Few men who worked in the film industry were as influential as Ray Harryhausen. Many directors and technicians openly say that it was the viewing of one of his many fantasy films that made them want to be in the industry.
Now Indicator in the UK has released their first blu ray Box set called The Sinbad Trilogy featuring three of his most popular movies, 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger with a host of great special features.
7th Voyage of Sinbad was made in 1958 and was the first of the Ray Harryhausen/Charles H. Schneer collaborations and here is presented from a new 4k restoration. When his beloved Princess Parisa is turned into a miniature by an evil magician, adventuring sailor Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) undertakes a quest to the island of Colossus to break the spell. On his journey, he must battle various mythological monsters, including the Cyclops, a sword-wielding skeleton, a two-headed bird and a dragon.
While the dialogue at times may be very hokey the film stands up very well with good pacing and action scenes, especially the first battle with the Cyclops which amazed film fans, especially children, at the time. Kerwin Mathews makes for a great Sinbad and Torin Thatcher is deliciously evil as Sakurah, while we won’t mention the genie having a think America accent! The transfer on this disc is wonderful, bold colours leap off-screen and clarity and contrast are spot on. The audio options are original mono Linear PCM 1.0 or a remixed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and while I always normally prefer the original mono in films of this vintage I must say the new mix is superbly done spreading the soundstage and enhancing the music score especially.
Extras are plentiful and as follows :
- A great audio commentary by the late Ray Harryhausen who’s joined by visual effects artists Phil Tippett and Randall William Cook, Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven Smith, and compare Arnold Kunert.
- The Secrets of Sinbad. Visual effects man Phil Tippett tells us how Ray Harryhausen influenced him and others so much and how he did some of the magic shown in his movies.
- Remembering the 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Made in 2008 this is an interesting and informative interview with Mr Harryhausen who talks about his work and techniques.
- A Look Behind the Voyage. A 1995 Columbia Tristar featurette on the film with contributions from Ray Harryhausen, producer Charles H. Schneer and lead player Kerwin Matthews.
- Super-8 Version. A silent super 8 home version while interesting to see is a bit pointless in some ways.
- Music Promo. A bizarre song that Columbia Pictures commissioned at the time titled Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He’s Been Good to Me with the intention that it be played in cinema lobbies and offered as prizes in competitions.
- The Music of Bernard Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann biographer Steve Smith talks in detail through this brilliant composer’s career and covers in some detail what it was that made his soundtracks so special.
- Isolated Score. While I don’t normally listen to these, this is a superb score and a great extra to have.
- Birthday Tribute to Ray Harryhausen. Phil Tippett, who starts by listing all of Harryhausen’s films at a very fast pace, then sings Happy Birthday with a group of armed and animated skeletons. Great stuff.
- Trailers and Image Gallery.
FILM : 8 PICTURE : 9.5 AUDIO: 8 EXTRAS: 9
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was made in 1973 and by then Harryhausen was at his peak and his animation techniques were much more advanced. Sinbad (John Phillip Law), Prince of Baghdad and legendary sailor, finds an intriguing map and sets sail for the previously uncharted island of Lemuria with a beautiful slave girl, Margiana (Caroline Munro), and the Grand Vizier of the land of Marabia. Prince Koura (Tom Baker), an evil wizard who is trying to gain control of malevolent spirits, follows in an effort to thwart Sinbad’s quest. Sinbad reaches Lemuria in spite of an enchantment Koura casts upon the giant figurehead of Sinbad’s ship which brings it to life. On Lemuria, Sinbad and his stalwart crew encounter a six-armed, sword-brandishing statue, a one-eyed centaur and a griffin.
A 2k transfer for this movie and again it is a fabulous transfer, with great warm colours and solid black levels. Like all of his films where back projection was used the switch in quality is noticeable, especially on these blu ray transfers, but does not distract from the enjoyment in any way. Audio is again original lossless mono and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround remixes and as already mentioned both are worth listening to.
Extras are as follows:
- BFI Interview with Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer. An audio interview which lasts a whopping 90 minutes but is full of interesting stories and anecdotes about the films.
- Golden Years. Wonderful interview with Tom Baker who discusses not only this film but his early career and how he got the role of Dr Who. Funny and full of great stories I could listen to him all night.
- Golden Girl. Interesting interview with the actress who again gives some great insight into the shooting of the film and her fellow actors.
- The Harryhausen Legacy. A tribute by many great visual effects artists – including Bob Burns, Phil Tippett, Ken Ralston, John Dykstra, Dennis Muren, Rick Baker and many more and are joined by directors John Landis, Joe Dante and Frank Darabont and legendary Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackermann.
- Super 8 Versions. As on 7th Voyage, disc cut down super 8 versions of the movie.
- Isolated Score. This time by composer Miklos Rosza.
- Image Gallery. Very large collection of images on show.
FILM 7.5 PICTURE: 8.5 AUDIO: 8 EXTRAS: 9.5
Finally, we have Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger made in 1977 and this time has Patrick Wayne, son of John as Sinbad. Here he sets sail towards Charnak, seeking permission from Prince Kassim to wed his sister, Farah (Jane Seymour). But Sinbad discovers that Kassim has been placed under a spell by their fiendish stepmother, Zenobia (Margaret Whiting). To break the wicked spell, Sinbad must set forth on a journey unlike any ever travelled. Awaiting him on this perilous voyage is an assortment of beasts beyond one’s wildest imagination.
While not as entertaining as the previous adventures the film still has a lot of great set pieces and the beautiful Jane Seymour is always great to see on screen. The HD transfer on this film is not up to the standards on the other two films and some internet sources say it has been taken from an older master and not the new 2k one as advertised. I have not seen the 2k version but this, after a bit of a shaky start, is still a good transfer with solid grain colours and overall looks fine. Audio is the same as before with mono or surround options and below are the extra feature.
- The Guardian Interview with Ray Harryhausen. Another vintage audio-only interview but again at 85 minutes gives some excellent insight into the great man and how he worked.
- The Princess Diaries. Interview with Jane Seymour, still looking wonderful and her tales about how her role was cut down from the original script, the heat of filming in Malta and many more tales about the making of the film.
- Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by John Landis. Great short interview from director John Landis.
- The Harryhausen Chronicles. 1997 documentary narrated by Leonard Nimoy about Ray Harryhausen and his great body of work.
- Isolated Score. This time by composer Roy Budd
- Trailer and Image Gallery
FILM: 7 PICTURE: 7.5 AUDIO: 7 EXTRAS: 9
Overall a fantastic box set with eye-catching packaging and you also get a 78-page booklet full of great information about these films and Ray Harryhausen. If you’re a fan of any kind then I think you would be thrilled to own this limited edition set.