The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad

Review by Guido Henkel

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The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad  (1958)
Columbia TriStar Home Video

Length:        92 mins.
Rated:          G
Languages:English, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles:    English, French, Spanish
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen
Extras:        Interviews
                     Documentary amd Featurette
                     Trailers
                     Talent Files and Poster

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I cannot tell how much I have always appreciated Ray Harryhausen’s work and how his fantastic films have inspired my own imagination and work. Having created over 20 computer games, I have always been most at home in the fantasy settings of the Adventure and Role Playing genre, which eventually led to my producing “Dungeons & Dragons” computer games among many others. But even as a fan of the colorful presentations in these games, my basic ideas and perceptions could always be boiled down to an essence from my childhood, and this essence were movies like “Jason And The Argonauts”, “Clash Of The Titans” and the Sinbad movies. In all these films Ray

Harryhausen was in charge of bringing the fantastic and mythical creatures to live through his Dynamation/stop-motion animation techniques. Ever since I saw these films, the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of Medusa, is his writhing version of

the snake-woman. Whenever I think of a cyclops, I inevitably see the ones from his masterpiece “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad”. I am sure you understand that I was eagerly looking forward to seeing how this particular film turned out on DVD in this brand-new release from Columbia TriStar Home Video.

To break the spell that has been cast on his beloved princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant), who has been reduced to the size of 5 inches by the diabolical magician Sokurah (Torin Thatcher), Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) has to sail to the island of Colossa.

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There he and his men confront a frightening assortment of dangerous mythical monsters of epic proportions. Cyclopses ward the island and Sokurah’s hidden castle is guarded by a fire-breathing dragon and armored skeletons. Carefully, Sinbad has to make his way through the island to obtain the ingredient that can break the spell, a piece of eggshell from a ferocious two-headed bird, Roc. But in the meanwhile Sokurah has made his preparations to rid himself of Sinbad and his crew. Only the genie in a magic lamp can help now - if only Sinbad knew how to evoke it.

“The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” is a classic tale taken from “1001 Arabian Nights” and it is brought to life in this film like never before or since. It is a colorful adventure that takes you to exotic and colorful Bagdad, combining the Arabian culture with black magic and ultimately the breathtaking mythical creatures that challenge Sinbad and his men. Considering the age of the film and the fact

that this was Ray Harryhausen’s first use of his stop-motion techniques in a color movie, the effects are still spectacular. The charm the film creates and the masterful presentation of the creatures is still a showstopper after more than 40 years. Harryhausen’s genius is evident in every single frame that he painstakingly animated and arranged. Spectacular camera angles and dramatic editing further enhance the effect and help to bring these creatures to life, making this film a thrilling joyride from the first to the last minute.

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Columbia TriStar Home Video is presenting “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” in a widescreen aspect ratio on this disc that is slightly matted to create roughly a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets with a great level of detail. It seems a little surprising that the film is matted however, considering that it was originally shot in a fullframe format.

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The film’s age is noticeable on a number of occasions, as a slight discoloration is evident at the top of the frame, mostly in darker scenes where the film print has lost some of its opacity. It is never distracting however, and somehow adds even more charm to the film, as it is evident that this is indeed the film we have come to love over the many years. The transfer contains a bit of grain in certain scenes, which due to the technical limitations of the time, but other than that, “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” has never looked better.
The film’s powerful colors are vividly reproduced, bringing out the best of the lavish production design and the film’s flamboyant exotic costumes. The presentation on this

release has an outstanding color balance, ranging form the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. It is evident that Columbia has put some effort and labor into this transfer, and it clearly shows.
The compression on the disc is equally good, without any compression artifacts anywhere in the movie’s presentation.

“The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” contains monaural Dolby Digital soundtracks in English, Spanish and Portuguese and their quality varies wildly. The English one is the most natural sounding while the Spanish one sounds as if recorded from an AM radio station - certainly a sign of the film’s age and the fact that the English soundtrack has been digitally remastered for the occasion. The audio is surprisingly good and clear without hiss, or pops. Although the dynamic response of the track is still somewhat limited, due to the audio track’s general age, the noise floor is surprisingly low, which is evident especially in the passages carried by Bernard Herrman’s musical score. The score is

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clean and notably transparent without noise or distortion, making it a beautiful embellishment to the overall presentation of the film on this DVD. The DVD contains a variety of subtitles, ranging from English and Spanish to Thai, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean.

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The disc also contains a number of special features, all of which focus on Ray Harryhausen’s work and are extremely interesting and insightful. Two interviews with Harryhausen take you behind the scenes of “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” and “Jason And The Argonauts”, covering some technical challenges of these particular productions. You will also find a small featurette on the disc, called “This Is Dynamation”. It is a three-and-a-half minute advertising for stop-motion animation techniques from 1958, presented to advertise the then impending theatrical release of “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad”.

The undisputed highlight of this DVD - apart from the film itself of course - is a one-hour documentary called the “Ray Harryhausen Chronicles”. It is an extensive voyage through his work, from his early attempts in his parents’ garage all the way to his last film

“Clash Of The Titans”. All major milestones in his career are covered and highlighted with stories and anecdotes, told by Ray Harryhausen himself or his friends. Having had the chance to see some of his elaborate models with my own eyes this summer during meeting with Ray Harryhausen, it was great to also see some of his most famous models highlighted in this feature with extensive close-ups and conceptual drawings. I remember how awe-inspiring it was to take a look at his hand-drawn sketches and storyboards and hear his anecdotes about the production of his films. All of it has been nicely captured in this documentary that will give everyone the chance to see and understand the genius that hides behind these fierce monsters.

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To round up the spectacular presentations on this release, Columbia has also included a large number of trailers ranging from “20 Million Miles To Earth”, “Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers”, to “The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad” and many others. I for one can’t wait for their DVD release, and I am sure many of you agree with me.

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“The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” is as classic a movie as it is good. Nothing can replace Harryhausen’s unique style and the enigmatic charm of his films. They just don’t make films like these any more, replacing the individual signatures of people like Ray Harryhausen or Willis O’Brien with computer generated creatures that are almost too perfect to create a similar charm.
This DVD is a heaven sent and for nothing in the world would I want to miss this disc. If you are anything like me, a lover of these magnificent masterpieces of one man’s discipline, you will cherish this disc and give it a special place in your collection.

 
 

November 22, 1999

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