on 29 February 2016
THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD [1958 / 2008] [50th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray] [US Release] 8th Wonder Of The Screen! Takes You Beyond High Definition!
It's an incredible cinematic adventure as the legendary Sinbad sets off on a dangerous journey to the mysterious Island of Colossus. His quest is to break the spell cast over his beloved princess by a diabolical magician. But before he can save her, Sinbad must battle an awesome collection of mythical monsters, the man-eating Cyclops, a sabre-wielding skeleton, a ferocious two-headed bird called the Roc and a fire-breathing dragon.
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Torin Thatcher and highlighted by the stunning visual effects mastery of Ray Harryhausen. Now in a pristine, hi-definition transfer that captures the magic of Ray Harryhausen's "eye-popping" special effects in dazzling Technicolor.
FILM FACT: It took Ray Harryhausen 11 months to complete the full Technicolor, widescreen stop-motion animation sequences for ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.’ Ray Harryhausen's "Dynamation" label was used for the first time on this film. Ray Harryhausen gave the Cyclops a horn, furry goat legs, and cloven hooves, an idea based upon the concept of the Greek god Pan. He lifted much of the creature's design, for example the torso, chest, arms, poise and style of movement, from his concept of the Ymir, the Venusian creature from his earlier ‘20 Million Miles to Earth.’ He used the same armature for both figures; to do this, he had to cannibalise the Ymir, removing the latter's latex body.
Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer, Torin Thatcher, Alec Mango, Danny Green, Harold Kasket, Alfred Brown, Nana DeHerrera, Nino Falanga, Luis Guedes and Virgilio Teixeira
Director: Nathan H. Juran
Producer: Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen
Screenplay: Kenneth Kolb
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography: Wilkie Cooper
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 [Dynamation]
Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English: 1.0 Original Mono Audio, French: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Polish, Portuguese and Turkish
Running Time: 88 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: In this 1958 production, directed by Nathan Juran, in order to return the Princess Parisa [Kathryn Grant] - who has been miniaturized by the villainous magician Sokurah [Torin Thatcher] to her normal size, Sinbad [Kerwin Matthews] must obtain the shell from a fabled roc's egg for the magician to use in his potion. Along the way, he battles a barrage of mythological beasts a Cyclops, an army of skeletons, a two-headed roc and a fire-breathing dragon.
The 1950's adventure film is light on the plot but heavy on the action bolstered by the incredibly proficient work of Ray Harryhausen and his stop-motion animation techniques. Ray Harryhausen, often credited with being the man who invented special effects, put on a display of technical wizardry which, by today's standards may seem to some as a bit underwhelming, but in the terms of 1958 was well ahead of its time. Ray Harryhausen brings the film's beasts to life in a manner that somehow seems perfect for a film from 1958. In these days of GGI, it's easy to forget that there was a time when effects had to be accomplished using more practical means, and that Ray Harryhausen and his crew were able to achieve what they did and fool audiences of the day into thinking that they must have been using people in costumes to create the effects, is truly a feat worth mentioning.
Aiding the drama in Sinbad is the wonderfully instrumented score by long-time collaborator Bernard Herrmann film score blends Central Asian and Western styles for something resembling Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and perfectly captures the Middle Eastern themes and adventuresome mood of the film's protagonists. Utilizing different tonalities and themes for particular characters, Hermann's score, just as the rest of this film, looks ahead to much of the modern fantasy and science fiction films that populate the landscape today, such as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars.’ One must ask, where would many of those films be without ground-breaking predecessors in the form of films such as ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.’
Blu-ray Video Quality – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents us with an impressive 1080p encoded image to Sony’s high standard and an equally impressive 1.66:1 aspect ratio. On the bonus side we have an image, especially with the close-ups, offers really good quality. You also get very solid contrast with good rich black values. Most of the time throughout the film you get very impressive bright and colourful colour reproduction, and there is no visible compression errors throughout the Blu-ray. But occasionally we get some soft and some fuzziness effects, still with a film this age you are bound to experience this sort of thing. It also has some partially strong double contours that are recognisable, but not detriment. Sometimes the contrast acts sporadically and is somewhat slightly unstable. But what I can say is that the Effect Shots really stand out very strongly, but occasionally you do view some dirt and scratches, which I suspect was on the original negative. With old films of this age it can sometimes be very difficult to transfer to Blu-ray especially when it comes to image quality and the negative has not been re-mastered and unfortunately this has happened to ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD’ film, despite good restoration work like with newer films. This fantasy classic which again is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and you get presented with a very slim black bar left and right of your TV screen. All the stop-motion animation were almost revolutionary for its time, and stand out extremely strong for this film, especially the stop-motion shots of various monsters are of good sharpness and detail, the same can be seen in the image live-action shots are slightly softer and sometimes partly blurred. But overall it is a really good effort on the part of Sony, who can only work with what is available at the time.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment continues their trend of providing multiple language tracks on their Blu-ray releases with ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD.’ In this case there are two audio options in the form of a newly remixed 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound track and the 1.0 Original Mono audio track. The new 5.1 mix offers a slightly more expansive sound field and really lets the film score by Bernard Hermann really shows off why he is the master of this musical performance, exposing more of its intricate instrumentation. The dialogue is well balanced, if a little bit harsh and intelligible while the film's action sequences are very lively with subtle use of action packed sound. The original mono soundtrack is also good, and it is well balanced with good dynamics, clear dialogue, and ample low frequencies. Sadly, instead of utilising the centre channel for a true monaural 1.0 audio configuration, Sony has provided the soundtrack in a 2.0 Dolby Digital configuration. Still, it is good to have the original mono mix represented on this release.