Saturday, July 30, 2016

Madame Joan vs. Vichy France

This is my entry in the Joan Crawford Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Hollywood.

I must admit at the outset that I was (and still am) not that familiar with Joan Crawford.  I had previously only seen one movie in which she was in, Grand Hotel.  My main knowledge of her came from the Faye Dunaway portrayal of her in Mommie Dearest.  And Blue Oyster Cult recorded a song titled Joan Crawford (Has Risen from the Grave)  [which actually doesn't have anything to do with Joan Crawford...or maybe it does.  Since I haven't seen many of her movies, I wouldn't know...]

I was reluctant to enter another star-oriented blogathon, but Crystal is a hard woman to say no to, so I cast about for a possibility or two.  I would have gone for two of her late career movies (Strait-jacket and Berserk!), but I foresaw a lot of trouble finding them on the cheap, as I did not already have copies in my library (I am an avid collector of cheesy cult drive-in style flicks).  But, as I have a very extensive John Wayne collection, I had a readily available choice of one in which Joan costarred with him, Reunion in France.

A little background on this film.  According to one source I read, Crawford only agreed to to this film if John Wayne would be in it with her.  She had a crush on him and flung herself unabashedly on him, only to be spurned.  She has later been quoted as saying she thought it was one of the worst performance of her career.  (Could it be she had regrets from an unrequited love...?)

Reunion in France (1942)

In this film, Joan plays Michele de la Becque,  who is initially a very laissez-faire woman at the beginning of World War II.  France at this point is defending against the advances of the forces of Nazi Germany, of which the French powers that be are supremely confident they will withstand.  You kind of get the idea that Michele thinks the war ought to bend to her own wants and desires instead of the other way around.  Her boyfriend, Robert Cortot (Philip Dorn), is involved with the defense of France and desires that Michele leave the country before the war arrives.  Michele is reluctant to agree to go without him, but finally relents.

A few months later, she returns to France after it has fallen to the Germans.  She finds her house has been taken over by the Germans as a base of operations, although they are willing to allow her to live in a room in the servant's quarters (quite generous of them, don't you think?).  Without access to her wealth, she is forced to take a job as an assistant to her former clothes designer.  And worse, it appears that Robert is now joined with the Vichy government and Germany to design weapons and material for their use.

Robert still loves Michele, although her love has waned somewhat in view of his defection to the enemy.  Which leaves her open to new possibilities when she encounters Patrick Talbot (John Wayne), a downed RAF American Eagle Squadron pilot who has had the unfortunate circumstances of being downed by the Germans and on the run from them.  Pat, who dubs Michele "Mike", manages to hide out from the Germans with her, and during their stay together manages to cause her to fall in love with him.

Robert, unaware of the presence of a competitive suitor, is trying to wrangle for Michele some letters of transit to get her to Lisbon, and to safety from the Germans.  She wants him to also get papers for Pat, but does not reveal to Robert the RAF status of Pat.  She gets him to agree because she convinces Robert he is a student who has somehow managed to lose his papers.  The Germans in charge are suspicious and there is a lot of intrigue going on within the film.  Circumstances even lead to the arrest of Michele.

Twists and turns in the plot and a surprise, but somewhat fabricated, ending make this an entertaining movie, although it has a lot of parallels to Casablanca, which is a far better movie.  Still, for the passage of an hour and a half, it is worth checking out.

John Carradine, looking very young and spry from the characters I am used to seeing him play, makes an appearance as a smarmy Gestapo officer.  Don't blink, or you'll miss Ava Gardner as a shopgirl. She isn't listed in the credits, and neither is another familiar face. If you think the wife of General Schroeder looks vaguely familiar, it is indeed Natalie Schaeffer (Lovey Howell on Gilligan's Island).

Time to fire up the Plymouth and head home, where, thankfully, no Nazis have commandeered the residence.  Drive safely folks.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Liebster Award

Robin @ Pop Culture Reverie has nominated me for a Liebster Award.  I have seen these posts floating around on other websites that say they have been nominated.  (I wasn't even aware she had nominated me until I read the post she had made).  So I did some investigations on my own.

So just what is a Liebster Award?  Apparently, from what I've seen it's something like a chain letter. Only instead of you sending money or some such thing in reverse, you just perpetuate the chain by nominating others to get a Liebster Award.  And unlike the Academy Awards, if you are nominated you can accept it and you win, no votes necessary.  But you don't have to accept it; like a chain letter you can ignore it with no consequences.  (no, your dog won't get rabies and attack the neighbor's children and get you thrown in jail where you will have to make friends with a 6 foot 300 lb guy named "Bubba" if you ignore it.)  Essentially, I think it means Robin gave me this award.  (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.  I got all my info from what I THINK  is the original source:  Global Aussie )  At any rate, this is OK by me.  The only thing I like talking about more than movies is ME...

The rules are fairly simple.  You first should thank your nominator, and answer 11 questions asked by said nominator. Then you pick (up to) 11 nominees of your own, and afterwards, you list 11 questions of your own  that your nominees must answer.  Also, an optional thing is to name 11 things about yourself.  (Why the obsession with the number 11?  I have no idea.  Maybe the originator of the award had a kid that just turned 11 that day...)

So here goes:

Thanks, once again to Robin @ Pop Culture Reverie for the nomination.  Now I have to answer the 11 questions, asked by my nominator:

1. What, if any, film adaptations do you consider to have improved on their source books?  If none, what movie do you think comes closest to being as good as the book?

A Clockwork Orange  does not improve on the book.  In fact, as I stated in an earlier post on the movie it leaves out the denouement, but to give Stanley Kubrick credit, at the time, the ending in the movie WAS what Americans thought was the ending.  And with few minor exceptions, the movie follows the book pretty damn well.

2. Who are your favorite living actors and actresses?

In the sense that I will make an effort to go see any movie in which he or she is in, I'm not an avid fan of any living actor or actress. ( I do profess to be one of the most avid John Wayne fans, however)  .  AS far as living actors, I like most of what Kurt Russell has done over the years.  I can't think of any actress who fits that bill, although I do like some of their individual performances.

3.  What is your choice comfort movie? (the movie you watch when you need cheering up?)

John Landis movies:  Animal House, Trading Places, The Blues Brothers.

4. What movie did you dislike on first viewing only to come to appreciate it later?  Conversely, what movie did you once like that upon later viewing turned out to be not so great?

Believe it or not, I didn't like The Searchers when I first saw it.  I felt like John Wayne sold out for a happy ending.  (and I'm a huge John Wayne fan...)  But I've grown to appreciate that ending after watching it again several times.

The second part of that question is easy:  Xanadu.  I was an idealistic 18 year old when I saw it in the theater in 1980.  And I absolutely adored it.  Didn't see it again until one afternoon on TV in 1990.  And I wondered "Why the hell did I think this crap was good?"  Didn't see it again for another 10 years, and the same reaction.  However, I still absolutely love the sequence in the middle where the 40's swing band and the 80's new wave band meld together as one unit...

5. What movie(s) can you think of that had the potential to be good but had a fatal flaw- one that you would change?

I don't know if you would call it a "fatal flaw", but I thought that the fact that the kids didn't win after all that effort in "Taps" was a letdown.  Of course, a lot of that opinion had to do with the fact that I was still the idealistic 18 year old (see above answer).

6. What movie do you like that you think no one has ever heard of?

The Navigator. (No, not the cheesy Disney flick Flight of the Navigator).  This was an indie New Zealand movie from 1988 in which some 12th century peasants find their way into 20th century New Zealand via a tunnel, led by a psychic boy.

7.  What are your favorite TV shows of all-time?

I have both the original Star Trek and Monk entire series on DVD.  Does that answer the question?

8.  What do you consider to be the most romantic movie of all-time?

Not really into romantic movies.  The Princess Bride  is the only one that I could possibly fit into this category, although I like it for the dialogue and action more than for the romantic aspect.

9.  What movie do you enjoy even though you recognize it is terrible?

The avatar I include at the end of these "Random Ramblings" entries should give it away...  Plan 9 from Outer Space.  I think it's funny as hell (even though it isn't supposed to be funny, but, hey, that's Ed Wood in a nutshell)

10.  What book or other source material would you like to see adapted for film or TV that hasn't been done yet?

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, a series of the highly entertaining and funny books from the 70's that runs through a variety of conspiracy theories and tries to combine them all into one story.  Admittedly, this series requires quite a bit of concentration to follow through and keep up with, and it might be just as confusing and muddled as The Matrix was.  But I sure would like to see them try...

11. What do you do when you're not watching movies or blogging about them?

You mean I could be doing something else???!!!

Next I have to nominate some other blogs for the Liebster Award:  (I tried to nominate bloggers who haven't won yet, but apparently everybody and their mother has been nominated once before.  But there is no rule saying I can't nominate for a second or third one.  If I recall this was my nominator's second award.)

Angelman's Place
Blog of the Darned
B Noir Detour
Cab Drivers and Coffee Pots
Classic Film and TV Cafe
Hamlette's Soliloquy
The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog
It Came from the Man Cave
Radiator Heaven
Silver Scenes
Sometimes They Go To Eleven

(Have to admit that last one seemed like kismet...)

Next, and this part is totally optional, but as I said I like talking about ME...  11 Things about me that may (or may not) be interesting:

1.  I am single.  I'm available, but I warn you I'm a mess to deal with sometimes... (SOMEtimes???)

2.  To that point I have a bumper sticker that says "My significant other goes 'Meow'".  Yes, I have a cat, a female tabby named Pennie (spelled with an "ie" instead of a "y" because she likes to be different, too)

3.  Which is odd, because until she came along, all we ever had were dogs.  My folks always had a dog or two as far back as I can remember.

4.  I love watching football.  It was the only sport I didn't "attempt" to try out for in HS.  (I was scrawny and short and would have probably only been useful as a tackling dummy.)

5.  My favorite food is whatever somebody else cooks.  (I'm lazy when it comes to cooking)

6.  I am an irreverent comedian.  People with whom I graduated HS were sure I would end up a stand-up comic,  I would have too, if I didn't have stage fright every time I was in front of people.

7.  I am 7 years sober at this point.  Life as taken on new meaning.

8.  I love winter months and I hate it when it gets hot.  So why do I live in south Texas?  Beats me, must be a glutton for punishment.

9.  I love to read.  Been reading since I was 3.  I'm told on good source (my mother) that I was reading at a 6th grade level by the time I reached kindergarten.

10. I have an off and on interest in collecting business cards.  People from as far away as Australia have contributed to my collection.  At this point I have 5,000 or so.

11. I think 11 is the most beautiful number in the world.  (Not really, but I had to write something here and I ran out of ideas...)

Finally I have to submit my own list of questions for those bloggers who accept my nomination:

1.  What is your favorite genre of movie?  

2.  And what movie do you consider to be the paragon of that genre?

3.  With which actor or actress, living or dead, would you most like to have a one-on-one (strictly platonic) dinner and conversation date?

4.  If you were an actor or actress, which movie character would you most like to have played?

5.  What is your favorite movie opening sequence, and, on the other side of the coin what is your favorite movie ending?

6.  Which movie was the worst remake ever, and which one was the best?

7.  If you were a director, which movie would you like to direct?  It can be one that hasn't been made yet or it could be a classic in which you replaced the actual director.  

8.  On average, how many new movies  ("new" to you, not necessarily new theatrical releases) do you watch in a month?

9.  List at least one actor, actress or director you thought SHOULD have been given the Oscar as opposed to the one who did.  Specify which movie they should have gotten said Oscar.

10. Which movie has the best dialogue (meaning most eminently quotable)?

11.Which of your movie blog posts is the one of which you are most proud?  (BTW, I stole this question from Classic Reel Girl)

That completes the survey as I see it.  You are welcome to comment and discuss my answers if you wish.  Thanks again to Robin for nominating me.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dark Side of the, Mars

Today is July 20.  47 years ago on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon.  Ever since then there has been conspiracy theorists who have tried to make a case that it didn't happen.  I recently saw an interview, supposedly made with Stanley Kubrick before he died, in which he claims he had a hand in the filming of the "faked" moon landing.  (Google "Kubrick" and "moon landing" to check out that for yourself.)

