Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari, Luigi Cozzi
Written by: Enzo G. Castellari, Ian Danby, Luigi Cozzi, Tito Carpi
Starring: Ennio Girolami, John Steiner, Lou Ferrigno, Roland Wybenga
AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD: NOW, from 101 FILMS
RUNNING TIME: 93 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The evil vizier Jaffar takes control of the city of Basra and imprisons Princess Alina who is betrothed to Prince Ali, a member of Sinbad’s crew. Jaffar also has four of the town’s five sacred gems sent to “the darkest, most evil places” where they will be carefully guarded by powerful forces. Sinbad and his crew arrive at the caliph’s palace, only to be captured by the hypnotised palace guards, though they escape and, after defeating an army of undead warriors sent by Jaffar, head to an island to seek the help of a wise Oracle, who tells them the location of the four sacred gems of Basra. Sinbad sets out to find the gems, rescue Alina, and free Basra from Jaffar’s rule….
There is a God! Yes I know that’s an odd way to begin a review, but I truly felt that way a week or so ago. If you’re a regular reader of Horror Cult Films, you will recall that a few weeks ago I posted reviews of Hercules and The Adventures Of Hercules 2, two wonderfully crazy ‘so bad it’s good’ mythological adventures from Cannon Films and that masterful filmmaker Luigi Cozzi starring The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno. As I sought out some information about the two movies to put in the reviews, I learnt that pretty much the same lot had made a Sinbad film a few years later, and that it was in a similar vein…and that 101 Films, the same company who brought out the Hercules films, had also released it. Oddly enough I actually recall seeing it on a video shop shelf many years ago and said I would hire it out the next time I came to the shop, only for it never to be there whenever I returned. I now had to see this movie. I considered buying it from Amazon. Then Lo and Behold, our web mistress informed me that screeners for Sinbad Of The Seven Seas were available, and would I like one? Within a few minutes, the movie was giving me much of the insanity and stupidity of the two Hercules efforts, and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat once again!
Sinbad Of The Seven Seas claims to be based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade, though is clearly in part a rehash of The Thief Of Bagdad, principally the 1940 version. Cozzi wrote the original screenplay and was going to make the film in 3D just after The Adventures Of Hercules 2, but that took too long to finish. By the time they were ready to get going with Sinbad Of The Seven Seas, Cozzi had fallen out with the producers so the film was given to Enzo G. Castellari, a rather better filmmaker [well, certainly a good action director] than Cozzi, though with his best days behind him. Along with Tito Carpi he rewrote Cozzi’s screenplay, and it was decided that the movie would now be a TV mini-series. Castellari shot from three hours to six hours worth of footage depending on your source, but the result was deemed too poor to release and the project was shelved. Come 1989, and Cozzi was re-hired to try and salvage the project [though why would anyone want this guy to actually salvage a film?] and turn it into a releasable film. He drastically cut down Castellari’s material and also shot some new footage, though none with the principal stars. Supposedly nobody told Castellari, who says that he was surprised when he saw the film in a video shop. The film went straight on video but Ferrigno once said that it was the favourite of all the films he starred in.
So once again we have a fantasy actioner with poor filmmaking, terrible writing, shoddy action, extremely ‘limited’ special effects [put it this way, try and banish all memories of Ray Harryhausen] and a whole host of hilarious ‘huh’? moments where you wonder what you’ve just seen or heard. This one is actually a smaller scaled affair than the Hercules films, but it’s no less entertaining, right from the beginning where scrolling words over a picture of Edgar Allan Poe tell us about him and this story and that “this is it”…though of course it isn’t at all. Then, after a brief shot of space pinched from one of the Hercules’s, Dov Seltzer’s all-synthesiser score begins in wonderfully cheesy fashion, amusingly trying to produce big, epic music from an instrument that just can’t do it whatsoever. The film proper opens in the present day and much like Edward Scissorhands, as a little girl asks her mother to tell her a bedtime story. The mother is played by the great Daria Nicolodi, which was a nice surprise for me, but you’ll soon get sick of her [or rather the person dubbing her], because scarcely five minutes goes by without some of her narration, either describing what is happening on screen,, or describing what hasn’t happened on screen,obviously trying to pepper over the gaps due to scenes which either weren’t shot or were binned because they were so bad. Don’t get me wrong – Sinbad Of The Seven Seas is immense fun, at least if you one of those who often enjoys bad movies – but that bloody narration may come close to driving you mad!
