Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

Director: Richard Wallace

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Maureen O'Hara, Anthony Quinn, Walter Slezak, George Tobias

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: . . . The fabulous adventures of . . . The King of Rogues . . . The Prince of Lovers !

Plot: This is the story of the eighth adventure of Sinbad - as told by Sinbad. A ship saved by Sinbad and Sabu. A treasure map to the treasure of Alexander the Great, which mysteriously disappears from the ship. The beautiful Shireen - the woman who has stolen the heart of Sinbad. The evil Emir who wants the treasure for himself to own the world. The deadly Melik, who will stop at nothing and kill anyone to have the treasure. A perilous voyage to a mysterious island where the treasure is said to be held.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? If I ever have children

Wanting to re-visit the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films of the 50s and 70s I started digging through my collection to search for a Sinbad film I have yet to see and I found it in SINBAD THE SAILOR.

Boy, oh, BOY was I excited. 1947, technicolor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, adventure, sword fights. If Fairbanks is half the athletic rogue his father was then this should be tremendous fun.

Once the opening credits finish it's Fairbanks, Fairbanks and more Fairbanks. He's bouncing all over the place spinning tales to his companions about his great adventures. He twirls and struts around faster than a fly hopped-up on my grandmother's sweet tea. Jr is very much like his father in his agility if maybe a little less. But if anyone of this era could go toe-to-toe with Errol Flynn this guy could do it, especially if he scaled back the flashiness. He's quite good when that happens. Sadly there isn't much action to show off his athleticism like in the adventure films his father made.

It's fun seeing Quinn in an early role as the evil Emir. He's a lot of fun to watch. O'Hara is a cutie but she's too American in the role. The others at least look exotic to some degree.

The Mighty Quinn! Hisssssss!

Roy Webb's score is adventurous, playful and busy. Just what you'd expect in a picture of this kind. Three quarters into the picture the music stops for a couple of minutes while Sinbad and Shireen kiss for the first time. I'm stunned. This is so atypical of films of the period. Usually the music swells into a syrupy goo of notes but not here. It was a wonderfully impressive touch.

The Technicolor is vibrant and just leaps off the screen. For what this is, the color helps quite a bit. They took that ball and ran with it.

There's a cute little slice of dialogue when Sinbad invades Shireen's chambers. Shireen wants him to exit as quickly as he arrived but her young female servant, Pirouze (Jane Greer) isn't as hasty.

Shireen: Pirouze! Call the guards!

Sinbad: Call them.
Shireen: Don't! Let him stay and have his head lopped off.

Pirouze: (gasping) Oh, no! It's a pleasant head.

The entire, the ENTIRE film is shot on a stage. Not once do they ever set foot outside. The movie looks like it's a stage musical but without the tunes. Lots of models of ships, Persian towers and architecture, painted backdrops. And it doesn't help that the gestures most everyone makes are very grandiose as if they are being performed for everyone in the back row to see. The comedy is very broad and silly for most's tastes.

Those are the big issues (for us adults) but they don't mean doodly squat if you put yourself in the mind of a child in 1947. For them this must have been a beauty to behold. SINBAD THE SAILOR is exactly the sort of thing a young child would adore with wide-eyed wonder, laughing at all the right places, hissing the villain and fearing for the hero. Sure it's not like the sword-fighting skeletons of the later adventures by Harryhausen and Schneer but that's OK.

Every film has its audience and this one is for the younger crowd. It would be a great introduction to the larger-than-life adventures of Sinbad for children under the age of 7. Then, over time, they could ease into the stop-motion monsters and greater danger the other films have to offer. I like this film. Despite its silliness and staginess, it was entertaining. It'd have to be. It's 4 minutes shy of being two hours long. But, like a tasty appetizer, I'm ready for the main course with a Sinbad who slays monsters and wizards, who wields a sword against legions of skeletons and the evils that await in distant lands. I'm now ready for THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)!

Feast upon the magnificent poster art during a time long ago when there were true artists, not suits, showing and promising us tales of grand adventure!

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