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Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
Back when moviemakers had to use their imaginations rather than churn imagery from a computer, the preeminent name in special effects was Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen specialized in stop-motion photography, making monsters from clay or rubber that he painstakingly moved between exposures. The resulting herky-jerky animation has a certain charm that the more polished CGI often lacks.
Harryhausen made three Sinbad movies in all. Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is the last story in the trilogy. Sinbad, of course is the hero from the Arabian Nights; a sea captain of the fabled seven voyages. This is the story of his eighth voyage - or is it the ninth?
Like all Sinbad movies, the story is a fantasy, like something you remember from a dream and don't quite believe. The plot concerns a quest to restore the rightful king, who has been turned into a baboon, to his throne. The villain is Zenobia - a beautiful witch with a curiously Balkan accent. Watch Zenobia's eyes and you will see where the title came from.
As often happened with these fantasy titles, the story here serves as a vehicle for the special effects. On this voyage, Sinbad and his crew interact with a baboon, fight sword wielding ant men, a Troglodyte, contend with a miniature Zenobia and a gigantic bee. There is also a bull-headed self-moving bronze Minoton (combination of Minotaur and automaton, I would guess) and a saber tooth tiger provided for your entertainment.
As Sinbad, we have Patrick Wayne - John Wayne's son, who played in countless of his dad's pictures. Margaret Whiting makes a dynamite villain as the mature but good looking sorceress Zenobia. Jane Seymour plays the beautiful princess with quite a bit of pizzazz and Taryn Power (Tyrone's daughter) plays a minor role. But we were here for the monsters, right? Well, the monsters are not bad and will be a big hit with the kids regardless if older viewers have seen pretty much the same thing in earlier Harryhausen flicks. I'm not trying to beat this thing to death but it is as good as most of the fairy tale-based stuff we are seeing at the movies these days.
The Columbia DVD is presented in 1.85:1 theatrical format in color, and runs almost two hours. As a special feature the DVD includes The Ray Harryhausen Chronicle, an hour-long tribute to Harryhausen's long career, which started when he was a boy and saw King Kong. From that moment on he knew his calling. The film traces Harryhausen's early fairy tale animations through his many full length movies and features frequent comments by the animator's lifelong friend sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. This is one of the best special features I've seen on a DVD, bar none.
I recommend Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger for kids and for those who remember what it was like to be a kid.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV