The late Ray Harryhausen, known mostly for his visual contributions to films like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, lent his talents to three separate films featuring the iconic sailor Sinbad. Gordon Hessler's The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) is the second, and it's often overshadowed by 1958's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Regardless, this effects-heavy adventure stars John Phillip Law (Barbarella) as our hero who's drawn into adventure by a golden tablet, a violent storm and, eventually, the golden-masked Grand Vizier of Marabia (Douglas Wilmer, BBC's Sherlock Holmes). Along with the Vizier, Sinbad joins the sizzling Margiana (Caroline Munro, The Spy Who Loved Me) and Haroun (Kurt Christian), a slave master's son, to stop the sinister Prince Koura (Tom Baker) from overtaking the land.
There's obviously a lot going on in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad; luckily most of it worked pretty well back then and still holds up fairly well today. Not surprisingly, this episodic adventure feels like a thinly-veiled excuse to showcase Harryhausen's stop-motion effects work (nicknamed "Dynavision", as repurposed above), but this production as a whole is entertaining enough to forgive such a stunt. In some respects, I actually prefer this second Harryhausen Sinbad installment to 1958's The Seventh Voyage; specifically, its more lived-in appearance, the terrific "Kali" swordfight and a general atmosphere that better suits the sailor's Middle Eastern origins. Even so, by 1974 the Sinbad franchise (not to mention the visual thrills of stop-motion animation in general) was beginning to wear a little thin, so it's no surprise that Golden Voyage and 1977's Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger were generally considered gradual steps down the mountain. It's no masterpiece when viewed as a whole, but there's still plenty of fun and adventure here for kids of all ages.
Both The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (review forthcoming) have been released on Blu-ray simultaneously by Twilight Time, licensed by Sony Entertainment and presented in the usual limited edition of just 3,000 units apiece. Golden Voyage looks and sounds surprisingly robust in high definition, as the rock-solid A/V presentation squeezes every ounce of visual and sonic detail from this <$1M production. A handful of entertaining bonus features are also included, though most have simply been ported over from earlier home video releases like Sony's own 2000 DVD. Overall, it's a neat little fantasy that genre enthusiasts will enjoy revisiting. Newcomers are welcome too.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in the preferred 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is a rock-solid effort than easily eclipses the impressive 2000 DVD release. Image detail is striking at times, color reproduction is superb and a steady, satisfying layer of light grain offers a pleasing texture (even during several of the optical zooms, which are usually problematic in high definition). Of course, there are times when this <$1M production can't hide a few seams, but from a purely technical standpoint it looks quite satisfying indeed. Fans of Golden Voyage will undoubtedly be pleased from start to finish, whether your first exposure to the film was theatrically or through one of several home video releases. Ultimately, Sony's legwork and attention to detail for this Twilight Time licensed release have certainly not gone unnoticed.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.
From an audio standpoint, Golden Voyage is equally ambitious and impresses more often than not. This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 features strong channel separation at times: from weather-related events to Miklos Rozsa's excellent score (also featured in a separate DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Isolated Score Track), there's a lot going on here at times and Golden Voyage gets a major boost just for its strong sonic presence. Dialogue is typically crisp and easy to understand, though the optional English SDH subtitles will provide some assistance if needed. Aside from a lack of the film's original two-channel mix (presented in Dolby Digital on the 2000 DVD release), there's very little to complain about overall.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the tasteful menu designs look good, load quickly and they're easy to navigate. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase (no holes!), adorned with colorful artwork and a nice little Booklet
with production stills, poster images (like the one seen at top) and a few notes by author Julie Kirgo. Simple, effective and appropriate.
Probably nothing that Sinbad
fans haven't seen before, but the limited extras here are at least comprehensive of past releases. The previously mentioned Isolated Score
track, introduced all the way back on Pioneer's 1991 SE laserdisc, appears here in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and sounds terrific. Three enjoyable Ray Harryhausen Featurettes
(7-12 minutes apiece) are carried over from Sony's 2000 DVD release
including Earth vs. The Flying Saucers
, Mysterious Island
and Three Worlds of Gulliver
. Finally, we get the film's original Theatrical Trailer
(3 minutes) presented in 1080p.
Gordon Hessler's The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, while not the iconic sailor's finest hour, is still an enjoyable time at the movies. Colorful characters, swashbuckling action, a dastardly villain and rock-solid effects work by Ray Harryhausen (his second of three Sinbad collaborations) are just a few of the highlights. Twilight Time's Blu-ray package offers a good amount of support, including a wonderful A/V presentation and a limited but enjoyable assortment of bonus features licensed by Sony. Of course, the disc's high price point and the movie's niche appeal will only make it desirable to a select audience...but if you're part of that crowd, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is certainly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.