Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger in 1977 was the last of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies. Sinbad had been good to Harryhausen - these movies offered the perfect field for his special effects genius. And this is a reasonably worthy successor to the earlier Sinbad movies.
Although Sam Wanamaker directed it’s fair to describe this as Harryhausen’s movie - apart from doing the special effects he co-produced it and co-wrote the story.
Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) returns from a long sea voyage to find big trouble at home. He’s looking forward to seeing the beautiful Princess Farah (Jane Seymour) again but he finds the city gates locked. He is told there is plague in the city but when he finds Princess Farah he discovers the real trouble is rather different. Farah’s brother Kassim was about to be crowned as Caliph when something horrible happened, something that can only be explained by witchcraft - Kassim was turned into a baboon.
Farah is devoted to her brother and she has no doubts as to who is responsible - it is her evil stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting). Zenobia wants the crown for her own son.
If Kassim cannot be crowned within seven moons he will lose his claim to the throne, so even if there is a way to restore him it will be a race against time. Against witchcraft as powerful as this there seems little hope anyway until Sinbad remembers that there may be one man who can help, the legendary alchemist and philosopher Melanthius. The problem is that no-one is sure that Melanthius really exists. Nonetheless Sinbad sets off in his ship, along with Princess Farah and her unfortunate brother, to find him.
Of course they do find him, but Melanthius (Patrick Troughton) has to confess that such powerful black magic is beyond his powers. The only chance for the prince would be to journey to the land of Hyperborea, the home of a legendary ancient civilisation with occult and scientific powers almost beyond imagining, but that is impossible. It lies at the top of the world, a land of snow and ice. Sinbad however is not going to let that daunt him and he sets off to find Hyperborea and persuades Melanthius to come along.
Unfortunately Zenobia is in hot pursuit, in her all-metal ship rowed by a fabulous bronze giant, one of her own creations.
There’s the usual array of Harryhausen monsters and stop-motion effects. Some are very good, others not so good. The giant killer walrus is one of the least effective. The best thing about the monsters is that they’re not all mere monsters - some turn out not to be evil at all. That’s a nice variation and certainly adds interest.
The cast is mostly good. Patrick Wayne (John Wayne’s second son) is a less effective Sinbad than John Philip Law had been in the The Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Law was a much more convincingly exotic hero while Wayne is just a bit too all-American to make the role work. On the other hand he certainly looks the part of an action hero and he has an easy-going charm that makes him impossible to dislike.
Much better is Jane Seymour as Princess Farah, not just looking stunning but doing a creditable acting job. Even better still are Margaret Whiting as Zenobia and Patrick Troughton as Melanthius. Neither misses an opportunity to overact, which is just as it should be in a movie such as this. They’re entertaining enough to carry the movie through some slow spots.
Which brings us to director Sam Wanamaker whose contributions to the movie are less than inspired. The movie is much too long at 113 minutes and the pacing is definitely on the slow side and could have used a bit more action and a bit more imagination in the action sequences that are there.
The script is not overly inspired either, being a bit too much of a recycling of ideas from previous Sinbad movies.
The movie has to rely a great deal on Harryhausen’s monsters and even some of these seem a bit too familiar.
Even with these faults and even admitting that it’s a bit of a disappointment after the superb The Golden Voyage of Sinbad it’s a fun movie in its own way.
Columbia Tristar’s DVD features a terrific transfer.