Personally, I believe, along with the majority of sane people, that we actually did land men on the moon on that date.  But I am also a pragmatic individual and if the evidence was presented that clearly refuted that belief, I'd have no problem accepting it.  Be that as it may, the conspiracy theorists do have a voice.  In fact, it was probably those people who found an avenue to present the topic of today's movie, Capricorn One.  

Capricorn One (1977)

The movie opens as three astronauts, Charles Brubaker (James Brolin), Peter Willis (Sam Waterston) and John Walker (O. J. Simpson) prepare to launch a rocket to Mars.  Dr. Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) stops them before the launch occurs and escorts them out of the capsule.  He informs them that a malfunction occurred and that their life support systems would have failed before they ever got to Mars.

He tells them that the powers that be have decided to go ahead with the launch and run it through its program.  The exception being that instead of the crew being on the module, they will be on a sound stage at a remote abandoned army base here on Earth and filming everything as if they really were on Mars.  Of course, the astronauts object, but they are told that if they refuse, each of their families will be eliminated.  (Makes you proud to be an American, huh?)

The launch goes through as planned.  It is observed by a smarmy senator (David Huddleston)  and the Vice President (James Karen).  Given the time period of the movie, it's not hard to discern which political parties are represented by each.  Only the senator makes very many more appearances in the movie, primarily, it seems, to hammer home how smug and smarmy the people and the political party which he represents, is.

Returning to the astronauts, they perform their duties and complete the "mission".  In a phone call just before they are "supposed" to arrive back at Earth, Brubaker tells his wife that he is going to take her and the kids to Yellowstone, "just like last year".  (That's important, remember it.)  Anyway,  as the module enters Earth's atmosphere, a heat shield malfunctions, and the shuttle burns up.

But the astronauts, who were supposed to be n the shuttle, and thus now dead, are still alive. Now at this the point, the powers that be can do one of two things.  They can fess up that the whole thing was a sham and apologize.  Or they can kill off the astronauts.  Which option do you think they'll take?  (If you said "fess up", then you should stop doing the drugs right now...)

Brubaker and company realize something is wrong and try to escape.  They commandeer a plane outside the hangar where they are being held, but it runs out of fuel and they end up marooned in the desert.  They each take some supplies from the emergency kit, including a flare for each of them and trek off in separate directions to try to find anyone who will hear their story.  But the powers that be launch a search by helicopters to find (but not to rescue) the astronauts.

Meanwhile, in a subplot that runs along the same timeline, a reporter named Caulfield (Elliot Gould) receives a tip from one of the monitor operators at the Air Force base, Whitter (Robert Walden), that something is amiss.  But just after he gives Caulfield this hot tip, Whitter disappears.  Not only that, but every trace of his existence disappears, too.

Caufield is sure he is on to something.  After visiting the apartment of his friend (which turns out to be the apartment of someone else, who, by the way, claims she has been living there for over a year), he finds his car has been tampered with and he ends up having to drive it into the water.  He also interviews Brubaker's wife who reveals that they did not go to Yellowstone the previous year, but to a ghost town tourist site.  He goes to the ghost town where he is shot at.  Later his apartment is raided by feds who "find" cocaine which was not there before they came and he is arrested.  Obviously someone doesn't want him on this story.

Have I intrigued you enough?  I'm going to stop here for a change  and reveal nothing else.  Just a final personal note.  I'd heard of this movie for years, but it took a late night bout of insomnia in 2008 before I finally got to see it on TV.  This is one of those movies you may kick yourself for having missed this long.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Film Noir: On Its Ear

Coming up next month I have a scheduled Film Noir Blogathon.  If you haven't joined and want to, you can sign up here.

In 1982, a young 20-something guy (me) went to the drive-in to see the newest Steve Martin flick.  Comedies and humor were my bread and butter, so I was prepared for a hilarious goofy movie.  After all, I had all of his albums, and had seen him in numerous skits on Saturday Night Live, and had recently seen his first starring movie The Jerk.  It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this would be as outrageous as the rest of his stuff so far.

Unfortunately, the humor was subdued this time around.  To be sure there were some funny moments, but they were so laid back you would be forgiven if you missed some of them.  A lot of the humor depends on an ability to see the conventions of  film noir movies that the Martin movie is parodying.  I have to admit that some of it was lost on me at the time.  These days I do get the subtle parts of the humor.