This Sinbad has to make so with a tiny ship and a crew of five people who comprise a Viking, a physician, a dwarf, a prince, and a Chinese man, the latter being able to do some limited martial arts but for the most part existing so he say things like: “Confucius say: when the world is upside down, Chin Up”. At least that was probably meant to be funny, unlike, I think:
Sinbad: Wait a minute. There’s nobody here.
Poochie the Dwarf: There’s nobody here.
Sinbad: I just said that. That’s the point.
Or, when a snake is sent to kill the imprisoned Sinbad and, rather than the viewer getting a fight, we have Sinbad calm the snake down:
“I know where you’re coming from. People hating you and all that. As far as I’m concerned it all began with that story of Eve. And when they want dirty work done, they really take advantage of you”.
Then there’s the bit where Sinbad bursts in the save the day and his crew cry “Sinbad” and “YES” with childlike excitement. All this is made funnier by the fact that both the actors and the people dubbing them are astoundingly poor, except for….well, it could be considered a poor performance but I loved every second….John Steiner’s Jaffar. It’s been ages since I’ve seen such an ‘enthusiastic’ performance. Yelling, rolling his eyes, giving Nicol Williamson a run for his money in odd pronounciation of vowels – Steiner, who is sometimes joined by a sorceress in a very kinky outfit, is magnificent. It’s just as well that many of his scenes are performed surrounded by black as he would have chewed any scenery within seconds. With a voice rather like Terence Stamp’s, he even gets to deliver a great: “Kneel before Zod”-like moment!
Our hero and his companions set out to save the city of Basra from the evil Jaffar’s control by finding four gems, and also attempt to rescue the princess Alina, who is supposed to marry one of Sinbad’s crew, though don’t worry, Sinbad does eventually get his own love interest. As before though, the plot is little more of an excuse to send our hero from place to place, battling bad guys and people in monster suits in sequences that are perhaps better choreographed than the similar scenes in the Hercules pics, probably due to Castellari rather than Cozzi having shot them. Sinbad faces a rock man, a green laser firing monster, Amazons, the Legion Of The Dead and other assorted perils. At one point he ends up on Skull Island, but sadly doesn’t meet King Kong. The level of story telling can be gauged from a moment when Sinbad being under the control of an Amazon is realised by Sinbad saying to the woman: “Gosh you’re beautiful”, after which it’s onto the next scene. There are quite a few instances where it’s obvious large chunks of footage are missing. The odd bit is well realised though, most notably when some Ghost Warriors [plus a few horses] come out of the ground in slow motion to attack our heroes. It’s actually quite eerie and belongs in a really good zombie picture, though I reckon the reasons this film is now rated ’12’ rather than a ‘PG’ are a scene where Alena is strapped down and writhing sexually as Jaffar tries to bring her under his control, and a few mildly racist comments which nobody would have cared about back in 1989 but which are not considered very acceptable in today’s sensitive times.
Ferrigno remains very awful though the two admittedly pretty lead actresses, one of them Alessandra Martines who I’d seen a couple of times elsewhere and seems to be usually quite good, give him a run for his money. And then there’s that score which just hardly ever goes away. It’s actually quite thematically diverse and I’d certainly buy it on CD. By conventional standards Sinbad Of The Seven Seas is a very bad movie; in fact, it’s possibly worse than the Hercules films [hence the star rating] because it feels just so haphazardly put together [which it seems that it was] and has some instances where it seems to be intentionally trying to be amusing which mostly fall flat [there’s a rather annoying wizard who speaks in gibberish] but in the end it provides just as much silly, goofy, downright insane fun, and my life is now more complete after having seen it.
Sinbad Of The Seven Seas is available from 101 Films on its own or together with Hercules and The Adventures Of Hercules 2 in The Lou Ferrigno Cult Collection set. I believe that all three films belong in any movie lovers collection, and you can quote me on that.