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Come with the wind
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

April 12, 2002
The Iranian

Along with "Aladdin" and "Hadji Baba", "Sinbad the Sailor" is most probably among the most popular and adventurous hero of "Thousand and One Night" tales. Sinbad was also to be a subject of three major feature films considered as motion picture classics. However the first film "The Seventh Voyage of Simbad" was to launch Ray Harryhausen as a master pioneer in the field of special effects.

Adrift at sea with a nervous crew, legendary Captain Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) steers his ship to the island of Colossa to search for food and water. On the island, the crew encounters a giant cyclops who is pursuing the magician, Sokurah (Torin Thatcher) carrying a magic lamp. Coming in aid of Sokurah, Sinbad rescues him in time for the magician to use a magic lamp to build a barrier between the Cyclops and fleeing sailors. Once back on the ship Sinbad heads towards Baghdad with the Princess, "Parisa of Chandra" where wedding plans are to be made for them. His wedding will unite two kingdoms who once struggled at war.

At a feast where the rulers of the two kingdoms meet to solidify their Kingdoms, Sokurah is called upon for entertainment. Sokurah desires to return to his island, the home of the cyclops, but Baghdad's Caliph will not sanction a ship or crew based on Sinbad's warnings. Sokurah plans to marvel the Sultan into granting his request. Enlisting the assistance of the Princess Parisa's maiden in mating, Sardi, Sokurah transforms her into a stunning serpent woman. The transformation is not enough to persuade the Caliph to grant Sokurah's voyage so the evil magician sends a prophecy of doom to them and declares war between the two kingdoms.

It is a prophecy that Sokurah plans to ensure himself by transforming the Princess into a tiny figure of a few inches. The Sultan of Chandra, the Princess' father, vows the destruction of Baghdad as Sinbad hurries to find Sokurah. Sokurah guarantees that he can restore the princess but only by returning to his island and obtaining the egg shell of the Roc, a giant two-headed bird. Enlisting the help of his bravest crew and recruiting others from the Caliphs prisons, Sinbad sets sail for Colossa.

En route to the island, the prisoners have decided to mutiny rather than face the dangers of Colossa. The ship is taken, and Sinbad, Harufa (Sinbad's first mate) and Sokurah are taken prisoner. Sokurah forewarned impending doom unless they are freed. His prophecy is laughed at until a storm breaks. The ship heads for an island inhabited by screaming demons who lure the ships' crews to madness as their ships crash against the ragged shoreline.Sinbad, Harufa and Sokura have saved themselves from the maddening screams by sealing their ears with wax and rags. The ships prisoners are freed as the leader of the mutineers falls to his deaths from the ships crows nest.

Arriving at the island the crew breaks into three groups. One group stays behind to assemble and man the giant crossbow Sokurah has designed to kill the Cyclops. Two other groups will travel across the Valley Of Cyclops and meet on the other side where they will climb the treacherous mountain to obtain the Roc eggshell. Sinbad leads one group and Sokurah leads the other. Sokurah deliberately steers Sinbad's group in the direction of the Cyclops' lair, where the treasure and the magic lamp are stored. As Sokurah had hoped, Sinbad and his group are discovered by the Cyclops.

The Cyclops captures the group and places them in a wooden prison while taking Harufa and attacking him to a giant spit, planning to have Harufa for supper. Sokurah arrives, but not to rescue Sinbad. He has come only for the magic lamp. Sinbad is forced to use the Princess who, because of her tiny stature can free them.

As Sokurah searches for the lamp the Cyclops hears him and turns to capture Sokurah. The distraction allows Sinbad to free Harufa. Sokurah drops the magic lamp while fleeing from the Cyclops as Sinbad both rescues him and retrieves the lamp. The Cyclops traps Sinbad and Sokurah in a crevice but Sinbad uses a torch to blind him and them leads him to a ledge where he causes the Cyclops to plummet to his death.

Continuing their journey to find the Roc egg, the sailors find an unhatched egg and break it open out of hunger. A young Roc chick emerges and the sailors kill it to eat.

Sinbad tells the Princess of the magic lamp and the egg shell. The Princess decides to go inside the lamp where she discovers the boy genie inside. The boy genie (Richard Eyer) informs her that his name is Baroni and tells her the words that summon him:

From The Land Beyond The Beyond
From The Land Past Hope And Fear
I Bid You Genie Now Appear

Baroni also tells the princess of his longing to find adventure as a real boy and sailor like Captain Sinbad and that he has a promise of freedom. Taking her to another part of the lamp he unveils a lighted riddle/prophecy that reveals how he can become a real boy

When the big that is small
Shall again become tall
Into fiery rock
To rise you must fall.

