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Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger(1977)
Sinbad must deliver a prince transformed into a monkey to the lands of the Ademaspai to restore him to his human form in time for his coronation. On the way he must contend with the evil witch Zenobia, her son and their magic, and several nasty-looking Ray Harryhausen beasties.
For more about Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and the Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray release, see Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Patrick Wayne, Jane Seymour, Patrick Troughton, Bernard Kay, Peter Mayhew, Nadim Sawalha
Director: Sam Wanamaker
» See full cast & crew
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray Review
Three's the charmless?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 16, 2013
While 2013 might be remembered by a lot of film fans for the losses of stars like Peter O'Toole or Paul Walker or James Gandolfini, for those with an interest in the "below the line" (to use show business parlance) craftsmen, perhaps the saddest death of the year was Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen at least lived to the ripe old age of 92, but his passing seemed to be a none too subtle reminder that the days of practical special effects may largely be a thing of the past. Stop motion animation still has its adherents of course, as my hometown of Portland has proven with the former Claymation Studios which morphed into Laika and produced such recent outings as Coraline and ParaNorman, and with such well known filmmakers as Tim Burton (Frankenweenie) and Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection) continuing to ply their craft in this medium. But with the increasing dependence on CGI for virtually all visual effects these days, stop motion is seen as something almost intentionally ironic and "retro", a throwback rather than an evolving art form. Harryhausen will no doubt remain the single best known artisan in this medium, one who gave hordes of baby boomers some of their most memorable cinematic thrills in films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. His two 1970s era Sinbad films aren't usually listed at the top of his impressive oeuvre, but they're both hugely enjoyable on a basic level and they each offer substantial delights in the now arcane methodology of "Dynamation".
There's probably no denying that of Harryhausen's three Sinbad films, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is the least satisfying. Does that mean it's unsatisfying? Not at all, though expectations do need to be tempered, perhaps dramatically so. The film is like an artifact out of time—even by 1973's The Golden Voyage of Sinbad , Harryhausen's techniques were being seen as more "quaint" than remarkable, and by 1977, when multiplex frequenters were thrilling to special effects extravaganzas like Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (then of course known only as Star Wars), a film like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger probably seemed hopelessly old fashioned and easy to dismiss.
Beverley Cross and Harryhausen crafted a by now familiar story of Sinbad (Patrick Wayne, John's son) romancing a beautiful princess named Farah (Jane Seymour) while engaging on a quest which will hopefully restore Farah's brother's human form after he's transformed into a baboon by the evil sorceress Zenobia (Margaret Whiting—not the famous singer). Zenobia of course, just like every villain in the two other Sinbad films, wants the magical powers that Sinbad and Farah are after. The frankly tired rehashing of basically the same plot seen in other, better Harryhausen efforts gives Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger a certain sense of lethargy.
There are some compensations, however. The supporting cast here includes colorful turns by Patrick Troughton as a Gandalf-esque alchemist named Melanthius and the beautiful Taryn Power (Tyrone's daughter with Linda Christian) as Melanthius' daughter Dione. As with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, some of Harryhausen's creations have a kind of déjà vu quality to them. But the baboon is a remarkable addition to this film and an interesting variation on what tended to be more fantastic creatures in many of Harryhausen's films.
The biggest thing that hobbles Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is a kind of cheap feeling that permeates the entire production. Harryhausen is reportedly on record stating even he wasn't completely satisfied with his work on the film due to a hurried and harried production schedule, but there's little of the luster of the other Charles H. Schneer productions of Harryhausen films. It's kind of fascinating in a weird way that this final Sinbad film was directed by Sam Wanamaker. Wanamaker was one of many American Communists who found their careers in their home country stymied by incipient McCarthyism, but Wanamaker, unlike some of his "fellow travelers" who simply gave up, reestablished himself as a top flight actor in England, where he's particularly well known for having helped to rebuild Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London. Wanamaker finally eluded the blacklist in the early sixties and started directing episodic television in America, but Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger seems like a patently odd, inconsequential choice for such a politically aware man to become involved with. (Fans of the David Suchet Poirot series may know that Wanamaker's daughter Zoë plays nettlesome novelist Ariadne Oliver in several episodes.)
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger trundles along to its expected conclusion, with a couple of nicely done Harryhausen set pieces perking up the proceedings along the way, but the film is definitely a lesser effort in one of the most unique filmographies of the 20th century. Ray Harryhausen will be missed by children of all ages who continue to thrill at his completely distinctive animation style.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. While this is another generally great looking high definition transfer, it doesn't quite have the pop and luster that The Golden Voyage of Sinbad does. Contrast isn't quite as strong here, giving some of the darker scenes a slightly murky quality with a minimal lack of shadow detail. Fine detail is still quite good, however, revealing nice elements like the wiry hair of the baboon or the crosshatched weave of Melanthius' cloak. The special effects on this film are a mixed bag, and the Blu-ray actually exacerbates some of the issues inherent here, including some pretty shoddy looking traveling mattes. As with the other Sinbad film, this release has the expected added grain and softness during the many optical effects sequences.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is decently immersive, if not quite as impressive as that found on The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Some of the action scenes have nicely discrete foley effects dotting the surrounds, but the major surround activity is given over to Roy Budd's kind of middling score (Budd was a fantastic pianist, but he is certainly not in the same league as Bernard Herrmann or Miklos Rozsa). Dialogue is cleanly and clearly presented with excellent fidelity. As should be expected in a fantasy outing like this one, dynamic range is quite wide.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger has some passing pleasures to be sure, but it simply feels like a tired retread of previous Harryhausen films quite a bit of the time. Its best elements are its colorful supporting cast and the unusual use of an "animal" Harryhausen creation in the form of a baboon. Some fans are perhaps understandably upset at some faux pas both relatively small (the cover art is reversed) and perhaps larger (Harryhausen evidently recorded new commentaries for his films shortly before his death, which weren't used on this or the other release), but the bigger problem here is the kind of lackluster quality of the film itself. Fans will no doubt be willing to overlook these qualms simply because the film looks and sounds fine and the joy of reliving this final Sinbad adventure in high definition probably outweighs any other considerations.
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