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The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad(1958)


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In the mid-fifties, Ray Harryhausen was recognized as one of the best special effects craftsmen in Hollywood, amazing filmgoers with his startling stop-motion effects in sci-fi thrillers like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953). It wasn't until 1958 that he was able to bring to the screen a personal project he had been shopping around to the studios for years - The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Movies based on the Arabian Nights and other exotic fairy tales were out of vogue at the time but producer Charles H. Schneer believed in the project and Harryhausen's vision. After all, he had already enjoyed three highly successful collaborations with the special effects wizard on It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), and 5 Million Years to Earth (1957).

For The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, key members of the cast and crew, including Kerwin Matthews (still considered the most dashing of all the screen 'Sinbads') were flown to Spain where some of the most difficult sequences were filmed. Among these are the encounter with the giant Cyclops who likes to roast men on a spit over a fire and the skeleton swordfight. The latter scene required Matthews to train with Olympic fencing master, Enzo Musomeci-Greco, choreographing the sword parries and thrusts which he memorized and repeated on film with the appropriate reactions to his non-existent foe. Months later, the animated skeleton warrior would be inserted into this sequence by Harryhausen, matching Matthews blow for blow with it's sword.

Technical challenges aside, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad also had its share of production problems like a near boating accident in the harbor of Barcelona, a load of rented equipment that was lost at sea, or a virus that made several people violently ill. Communication breakdowns between the English speaking and Spanish crew members were also routine. In one instance, Harryhausen, who spoke little Spanish, was filming the Fountain of Destiny scene and called for more mist, using the expression "mucho smoko!" He was later informed that his bastardized Spanish translated as "something to do with picking your nose."

Richard Eyer, who plays the boy genie in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, recalled his experiences on the film for Tom Weaver's book, Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks: "The shots of the genie doing the cartwheels and all that were done in Spain with a double; even the final scene where it's over the shoulder of the genie as he's working as a cabin boy on Sinbad's ship, that's not me, that's some Spanish kid. When they were all through in Spain, they filmed just me for about a week - I filmed all my scenes here (Los Angeles) on a set in a studio. So I felt cheated that I didn't get to go to Spain."

When The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was released theatrically, it proved to be one of the top grossing films of 1958 and was considered a great achievement in fantasy filmmaking. Children lucky enough to have seen the film at theatres will never forget the stirring Bernard Herrmann music score, Kerwin Matthews' swashbuckling Sinbad, or Harryhausen's fantastic creations from the giant roc with the two-headed chick to the fire-breathing dragon.

Director: Nathan Juran
Producer: Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen (associate)
Screenplay: Ken Kolb
Cinematography: Wilkie Cooper
Editor: Edwin H. Bryant, Jerome Thomas
Art Direction: Gil Parrondo
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Kerwin Mathews (Sinbad), Kathryn Grant (Princess Parisa), Richard Eyer (Baronni the Genie), Torin Thatcher (Sokurah the Magician), Alec Mango (Caliph), Danny Green (Karim)
C-89m. Letterboxed.

By Jeff Stafford

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