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Review of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Theatrical release poster for "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" by Brian Bysouth.

Theatrical release poster for "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" by Brian Bysouth.

Set Sail for Adventure

Sinbad (John Phillip Law) comes into possession of a golden amulet his crew takes from a strange flying creature. Plagued by visions and dreams, his ship is blown off course to Marabia, where Sinbad is accused of stealing the gold trinket by Koura (Tom Baker). Sinbad escapes the ambush and comes under the protection of Marabia’s Vizier (Douglas Wilmer), who wears a golden mask and believes Providence has brought Sinbad and the amulet to their land because he has another third of it and was tasked by the previous king to solve its riddle.

Riddles and Quests

The fact the amulet forms a sea chart and that Sinbad is a captain only encourages the Vizier that they are destined to undertake the journey and discover the treasures before the oppressive sorcerer Koura can claim them. Sinbad takes on some additional crew members, including Margiana (Caroline Munro), a tattooed woman who has figured heavily in his earlier visions. A race is then underway between Sinbad’s crew against Koura with his magic and minions, trying to claim the fabulous treasures and secret power of a lost island civilization.

Stylized movie poster for the Polish release of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

Stylized movie poster for the Polish release of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

Trust in Allah, But Tie Up Your Camel

A main through line of the movie it the tension between destiny and human choices. Sinbad is reckless, but he bets on himself and the proficiency of his crew. He says, “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel” several times, indicating his skepticism toward fatalism. Sinbad is often foolhardy and has to rely on his wits or skill to get himself out of trouble. Nonetheless, he trusts in his visions of Margiana and the island of many faces, even though he can’t explain his reasoning. Other character, like the Vizier and Koura, are believe they are destined for greatness and even more power.

The fast pace of the movie, running about an hour and 45 minutes, leaves the theme and most of the characters a bit underdeveloped while maintaining the tension and urgency. There's no time for pedantic questions like how did the old king know about any of this or how Koura has managed to amass so much power while obviously being an evil sorcerer.

Action Makes Up For Thin Script

The movie doesn’t slow down much to breath or let an audience question it. There is, however, an enjoyable sense of swashbuckling adventure that is often lacking in contemporary films. Say what one will about modern blockbusters like The Batman, Jurassic World Dominion, Uncharted, or Nope, they don’t come across as fun even when they mean to do so.

The cast is serviceable and up to maintaining the tone. Caroline Munro doesn’t get much to do but still comes out better here than in Star Crash. Tom Baker—the best Dr. Who—is game for a performance as the gleeful, villainous sorcerer, Koura. He knows what kind of movie he's in. Would a contemporary remake of this movie make these casting choices? Probably not, but given that Jake Gyllenhaal was the Prince of Persia, who can say? Nevertheless, the cast is a product of its time, and it mostly gets the job done.

Ray Harryhausen Effect

While not all the special effects hold up as well, the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen is reason enough to see this movie. One scene with a battle between two monsters feels a bit indulgent and doesn’t add much to the film, but the spectacular sequences with an intricate Kali statue brought to life is a showcase of Ray Harryhausen’s genius and technical prowess. Much like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, the material is elevated by special effects wizardry, and there is no shortage of effects to be had.

Come Along and Ride on a Fantastic Voyage

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is still worth watching for anyone interested in Ray Harryhausen’s masterful special effects and a fast-paced adventure movie.

© 2022 Seth Tomko