I first saw Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) in theaters when I was seven or eight years old. I absolutely loved it as a kid, and have thought of the film fondly for decades since…but without actually re-visiting it.
A recent re-screening of the film, however, for this Saturday series, reveals Eye of the Tiger to be the least successful of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad trilogy.
Meanwhile, Zenobia pursues Sinbad with her frightening automaton, the Minoton…
I’m not certain what occurred here, but in several scenes it looks as though the major cast members (Wayne, Seymour and Troughton) never went on location, and so all of the exterior scenes on Melanthius’s island reek of visual phoniness. It’s so bad as to take you out of the movie’s reality for several minutes.
Secondly, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is the only Sinbad movie where the stop-motion animation itself proves a little tiresome. The first fight in the film — Sinbad against three insectoid/skeleton creatures from the underworld — is dire.
As Clash of the Titans also revealed, stop motion animation works less well in night-time settings (something about the mismatch in lighting between live and animated elements, I presume…).
But what makes this battle with the insectoids worse than anything in Clash is the monsters’ relative size compared to Wayne’s. They look just a tad shorter and smaller than Sinbad. Not small enough to be homunculi or some other diminutive fantasy creature, mind you, but just short enough to make it appear as though the perspectives in the mating of the footage are wrong.
Therefore, I’m going to try to focus now on the things I liked most about the film. First and foremost is the Troglodyte creature of Hyperboria.
This humanoid “monster” remains one of Harryhausen’s greatest efforts, perhaps, and is absolutely brimming with humanity and personality. The creature gives up its life to save Sinbad and his group in the climax, and it’s a sacrifice you really feel. It’s amazing to countenace the idea that a “miniature” or sculpted model can make you feel strong emotions, but that’s precisely what occurs with this sympathetic monster.
This is a villain that absolutely required a more fitting and dramatic end. The film’s climax should have involved a brawl between Sinbad and the Minoton. Even Joel, at five years old, knew something wasn’t right. He kept asking if the Minoton was going to pop up at the end. But he didn’t.
The other monsters in the film are a little underwhelming, a giant bee, a smilodon and a giant walrus, among them. They look fine, but somehow lack an overt sense of menace. The scene involving the bee happens to be spectacularly bad. Troughton’s character creates a giant bee to test Zenobia’s transformation serum, and then it promptly runs wild, and allows for Zenobia to escape. Ugh.
After having watched all the Sinbad movies now, I must say that Golden Voyage stands out as the best, with Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger bringing up the rear. This film’s most eye-opening (and unexpected effect), at least for a forty-something dad, is a nude scene by the gorgeous (and apparently never aging…) Jane Seymour.
Somehow, as a seven year old, I didn’t pick up on that.