Fortunately, for me, I came away with something even better; a love of the old film noir movies that were part and parcel of the parody that Martin and Carl Reiner, the director, had made.  You get to see the gritty, hard-boiled dialogue from the original movies, much of which was the basis for the direction the parody took.

Some of the story line has been fashioned to make use of those clips.  For instance, the latter part of the movie makes extensive use of The Bribe, in which the central character was named "Rigby".  This is obviously the reason why Martin's character is named "Rigby" Reardon.

I made what has turned out to be a lifelong obsession to find and watch every single movie that DMDWP had used in the making of this movie.  "Lifelong" because, so far, there are still about ½ dozen of those movies I'm still looking to find.  I did, recently, acquire a 10 movie film noir collection that has one I had been looking for for quite a while, The Glass Key, but I still have a few to find.   (Anyone care to hook me up with a copy of The Bribe? ) Not only do I get the fun of trying to locate the actual scenes within the context of the original movie, I get to see what is a pretty damn good classic film noir flick

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

The movie opens with a classic opening style, a rainy matte painting of a city landscape with an excellent opening music by Miklos Rosza, himself a veteran of the film noir genre, having scored, among others, Double Indemnity, The Killers, The Naked City and The Bribe.  Rosza is only one of the classic film noir   era giants to be involved in this movie.  Edith Head, an Oscar-winning costume designer helped to make sure the feel of the movie fit in with the time period of the film.  The prologue also gives us a scene in which a speeding car in a rainstorm ends up crashing and a headline from a newspaper reveals that a renowned scientist/cheese whiz was killed.  (The scene involving the car crash came from an uncredited movie The Keeper of the Flame)

A voice over, provided by Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) tells of a dull day and a slow work period at his detective agency, when a knock on his door reveals a very attractive woman (Rachael Ward).  She faints into his arms, but he revives her (in a very unorthodox manner, but what the hell, results matter...).  She reveals she is Juliet Forrest, daughter of the aforementioned cheese whiz.  She hires Rigby to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding her father's death.

She claims that he wrote lists of names constantly, and has a piece of a dollar bill which she claims is proof there is some underlying conspiracy.  She gives him a key to her father's office in the seedy part of town.  When he goes to check out the office he finds two separate lists labelled "Friends of Carlotta" and Enemies of Carlotta".  While there, a mysterious man who calls himself the "exterminator" (Alan Ladd) drops by.  The exterminator shoots Rigby and steals the lists.

Rigby manages to stumble back to Juliet's residence where he first encounters her butler (Carl Reiner).  Juliet removes the bullet from Rigby and gives him some info about Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner), a singer whose autographed picture Rigby found in the office, and tells him about her alcoholic brother-in-law Sam (Ray Milland), whom her father gave a dollar bill to for safe keeping.  Trying to find out where Sam might be he calls Juliet's sister, Leona (Barbara Stanwyck), who proves to be incoherent and unhelpful.

Rigby finds Sam and trades for the dollar bill, which proves to have another list of enemies.  He tracks down Kitty Collins who transfers a list to him of "Enemies of Carlotta".  The names are all crossed off except one, Swede Anderson (Burt Lancaster).  Rigby finds Swede, but before he can talk to him, Swede get shot, as does Rigby (in the same hole as he had been shot the first time...).

Rigby calls in for help from Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) who is his teacher, of sorts, and a great source of inspiration throughout the movie.  He gives Marlowe the list to check out and goes to the train station with a key given to him by Juliet.  The locker has more lists.  After an encounter with a stranger (Cary Grant), he goes to a party held by F.X. Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), who drugs him.

After learning that there is something suspicious about the German cruise ship Immer Essen, which was the last cruise Sam Hastings had taken and is owned by Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), Marlowe calls with some info and tells him Neff cruises supermarkets looking for blondes to hook up with.  After fruitless efforts trying to con one of his old blonde acquaintances (Veronica Lake, Bette Davis and Lana Turner), Rigby decides to try it dressed up as a blonde.