The princess returns to tell Sinbad of what she has learned but the Mother Roc of the sailors supper arrives. Sinbad tries to rescue his shipmates as Sokurah takes the tiny princess prisoner and heads back to his lair. The Mother Roc is defeated and Sinbad, using the information provided by Parisa, summons the genie who helps Sinbad find Parisa in Sokurah's underground castle.

Traveling through a cave to reach the castle's entrance, Sinbad encounters a dragon who guards Sokurah's domain. The Genie tells Sinbad how to secure the dragon and make his way around the beast. Arriving at the castle, Sokurah restores the princess, but as Sinbad and Parisa attempt to escape, Sokurah summons a demonic skeleton to battle Sinbad with a sword. After Sinbad defeats the skeleton, Sinbad and Parisa attempt to escape by crossing a bridge in the cave that crosses a volcanic flow of molten rock.

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD was Ray Harryhausen's and Charles Schneer's most ambitious project to date. Ray had developed several illustrations for a Thousand and One Nights Adventure, the "SON OF SINBAD", which lost a lot of money at the box-office and the project was scrapped.

Schneer saw the drawings and became interested in the project and began shopping around for studio backing. He would later comment that 7TH VOYAGE was an "in-between cost" movie, in that its budget would not be low enough to take a gamble on and the possibility that it was too costly to return a profit. Using Ray's sketches,

Charles Schneer and Harryhausen sold the distribution rights to Columbia Pictures. It was decided that the sets would be too costly to build so they went to Spain seeking locations for the film. They found two perfect ones in the Alhambra in Madrid and the Cages Of Artha in Majorca. They also discovered, while on location, that the throne room in the Alhambra was the place where Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gave Columbus the money that financed Columbus' discovery of America.

Harryhausen originally conceived another black and white project but Schneer would simply not allow it as he had for 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD was going to be in color. The decision created more work for Ray, who after perfecting the animation process for black and white, would have to come up with new technique for a color film. Essentially, the problem had to do with rear projection. Color film stock, when rear-projected looses much of the brilliance of the image. Ray pushed the limits for the film and the end results were spectacular.

Kenneth Kolb was brought in to write a storyline bringing the drawings together. The drawings involved a dragon battling a Cyclops, Sinbad discovering and old castle, and, most importantly, Sinbad battling a Skeleton on a spiral staircase.

A Spanish film crew and supporting actors were hired for the project. This move to Spain proved to serve another advantage for Schneer. He managed to persuade a harbor master to allow them to use a re-creation of Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria as Sinbad's ship. This ship was used for several shots, most made during a time when Kerwin Mathews (Sinbad) became dreadfully ill.

Mathews would later recall that it was the first time for many of the American crew and actors in Spain and that most of them got ill during production. He claims that while running a 103 degree temperature, Charles Schneer came up to the hospital where he was staying and asked him if he couldn't come down to the harbor for just a few shots.

While shooting some of the storm shots in the harbor, the Barcelona fire department was brought in to spray the ship with water attempting to recreate the wailing siren sequence. The shots Schneer wanted Mathews for included being sprayed by the fire department. Since Spain doesn't run into the same problems with environmental groups, the water that was pumped from the harbor was not the cleanest.

In spite of illness, Kerwin Mathews delivers a fine Sinbad. Mathews was a contract player for Columbia and he was among several young actors considered, including Glenn Ford. Watching Mathews interact with Ray's creatures is almost as amazing as the creatures themselves. It must be remembered that the actors have nothing to go on but their own imagination and a few reference points. Of all the actors in the Harryhausen films, Mathews manages to capture this quality the best, seeming to make eye contact with the creatures that aren't there for him.

This is especially true when he interacts with the Princess when she is in her miniature state. His eyes always seem to follow her.

Ray's work was very different for this film since it involved more creatures. Up until now Ray's films all focused around one creature. 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD required a CYCLOPS, a SERPENT WOMAN, a DRAGON, the TWO-HEADED ROCS (both Mama and Baby) and the SKELETON. It also required the shrinking of the Princess.

Upon original consideration, the CYCLOPS was to be more human like in appearance but Ray decided to create a more animal-like lower half that could never be dismissed as an actor in a costume. There were also to be two different Cyclops who battle one another in the original draft but this was tossed out by budget limitations. Two different Cyclops do appear in the film, careful observers will note that the first Cyclops has one horn while the second has a smaller horn behind the larger one.

