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7th Voyage of Sinbad, The (Blu-ray) (1958)
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Details At A Glance
Audio Commentary-with Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects Experts Phil Tippet and
Featurette-Making Of-Remembering The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
Featurette-The Harryhausen Legacy
Featurette-The Music of Bernard Hermann
Music Video-ďSinbad May Have Been Bad But Heís Been Good To MeĒ
Featurette-A Look Behind The Voyage
Featurette-This Is Dynamation
Featurette-Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by Director John Landis
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
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††† Special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen was responsible for a number of esteemed classics, but 1958ís The 7th Voyage of Sinbad remains one of his best-remembered efforts. The first feature film involving stop-motion animation to be shot entirely in colour, this is a breezy, entertaining action-adventure, and itís easy to see why children were so besotted with it back in the day, and why it inspired so many budding filmmakers and special effects artists. The production has dated in some respects, yet this is not enough to diminish the movieís limitless charms, and it remains a quintessential special effects picture that film buffs simply need to see.
††† While sailing through the Persian Gulf, Captain Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) and his crew happen upon the island of Colossa, where they find ample supplies to feed the starving men. However, a giant Cyclops does not take kindly to the crewís intrusion, forcing them to set sail and leave. In the scuffle, magician Sokurah (Torin Thatcher) loses a precious lamp containing a boy genie (Richard Eyer). Sokurah pleads with Sinbad to return to Colossa to retrieve the lamp, but the mission is deemed too risky. Back in Baghdad, the desperate Sokurah secretly shrinks Sinbadís beloved Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant). Sokurah tells Sinbad that he can reverse the curse, but claims that an essential ingredient for the required magic potion can only be found on the island of Colossa. Left with no options, Sinbad embarks on a perilous voyage, with Sokurah joining his crew.
††† Running at a scant 88 minutes, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is concise and to the point, remaining involving and entertaining for the majority of its runtime. Interesting to note, this is one Ray Harryhausen film for which the animator was heavily involved in the pre-production process. Harryhausen hatched the idea of a special effects-laden Sinbad movie, drawing up sketches of the creatures, and doing work on the movie long before director Nathan Juran or screenwriter Ken Kolb were recruited. Thus, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is designed for maximum action scenes and creatures, but the story nevertheless does its job well enough, stilted though it may sometimes be. Indeed, the material set in Baghdad is hit-and-miss, but the picture really hits its stride once Sinbad and his men arrive on Colossa. The actors are mostly effective, with Mathews a bit wooden as Sinbad, but as Harryhausen himself has pointed out, he does do a convincing job playing opposite creatures and actors who were not present on-set. The only real standout is Thatcher, whoís a memorable antagonist.
††† To be sure, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad has dated a fair amount, even by Harryhausen standards. Produced five years before 1963ís still-impressive Jason and the Argonauts, the animation does lack refinement, and some of the creatures look too much like clay toys. As to be expected, too, the rest of the special effects work does look rough around the edges, but this adds to the movieís old-world charm. Indeed, itís still easy to enjoy and admire Harryhausenís special effects work, and itís easy to see why kids were so enraptured with this film back when it was first released. Harryhausen did such a good job, in fact, that his effects technique earned its own label: ďdynamation,Ē a portmanteau of ďdynamic animation.Ē
††† There are a number of notable set-pieces through The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Harryhausen also wonderfully pays homage to the beloved 1933 incarnation of King Kong, with a late battle between the infamous Cyclops and a dragon looking delightfully reminiscent of the sequence of Kong taking down a long-necked dinosaur. Another memorable aspect of the movie is Bernard Herrmannís score. This was Herrmannís first time composing a score for a Harryhausen picture, and he does a fine job. The central theme is insanely memorable, while the music throughout effortlessly amplifies the sense of adventure and excitement.
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††† As with Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is presented in 1080p high definition via the MPEG-4 AVC video codec, framed at 1.66:1 (OAR is 1.85:1). Allotted a noticeably lower bitrate than Jason and the Argonauts, and the lowest bitrate of the Ray Harryhausen collection set, the movie looks reasonable on Blu-ray, but far from perfect.
††† Presumably minted from the same HD master used for Sonyís American Blu-ray release, this transfer does have its positive attributes, with an intact grain structure and no evidence of ugly digital tampering - I did not notice any signs of noise reduction or edge enhancement (some of the special effects shot have thick black lines around the actors, but I believe that comes down to the source, rather than the transfer). Colour is also frequently rich and vivid, despite the occasional faded special effects shot thatís likely attributable to the source. Furthermore, Via Visionís encoding yields no bothersome video anomalies - itís smooth sailing across the board.
††† However, detail and sharpness is mediocre, with a number of shots looking incredibly muddy, with blocky grain in dire need of refinement. Some shots fare better than others, but when the transfer is off, it looks more like an upscaled DVD than a crisp high definition Blu-ray disc. Sonyís release received lukewarm reviews on the video front, so these issues are most likely more attributable to the supplied master rather than Via Visionís encode, though the average bitrate is a bit of a worry.
††† Itís worth noting that a number of special effects shots do look understandably rougher than the rest of the movie. Since Harryhausen photographed his stop-motion figures in front of a projected image of the movie, creatures like the skeleton look far crisper and more refined than the live-action elements. Again, though, this is the fault of the source.