While at Neff's apartment Rigby finds more info about the Immer Essen, including an article about the captain of the cruise ship, Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) who claims he was framed because he "knew too much".  Rigby dresses up as a woman again, this time as Jarrett's mother, to go to the prison and quiz Jarrett.  He ends up posing as a prisoner, but it turns out that Jarrett is a "Friend of Carlotta" and has planned an escape, and takes Rigby along.  And ends up shooting him (again in the same bullet hole as the previous two...).

Juliet overhears Rigby relating to an ex-lover, Margaret (Joan Crawford), how he planned to settle down with Juliet.  But she only hears part of it and thinks he is using the same line on Margaret.  Embarrassed, she cancels her contract and leaves him to himself.  He decides to finish out the case on his own.  Marlowe calls and tells him where "Carlotta" is (it's an island off the coast of Peru).

The movie The Bribe provides most of the location and cast encounters for the tail end of the movie.  Both Charles Laughton and Vincent Price are villains Rigby must defeat.

But even this is not the ultimate end.  No.  As in some of the post-war film noir movies, the ultimate villains are Nazis who want to inaugurate a Fourth Reich, in this case led by Juliet's butler who was in fact an officer in the Nazi army during the war.  They plan to destroy the U.S. using a weapon developed, unwittingly, by Juliet's father (George Gaynes), who is in fact still alive, but a prisoner of the Nazis.

I've given away a lot of this movie, yes, but I think you still might find it as enjoyable as i still do, watching it solely for how Martin and the writers incorporated a lot of fantastic film noir clips that seamlessly intersect with the plot and characters of the modern day movie set.

As a bonus here is a list of the film noir movies that were used in the film.

The Big Sleep (1946)
The Bribe (1949)
Dark Passage (1947)
Deception (1946)
Double Indemnity (1944)
The Glass Key (1942)
This Gun for Hire (1942)
Humoresque (1946)
In A Lonely Place (1950)
I Walk Alone (1947)
Johnny Eager (1941)
Keeper of the Flame (1942)
The Killers (1946)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Notorious (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Suspicion (1941
White Heat (1949)

Hope you folks enjoyed today's romp through comedy and noir intrigue.  Be sure to sign up for the blogathon if you are interested.  See you next week at the drive-in.  So long from the back seat.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Adventures in Harryhausen Land

This is my entry in the Sword and Sandal Blogathon sponsored by Moon in Gemini
This is also my entry in the Ray Harryhausen Blogathon hosted by Wolffian Classic Movies Digest

(Both of these coming along at the same time... Isn't kismet amazing?)

These are the two movies I remember most from the days when I used to go to the drive-in with my parents and my sister.  In those days it was a rare treat, because my father rarely closed up the store early.  (He had a gas station/garage that catered to the lake crowd in the days before Dallas built their own lakes, so a lot of people made the trek up from Dallas to the border, where Lake Texoma was the only thing going back in the 60's and 70's).

The earliest memory I have in a drive-in was going to see The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.  I was entranced.  It was probably the first time I had gone to the drive-in and not fallen asleep before the picture was over.  (I certainly don't remember our experience with seeing Patton, but we MUST have seen it as a family, because for years afterwards my father refused to allow us to go to another movie that was rated PG.  Until Star Wars, but I have related that story elsewhere on this blog.)

Sinbad was played by three different actors in each of the Ray Harryhausen entries.  Kerwin Mathews played him in the first of the three, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, in 1958.  It was 15 years later before Ray and company brought forth another Sinbad entry.  This time Sinbad was played by John Phillip Law (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad).  Then four years later, yet another actor, Patrick Wayne (son of the Duke himself) took on the role.

Each one, in his own right played the character with gusto.  Actors being a commodity that is based on their public draw, it is apparent that good looks factored in quite a bit with the cast of Sinbad in each movie.  Of course, Sinbad must have been pretty charismatic to entice his crew to follow him on his voyages, so the charisma of the lead actors is not out of place.  My main issue is the lack of chest hair.  Sinbad is of Middle Eastern origin, a race that is predominated by swarthy men, so he must've had a hairy chest, right?  Lance Kerwin, as near as I can tell was the only Sinbad with chest hair.  At least Patrick Wayne and John Phillip Law have facial hair. (And Lance Kerwin is clean-shaven)  Why this should bother me, I have no idea...

