Ray Harryhausen Spotlight: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad


Greetings, readers! This week I continue my look at special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. For week three I’ll be writing about The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. It’s another rollicking adventure movie enhanced by Harryhausen’s special effects wizardry.

To cut straight to the chase, here’s a rundown of the plot. It involves magic, a map. and mystical creatures. It’s the stuff that Saturday matinée serials are made of.

Sinbad (John Phillip Law) and his crew intercept a homunculus carrying a golden tablet. Koura (Tom Baker), the creator of the homunculus and practitioner of evil magic, wants the tablet back and pursues Sinbad. Meanwhile Sinbad meets the Vizier (Douglas Wilmer) who has another part of the interlocking golden map, and they mount a quest across the seas to solve the riddle of the map, accompanied by a slave girl (Caroline Munro) with a mysterious tattoo of an eye on her palm. They encounter strange beasts, tempests, and the dark interference of Koura along the way.–IMDB

There are some great Harryhausen effects as always. There’s a sequence of a griffin fighting a one-eyed centaur. Although that sequence was originally supposed to look very different. As Internet Movie Database notes,

The Griffin, which fights the One-Eyed Centaur, was originally going to be a Neanderthal man, according to Ray Harryhausen’s early concept art for the project (illustrated in charcoal pencil). The “Neanderthal man” concept would later be realized into the Troglodyte in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977).–IMDB

So at least Harryhausen got to film what he originally wanted in another Sinbad movie.

My favorite Harryhausen sequence in the movie is the fight between Sinbad, his men, and the six-armed goddess Kali. Kali has a sword in each arm. That’s not something you see every day.

Eat your heart out Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn! It’s one of the great sword fight scenes in classic cinema. And this sequence was an homage to a film that inspired Ray Harryhausen to work in movies.

Harryhausen paid tribute to one of his inspirations, The Thief of Bagdad (1940), with this film. Both had the same composer, and Kali’s dance copies many moves of the six-armed robot in the 1940 film. The Hindu-style temple in the 1940 film is echoed in the Hindu-style carvings of Lemuria, and the look of the Lemurians is based on the 1940 film as well; there are other echoes and influences to be seen by those familiar with both films.–IMDB

It’s great when artists pay tribute to their own inspirations.

It should also be noted that there was a special effects sequence that was supposed to feature snakes. But it was cut.

A “Valley of the Vipers” sequence was devised by Ray Harryhausen. This would have featured both real snakes and giant animated snakes. However, this sequence was unused, as producer Charles H. Schneer was afraid of snakes (and argued that the scene would upset pregnant women).–IMDB
To quote Indiana Jones, “snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Although I’m terrified of snakes too, I would love to have seen what Harryhausen did with that concept.
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is not my favorite Harryhausen film. That would be Jason and the Argonauts. But it does tell a fun story and have some great action sequences. My favorite is the duel with Kali. Ray Harryhausen worked on two other Sinbad movies: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Both are work a look. One final note, the score for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was done by Miklos Rozsa. It’s one of the most overlooked scores of his impressive career.

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