††† Despite its issues, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad looks respectable for its Australian high def debut, but it just pales in comparison to several other titles from the Harryhausen back catalogue. Perhaps a more expensive 4K remaster might generate more satisfying results.
††† Only English subtitles are available on this release. They are easy to read and well-formatted.
Video Ratings Summary
††† The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is imbued with a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, which is the only audio option on this disc aside from the Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. Happily, the audio is head over heels better than the problematic video transfer on this Blu-ray, with very little in the way of bothersome flaws or encoding anomalies. This is a clean, rousing track, and itís doubtful that the movie could ever sound any better.
††† Bernard Herrmannís memorable score comes through with real zeal from the outset, with the opening title sequence sounding so rich and clean. Dialogue is mostly reserved for the front channels, and there are very little issues to complain about - itís not as crisp as The Avengers, but the dialogue does come through strongly and itís easy to both hear and comprehend. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is filled with fantastical creatures, with the Cyclops in particular sounding strong and impactful, making great use of the subwoofer. There is not a great deal of notable separation, with perfunctory activity from the rear channels, but this is to be expected considering the monaural source.
††† Audio engineers have done a fine job remixing this Harryhausen classic for Blu-ray, and though purists may bemoan the lack of the original mono mix (contained on Sonyís American Blu-ray), the lossless 5.1 mix is just fine.
Audio Ratings Summary
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††† As with Jason and the Argonauts, a generous selection of extras are included.
Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects Experts Phil Tippet and Randall William Cook, Author Steven Smith and Arnold Kunert ††† As with the audio commentaries on the Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray, this track is an utter joy. All the commentators clearly have a heightened respect for Harryhausen, and everyone shares a great rapport, discussing production trivia while also letting the legendary animator talk about his experience making the movie. This is an engaging, informative track, and itís just fabulous that it was recorded before Harryhausenís unfortunate death. A recommended listen.
Remembering The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (SD; 23:32) ††† This excellent supplement consists of an extended interview with the late Ray Harryhausen, who gives an exceptional overview of his involvement in the picture. Harryhausen discusses his initial interest in producing a lavish, special effects-laden Sinbad movie, and traces the movieís journey from concept to screen. A huge chunk of this extra is dedicated to Harryhausen talking about the creation of the key special effects sequences. Fascinating stuff.
The Harryhausen Legacy (SD; 25:33) ††† This is the exact same documentary that appears on the Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray. Essentially a tribute to the late Ray Harryhausen, this extra features interviews with a vast array of persons, from directors (John Landis and Joe Dante) to visual effects artists (Stan Winston, Phil Tippet, Dennis Muren), who share memories about seeing Harryhausenís movies and how his magic inspired their careers.
The Music of Bernard Hermann (SD; 26:53) ††† This is an extended interview with Steven Smith, who speaks enthusiastically about the work of Bernard Herrmann (though his name is actually misspelled in the title of this extra). Smith covers Herrmannís earlier works with Orson Welles, all the way through to his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, and his compositions for Ray Harryhausenís movies.
ďSinbad May Have Been Bad But Heís Been Good To MeĒ Music Video (SD; 3:08) ††† Well, this is weird. A song was created as part of the promotional campaign for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and theatre owners were encouraged to play it in the lobby. This is the song in all its, um, glory. Not essential viewing, but an oddball curiosity.
A Look Behind The Voyage (SD; 11:48) ††† A brief but interesting vintage retrospective on the making of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (recorded in 1995), with a handful of interviews from key players. There is a fair amount of information overlap from the other extras, to be frank, but itís still a welcome inclusion.
This Is Dynamation (SD; 3:26) ††† This is quite cool. A vintage promo piece presumably from the filmís theatrical release, which introduces Harryhausenís ďdynamationĒ techniques. Despite being a puff piece, it does have some nice before-and-after VFX comparisons that I found fascinating.
Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by Director John Landis (SD; 11:53) ††† Another supplement that is also available on the Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray. An extra that was recorded in the 1990s, John Landis sits down with Ray Harryhausen (and one of the original skeleton models) to talk about Harryhausenís body of work and the stop-motion animation process. A charming and welcome supplement.
Photo Gallery (SD; 9:35) ††† A video slideshow of images from the production, set to Herrmannís music.
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† † Sony's Blu-ray release over in the USA is identical in terms of supplemental content, although it does have the original mono audio track as well. It hardly seems worth importing for an alternative audio option, but it comes down to personal preference.
††† In June 2017, Powerhouse Films in the United Kingdom released a box-set of the first three Sinbad movies. The set features additional special features and a brand new 4K remaster of 7th Voyage that's reportedly very impressive. Therefore, the U.K. gets the win.
††† It's hard to predict any individual's reaction to The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in the 21st Century. If old-fashioned action-adventure pics are your jam, you will probably enjoy it and appreciate the artistry on-screen. But if you have a low tolerance for "old" movies, there's no talking to you. For my money, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad has its drawbacks, but itís nevertheless a fun action-adventure
††† Whatever your opinion on the movie, Via Vision's Blu-ray release is perfectly respectable. Video is problematic but it's more good news than bad, while audio is top-flight and the extras are excellent. This disc comes recommended.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Thursday, December 24, 2015
|DVD||PlayStation 4, using HDMI output|
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|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
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|Speakers||LG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W|
First colour stop-motion feature