Sinbad of the Seven Seas

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Feb 28, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Similar to the three other Cannon films Lou Ferrigno shot in Italy in the 1980s, Sinbad of the Seven Seas had a fascinatingly troubled production. The film was originally conceived by Ferrigno and Starcrash director Luigi Cozzi, who had directed both of their mid-‘80s, effects-heavy Hercules movies and salvaged the disastrous sword and sandal flick The Seven Magnificent Gladiators. For unclear reasons, Cozzi was let go before shooting began in 1986 and replaced with low-budget Italian genre filmmaker Enzo Castellari. The script was heavily re-written (though Cozzi still gets story credit under the pseudonym Lewis Coates) and sent into production. Details get fuzzy here, as Castellari was fired and the shoot canned before the movie was finished. As Castellari tells it, Cannon ran out of money for the film. (This was at the start of their heavy period of overspending which resulted in Superman IV, Masters of the Universe, and Over the Top.) Other accounts say that Castellari turned in three hours of nonsensical, un-releasable footage, and Cannon pulled out. When you watch the version that was eventually released, both tales seem equally possible. 

The movie spent three years on the shelf before Cannon decided they’d try to cut their losses, and re-hired Cozzi to come by and try to fix what he could. Of course, Cozzi didn’t have access to any of the movie’s main cast, sets, or props, which complicated matters. Being ever-resourceful, Cozzi framed the movie as a bedtime story being told by a mother to her young daughter, allowing him to fill in the gaps in the narrative with new voiceover. He also spliced in re-dubbed footage from other movies, including 1964’s Hercules Against the Moon Men. His finished version perhaps wasn’t the grand, fantasy adventure film that Cannon had hoped for, but it was at least passable enough for a videocassette release.

Sinbad opens with the claim that it’s adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Schehezarade” story, but it has so little in common that Poe must be rolling in his grave. The brave sailor Sinbad (TV’s Incredible Hulk, Ferrigno) adventures about with his ragtag band of costumed merry men, who resemble a fantasy equivalent of the Village People: an Arabian prince, a dwarf, a chef, a Viking, and a Chinese soldier. They pull into port in the magical city of Basra only to find the kingdom ruled by a traitorous wizard, Jaffar (Caligula’s John Steiner, in a gloriously camp performance), and Prince Ali’s beloved princess kidnapped. If they want to save her and restore the land to the good sultan’s rule, they’ll need to hunt down four sacred gems scattered around the globe and protected by dangerous monsters.

The rest of the film is mostly a series of loosely-connected battles, some more visually impressive than others. Sinbad rough-houses first with a rock monster, Amazons, ghost knights, and other monsters, and finally an evil, doppelganger of himself. The most memorable scene is the battle with the ghost knights, who are empty, re-animated suits of armor that rise out of the sand in slow motion. (This is pretty cool-looking, recalling the haunting sequence of zombies rising from their graves in Fulci’s Zombi 2.) Otherwise, the shaky special effects throughout the rest of the movie prevent viewers from getting too lost in the action.

Image-wise, Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray is head and shoulders above the cropped 1989 VHS and the 2005 DVD release. Unfortunately it’s lacking in extra features beyond a trailer, which is a shame given how generous Cozzi was in providing behind-the-scenes material for Shout! Factory’s two Hercules Blu-rays. For a film with such a circuitous path to release, it would have been nice for some additional context.




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