Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.
Release Date: August 12th, 1977 MPAA Rating: G
Director: Sam Wanamaker Actors: Patrick Wayne, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Jane Seymour, Patrick Troughton, Kurt Christian
or this third and final Columbia Pictures’ Sinbad film (with legendary special effects master Ray Harryhausen’s Dynarama), the director, the titular actor, and the music composer have all changed once again, strengthening the dissociative storylines and character traits between the three strikingly different episodes. Essentially, the only linking factor is Harryhausen’s monumental stop-motion animation wizardry. Here, Patrick Wayne presents a cross between Kerwin Mathews’ light-hearted, boyish charm and John Phillip Law’s gruffer, more realistic version of the courageous sailor. Jane Seymour’s inclusion as the heroine visually fits the part, perhaps superiorly to the previous two damsels in distress, while the only returning actor, Kurt Christian, assumes the role of a different character entirely.
A plague ravages the port town where Captain Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) and his crew have docked. Within the city, Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas) has not yet been crowned as king due to a dark curse that has overtaken his soul. His sister Princess Farah (Jane Seymour) and uncle Balsora (Bruno Barnabe) are certain that the suspiciously (or obviously) wicked stepmother, Queen Zenobia (Margaret Whiting), is behind Kassim’s dismaying bewitching.
After all of the wise men and alchemists in the city have been consulted, Farah has all but given up hope – until Sinbad recalls hearing of the rumors of the great Greek sage, scientist, and philosopher Melanthius (Patrick Troughton), who can certainly lift the spell. His establishment on a faraway island makes an immediate voyage crucial yet dangerous. When Kassim is transformed into a baboon through devious witchcraft, he’s transported in a bejeweled cage aboard the ship – just as Zenobia and her son Rafi (Kurt Christian), who plots to be coronated as the new caliph, give chase with their possessed colossus of bronze, the half-man, half-bull Minoton. When Sinbad arrives at the desolate tombs of the kings on Casgar, he’s greeted by Dione (Taryn Power), Melanthius’ daughter, who can communicate through “telepathia.” Melanthius joins Sinbad and his crew to next sail to the remote, icy valley of Hyperborea in the Western ocean near the Celtic Isles, where the Shrine of the Four Elements holds the ability to reverse Kassim’s metamorphosis. But time is running out, for the longer the prince remains a primate, the greater the likelihood that he’ll lose all connection with his humanity and memory.
Overall, the acting largely detracts from the swashbuckling premise, taking viewers out of the fantasy when clunky lines are prattled unenthusiastically. A particularly infuriating scene occurs when a bumbling Melanthius interrogates Zenobia and accidentally reveals all of Sinbad’s secrets to the witch. The pacing is also off, with this third chapter utilizing the longest runtime of the series, spreading Harryhausen’s animated monstrosities far too thin. And the climax at the final destination inside the massive pyramid shrine is especially overlong and uneventful, repetitively cutting back to faces and expressions instead of focusing on action.
The monsters themselves also lack the impressiveness of Harryhausen’s previous concoctions, consisting of insect-like humanoids (thrashing around swords to feign relevancy to the setting), the armored bull, the plain anthropoid, a troglodyte caveman, and an oversized (but far from awesome) bee. The snowy locations are similarly uninspired. A giant walrus and a saber-toothed tiger offer some relief from the general blandness, but it’s not enough to mark this final piece as a worthy addition to the Sinbad saga.
– Mike Massie
The Complete Ray Harryhausen