Monday, April 27, 2009

CAPTAIN SINBAD (1963)

Captain SindbadOur friend Raf waxes philosophic about Captain Sinbad, airing tonight on TCM:
CAPTAIN SINBAD
Despite classics like "Forbidden Planet" and "War of the Worlds", during the 1950s-to-1960s, there was a surprising lack of interest for big budgeted, high-fantasy and science fiction films, outside the black and white cheepies and foreign distributed fair of course. So something like "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad", an above average-budgeted B-movie that has become synonymous with the aforementioned gems, left quite the impact back in the day. And unlike the other effects milestone which was the original "King Kong", most studios had the tools to emulate the fantasy style...though not always on the same level...

Ever wondered what the heroic and fanciful adventures of Sinbad the Sailor would look like if the producers behind "Gorgo" were in charge instead? Well in 1963, such a film occurred with the King Brothers' production of "Captain Sinbad".

The story follows Sinbad's (Guy Williams) attempts to end the tyranny of the evil and virtually immortal despot El Kareem (Pedro Armendariz), who also plans to forcefully marry Sinbad's love interest for this film, Princess Jenna (Heidi Bruhl).

Wow, Sinbad changes lovers just as badly as James Bond does...well, that's an unfair comparison actually; Sinbad sticks with one gal-pal per film, and so far has never used any of them as living shield. El Kareem fights back against our hero of course, by forcing the bumbling, but otherwise good-natured wizard Galgo (Abraham Sofaer) into assisting him with magic spells. At first, Galgo is ordered into transforming some of El Kareem's henchmen into giant Roc / Rukh birds, which attacks Sinbad's ship, the Golden Lion (stop laughing), by dropping boulders from the skies above.

Sinbad and his crew escapes these thugs-gone-avian-monsters, but are later imprisoned by El Kareem. Leading our main protagonist in having a very unfair duel with an invisible arena beast, that leaves behind giant three-clawed footprints.

Sinbad and his men survives this ordeal as well, and through Galgo and Princess Jenna, discover the secret of El Kareem's immortal power; his heart was magically separated from his body, and is safely kept within the Tower of Horrors; a far away land named such because of the monstrous threats within and without, the three-hundred foot tall structure. The film's last act takes place in this ominous landscape, filled with deadly jungle growth with vines that drag their victims to an unseen fate high above; oversized, possibly gigantic (and clearly rubber) masses of killer alligators (they have square snouts, as oppose to the longer, pointier ones of crocodiles); fatal geological elements such as whirlpools and a fiery volcanic Hell-ground; and the lone inhabitant of the latter area, a gigantic 12-headed dragon, done through full-scale puppet heads, and a full-body dragon suit.

But it is within the Tower itself that Sinbad faces off against the film's most memorable, if not just plain silly monstrous obstacle; a full-scale, 15-to-20 foot tall mailed fist / glove! This monster protects El Kareem's weakness directly in-person, and even more ludicrous, wags its index finger from side-to-side, as if to say 'that's a no-no' to Sinbad when he first approaches the living heart!

Now I usually don't mind spoiling the ending of most films and television episodes, especially since life is too short for 'spoiler-free'. And most of the stuff I talk about anyway is obscure and rarely seen to begin with. But I am happy (if not ashamed) to announce that Turner Classic Movies will be airing "Captain Sinbad" this coming Monday, April 27, so check your local listings for exact airing time.

I have not seen this film myself since I was seven years old, so no clue if it will still holds up, or be an experience in pain. But one thing is more than certain; the Giant Mailed Gloved Fist is going to be one bizarre subject for my Kaiju Portraits!

A trailer for the film can be found here at TCM.

Related links:
Giant Monster Movies
Giant Monsters: Ray Harryhausen
Giant Monster Movies: Dinosaurs
Giant Monster Movies: Robots

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