The Cyclops is the first creature to make an appearance and he does so in the first few minutes of the film. As Sinbad and crew arrive on the island of Colossa, The Cyclops is pursuing Sokurah. As this action unfolds around us, the Cyclops is part of the action, moving in and around the actors. This unique blending of stop-motion animation and live-action required a new name for several reasons. Harryhausen once stated that he coined the term "dynamation" because the critics and reviews constantly referred to their films as animated films and that people would confuse them as cartoons. He had hoped the term "dynamation" would clarify some of the confusion

The term used today is stop-motion, developed and generalized thanks to Phil Tippett one of the special effects supervisors on Star Wars Episode V : "The Empire Strikes back" for Luke and the Tauntaun creature horse. To assemble the Cyclops, Ray took his Ymir from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH apart to use the armature. Using a foam injecting process, he had to redo the Cyclops several times before he got one that was right. The lower half of the Cyclops body is covered by a rubberized fur.

Turning Sardi into the serpent woman was the next effect witnessed in the film. This happens about 18 minutes into the story. When the giant vase is broken away, a stop-motion Sardi emerges with rubbery arms and her entire lower portion is that of a serpent. She performs a dance set to the stunning music of Bernard Herrmann. In recollection, this scene is always remembered as being much longer than it actually is. It is the impact of the scene and its effectiveness that make us remember the scene as lasting several minutes instead of less than one.

Ray needed a massive miniature set for the interior shots of the cave. It was very critical that this set would match the live sets and that the lighting of the miniature sets equaled the lighting on the live sets. This set included an extremely detailed exterior of Sokurah's castle which was hidden deep inside the cave. Much of the action in the last third of the film takes place in a near perfect blending of the miniature set and the live action set. The interior of the cave was also home to one of the screens most fearsome dragons.

To call the dragon in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD amazing is an understatement. It is simply beautiful in its detail and sheer size. From the moment the dragon appears, Ray manages to give this creature an awesome feeling of being real. It pulls on its chains struggling for freedom and breathes heavily. Each heaving sigh is created by the inclusion of an air bag inside the miniature model. Ray also made the dragon a colorful creature with its red tinted horned back and its bright green colors.

The shooting of the skeleton duel required the hiring of fencing master Enzo Musumeci-Greco. The entire sequence was rehearsed with Enzo, painstakingly working Mathews through each step like a meticulously choreographed dance routine with an 8 step count. Each step, movement and swing of the sword was staged and repeated over and over again until Mathews could perform the routine without the fencing instructor. The whole sequence was shot in black and white with Enzo and Kerwin - this allowed a reference point for Harryhausen to stage the movements of the skeleton.

The sequence remains the highest animated experience of the whole film. It is this sequence that we quickly remember during the discussions of the film. It is so meticulously planned and executed that it leaves us with that awe-inspired feeling of "how did yiu do that!" And in those of use who were lucky enough to see this film as a very young child, the fear that the damn thing just might be real.

The Dragon and the Cyclops could never get in our bedrooms but that hideous skeleton with the eternally evil smile could drop out of the closet and there would be hell to pay. After all, how do you kill something that is already dead? This sequence was deemed so disarming by the British Censor board that it was cut from the print altogether. It was later restored but it was years later. its hard to imagine watching this film without the Skeleton duel sequence.

Another reason this sequence works so well is the Herrmann score. Bernard Herrmann was to become famous for his scores on Hitchcocks films like "North by Northwest" or "Psycho".

No discussion of Harryhausens' film is complete without mentioning the importance of the score. Harryhausen has always felt that this was the best score Herrmann gave to them in their four picture collaboration. Schneer knew Herrmann and asked him to attend a screening of the work print. Herrmann had the reputation of sitting through these screenings and making rather rude observations of the film he was watching.

During this screening, Herrmann sat quietly through the entire film when it was finished simply stated that he thought he could do something for the picture. What he did was create the most impacting score of any fantasy film since Max Steiner and KING KONG. The score for this film is the perfect pairing of the two mediums and it is certainly a must have in any soundtrack collection.

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD was released in 1958 and was promoted by Columbia Pictures, the distribution company. By the time it had finished its initial worldwide release it had netted $6 million, more than recouping its initial cost. It is interesting to note that THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD opened at the Roxie Theater in New York City.

The owners of the Roxy had decided that they would screen one more film after John Ford's, THE LAST HURRAH, and SINBAD was their picture. It proved to be so financially successful for them that the theater remained open for another 2 years. From this point on the Harryhausen/Schneer collaborations would reflect the episodic appearance and multi-creature cast that helped make Sinbad the success it was.

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Edited by Shiva Pakdel
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Darius Kadivar

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