But as soon as you hear the opening chords of Bernard Herrmann’s grand score (a de facto concert overture) under the imaginative credit sequence, you realize there’s little ‘guilt’ involved in enjoying this spirited adventure tale. And the quality holds up under director Nathan Juran, whose art director background helps explain the smooth integration of live-action & animated elements. The story moves like the wind that carries Sinbad & his shipmates off to their island of hidden treasure & terrifying monsters (some of the oddest looking creatures in the Harryhausen canon) and even the self-consciously stilted dialogue becomes part of the fun. Admittedly, the acting is uneven, Kathryn Grant’s Princess & Richard Eyer’s genie come off as ultra-American prototypes for Mattel action-figures, but most of the cast are quite effective if not on the level of a Conrad Veidt or Sabu in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD/’40. Even the much maligned Kerwin Matthews is a better Sinbad than you may recall, with a real knack for fighting off the Dynarama® monsters & skeletons (yes!) that Harryhausen would almost seamlessly ‘matte’ into the picture element. That qualifying ‘almost’ is not meant as a criticism; in fact, it's that artisanal quality which gives the Harryhausen films so much of their lasting charm. Lose that snooty high-tech attitude; go pre-CGI.

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