The Harryhausen creatures are a real wonder.  Remember this was well before the days of CGI graphics.  While they may look primitive by those standards, they are still far and beyond anything that was conceivable at the time.  And in cases where the actors had to appear to be lifted or hoisted by the creatures in a scene, most of the time it's really hard to tell they are not really human.  (By comparison, check out most of the scenes in the original King Kong, in which a human interacts with the animated creatures.)

Magic and superstition play a focal role in these movies.  What else would you expect?  These kinds of tales were my favorite as a young boy, and this love of fantasy elements continues to this day.  Harryhausen and his good friend, the author Ray Bradbury, each made a pact with the other that even if they grew old, they would  never grow up  And I too have never grown up, not if it means leaving behind a love of these epic sword battles and fantasy creatures.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

Golden Voyage  starts out with Sinbad and his crew sailing on open waters.  Sinbad (John Phillip Law; who was the blind angel Pygar in Barbarella ) and crew spy a flying creature carrying something shiny.  An arrow is fired at the creature and it drops the item which turns out to be a piece of a golden tablet.  Sinbad decides to wear the tablet as an amulet, against the wishes of his crew who think it is cursed.

Sinbad (John Phillip Law)

That night Sinbad has a dream.  A man calls out his name and an enchanting woman with a tattoo of an eye on her hand haunt him.  The ship is assailed by a storm which blows Sinbad's ship off course, and they find themselves off the coast of Marabia.  Sinbad swims ashore, and encounters Prince Koura (Tom Baker, who by the way also played one of the incarnations of Doctor Who back in the day).

Prince Koura (Tom Baker) 

Koura sees Sinbad's amulet. He says that the amulet belongs to him and demands it.  Instead Sinbad fights him and escapes. The crew end up going to the nearest city, which is the capital of Marabia. There Sinbad encounters the Grand Vizier (Douglas Wilmer), a man who is forced to wear a mask to cover his face.  It was burned in a fire (caused by the dastardly Koura).

The Grand Vizier (Douglas Wilmer)

The Vizier reveals to Sinbad that his amulet and a second piece that the Vizier has is part of a map leading to a great treasure, which includes a renewed youth, a cloak of darkness and a crown of fabulous wealth.  He convinces Sinbad to go on a voyage to get this treasure.  While awaiting departure, Sinbad is accosted by a merchant who wishes to pay Sinbad to take his nogoodnik son, Haroun (Kurt Christian) with him on his voyage.  Sinbad initially refuses, but the merchant has a slave girl (who, coincidentally, has an eye tattoo on her hand), so he eventually agrees if he can also have the slave girl, Margiana by name (Caroline Munro).

Margiana (Caroline Munro)

Haroun proves to useful as comic relief in the movie, but not much else, at least at first.  Margiana however intrigues Sinbad.  The crew sail, unknowingly followed by Koura who is intent on getting the tablet and treasure for himself.  The first night he casts a spell that causes the ship's figurehead to come to life.  It steals the map after an impressive fight with crew members.  (This is actually the second Harryhausen creation in this film, the first being the flying creature that Sinbad and crew try to shoot down)

Harryhausen's figurehead

Sinbad and crew eventually arrive at the temple of the Oracle (voiced by Robert Shaw, who, among other roles, was Quint in Jaws and the mob boss Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting) which reveals to them the final resting place of the third tablet, albeit in riddles.  Koura, who is still following them casts another spell causing the temple walls to fall around them and entrap them.  But they escape due to the ingenuity of Sinbad.  Meanwhile, every time Koura casts a spell he gets significantly older, as the black magic drains his life force every time.

Magic drains the soul

The trip takes the crew to Lemuria, where Koura has gained the upper hand.  He brings to life the six-armed statue of the native's god, Kali, which fights Sinbad's crew with six-swords (the third Harryhausen creation)

Six hands are better than one

Haroun becomes useful when he knocks the statue off balance and it topples to crash on the ground.  When it shatters the third tablet is revealed.  Koura takes the tablet and leaves Sinbad to the wiles of the natives whose god he has destroyed.   At this point, Margiana becomes a factor when she screams and throws out her hands, revealing the tattoo.

They think she is a special sacrifice meant for their one-eyed god (a centaur that lives in the caverns below) and send her down as a sacrifice.  The centaur comes out of it's cave and Sinbad uses several ruses to rescue Margiana from it. They race to the fountain to try to stop Koura from completing the tasks.  The end is well worth the wait, because not only do we get to see Sinbad and Koura clash swords in an epic final battle, but we get to see two more of Harryhausen's creations duke it out too; the aforementioned centaur, representing Evil and a griffin, representing Good.

A fantastic movie for all ages.  Kids will thrill to the fantasy creatures, and adults will find the story entertaining too.  And Harryhausen fans will see what I feel are the greatest animation sequences of his career (although I am sure there are those who will argue for others.  Be that as it may.)

Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas) is due to be crowned caliph of Charak.  Unfortunately evil befalls the ceremony (which we do not see unfold, but is revealed later in the movie).  Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) arrives in Charak, with goods to unload, but also with the intent of asking Kassim to allow his sister Farah (Jane Seymour) to marry him. (This is the movies.  Probably useless to wonder why a princess would even be allowed to marry a commoner...)  He is stopped by a merchant who tells him the city is under curfew because of the "plague".  Really the merchant intends to cause harm to Sinbad.  Zenobia (played by Margaret Whiting; not the same woman who had a recording career in the 40's and 50's, however), the wicked stepmother of a Farah and a witch, casts a spell causing three ghouls to appear to fight Sinbad in the tent. (The first Harryhausen creation)

Ghoulish encounter

After defeating the ghouls, back at his ship, Sinbad meets up with Farah who pleads with him to help her find a way to reverse the curse on her brother that Zenobia cast on him.  See, Zenobia wants her own son, Rafi (Kurt Christian, and yes that's the same actor who played the nogoodnik comic relief character Haroun in the previous entry) to be named caliph.  To do so she cursed Kassim, and if the curse is not lifted before the passing of a specific time, Kassim will lose his right to be named caliph. To engender this transfer, Zenobia turned Kassim into a baboon.  This is revealed when crewmen spy Farah playing chess with the baboon.  The baboon is, in fact, Harryhausen's second creation of the movie.

Chess with a baboon

 Meanwhile, Zenobia has created a bronze golem she dubs Minoton to power a rowboat to chase after Sinbad, trying to stop him from reaching Melanthius.


Sinbad and crew reach the shores of the fabled land where Melanthius is rumored to be.  First they encounter his daughter Dione (Taryn Power; daughter of Tyrone Power), and then Menthius himself (Patrick Troughton, yet another of the Doctor Who incarnations.  These movies are full of celebrities...).  Melanthius and Dione eventually agree to accompany Sinbad north to the home of an ancient civilization that might have the answer to the reversing of the curse.

(L-R) Sinbad, Melanthius, Dione and Farah

Zenobia uses her magic to turn herself into a seagull, fly to Sinbad's ship, and convert herself to a miniature form so she can spy on Melanthius and Sinbad.  She is caught, but manages to escape, but in the process loses a valuable portion of her potion, so that when she returns to her own ship she can't be completely reverted back to human form.

When Sinbad finally come ashore in the frozen wastelands of the north, they are attacked by a giant walrus (another Harryhausen creation, and, in my opinion, the most unbelievable and ridiculous of the batch.  I felt immensely like it had been added as an afterthought because the studio needed more footage, rather than that it was a valid creature of the story, but that's just my opinion...)

I am the Walrus

Sinbad and crew trek across the frozen wastelands and find a valley that is lush and hospitable.  While they are resting a trogolodyte appears.  Although they initially think the creature is a threat, he turns out to be friendly.


The final battle which involves trying to get the baboon Kassim into a transforming column of light while battling Zenobia who is intent on trying to stop them, along with another epic battle between two Harryhausen creations, the troglodyte and a saber-toothed tiger is once again a worthy ending.

Battle royal

I regret that you can't experience these movies the way I did (from the back seat of the Plymouth my father drove) on the big screen of a drive-in.  Although, who knows, with the current trend of new drive-ins coming and a few bucks to the manager, you might be able to wangle it.  (Pipe dreams, to be sure, but I'm nothing if not a dreamer).  Meanwhile pleasant sailing on your voyage home.