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Ray Harryhausen, visual effects experts Phil Tippet and Randall William Cook, author Steven Smith, and Arnold Kunert: Everyone here offers very detailed information on the filmmaking and stop-motion animation process as we watch the film, especially with all five talks in a very nice relaxed conversational manner. The first topic in the conversation is talking about the master of film music scores, which of course was Bernard Herrmann and they all praise his musical skills, especially on this film that Ray Harryhausen was really proud of the work he did and was tickled pink on what he viewed when they first saw the finished film. Ray Harryhausen also talks about the problem of getting the film off the drawing board sketches, but of course Ray Harryhausen really praises Charles H. Schneer [Producer], in having total faith in bringing this film to the silver screen. When we first get to see the Cyclops, they all praised how impressed they all were when they first saw it the cinema screen. When we get to the part of the film where Sinbad and the miniature Princess is below deck, they ask what were the false grapes made of, as they looked so realistic, but Ray Harryhausen could not remember what they were made of. When we get to scenes on the Island of Majorca, to shoot the film, they had to take twelve big heavy sound batteries, but due to technical failure of losing the sound, they had to get the actors to dub their voices back in Hollywood, because in those days the equipment was very primitive, compared to what modern filming techniques can achieve. Between 1958 to the 1960s Ray Harryhausen used lots of locations that had never been used before and that is why Ray Harryhausen moved to Europe, as he found locations that were ideally suited for his films he produced. Ray Harryhausen, in particular, offers up lots of fascinating informative anecdotes about the film's behind-the-scene production. One interesting bit of trivia that can be gleaned from the audio commentary is the fact that Ray Harryhausen had not actually met the film's young actor Richard Eyer (The Genie) until only a couple of years ago. Because of the scheduling, and all of the location filming in Spain, where Ray Harryhausen was, they used a young Spanish double in Richard Eyer's place, while Richard Eyer did all of his filming on the set in the USA with director Nathan Juran. Right at the end of the audio commentary they all wanted to thank Ray Harryhausen for all the work he did on this particular, in producing a brilliant fantasy film, which Ray Harryhausen acknowledges and especially viewing the film to the very end was the highlight of all the other people watching and commentating on the film and was the highlight of their childhood and also wanted to thank Sony Pictures for allowing them to do this audio commentary, it was great fun! Definitely a recommended must listen!
Special Feature: Remembering The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in DYNAMATION  [1080i] [1.78:1] [23:30] Here we find Ray Harryhausen reminisces on the production of ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD’ and his inspiration for making the film, which started after he finished the ‘Mighty Joe Young’ film. Ray tells us that he went to all the studios with an outline of the story of the Sinbad film, but they all turned him down. So with the collaboration of his old friend Charles H. Schneer [Producer] was able to go ahead and make ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD’ film. Originally Ray Harryhausen wanted to make the film in the Middle East, but because there was a lot turmoil going on, Spain was the best option and part of the film was shot in Granada, but the other part of the film was shot on the Island of Majorca. In the process, he offers up much information on the special effects techniques that Ray Harryhausen employed during the filming. Ray Harryhausen also gives a really exceptional overview of his involvement in the ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD.’ Ray Harryhausen also discusses his initial interest in producing a lavish, special effects-laden Sinbad film, like the Alexander Korda ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ 1940 film, but the Hollywood moguls would not put up the money, so Ray had to go it alone and make it on a very tight budget. Ray Harryhausen also traces the film’s journey from concept to screen. A huge chunk of this extra is dedicated to Ray Harryhausen talking about the creation of the key special effects sequences. Ray Harryhausen that still after 50 years, people are still fond of his stop-motion animation films, compared to some modern day stop-motion animation films. But just at that point, the interview suddenly ends without warning, still despite this it is totally fascinating and full exceptional information.
Special Feature: The Harryhausen Legacy  [1080i] [1.78:1] [25:33] Here we have is an essentially tribute to the late Ray Harryhausen, this extra features interviews with a vast array of persons, who share memories about seeing Ray Harryhausen’s films when they were you cinema goers and how his magic inspired their future careers in the film industry. The people that are featured and voicing their tribute to Ray Harryhausen are Bob Burns [Archivist and Film Historian]; John Landis [Director]; Phil Tippet [Visual Effects Artist]; Hoyt Yeatman [Visual Effects Artist]; Ken Ralston [Visual Effects Artist]; Joe Dante [Director]; John Dykstra [Visual Effects Artist]; The Chiodo Brothers [Visual Effects Artists]; Dennis Muren [Visual Effects Artist]; Doug Beswick [Visual Effects Artists]; Rick Baker [Special Make-Up and Creature Effects Artist]; Kevin Kutchaver [Visual Effects Artists]; Frank Darabont [Director]; Forrest J. Ackerman [Famous Monsters of Filmland] and Stan Winston [Special Make-Up and Creature Effects Artist].
Special Feature: The Music of Bernard Herrmann  [1080i] [1.78:1] [26:52] Here with this extended interview with Music Historian Steve Smith [Bernard Herrmann Biographer], who speaks enthusiastically about the extensive historical account of the legendary Bernard Herrmann’s composer's music and tells us how Steve Smith and Ray Harryhausen first came to collaborate. Steven Smith also talks extensively about the work of Bernard Herrmann, and also covers Bernard Herrmann’s earlier works and collaboration with Orson Welles, and of course Orson Welles’s radio plays like ‘Dracula’ and of course the infamous radio broadcast of ‘The War of the Worlds’ for his Mercury Theatre Company. Bernard Herrmann also worked closely with the Columbia Work Shop and of course composing many film scores like for instance the film ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ Bernard Herrmann was born in 1911 and was brought up in New York, and even at an early age he had a gift for music, and grew up reading as many books on different well known composers and would sneak into concert rehearsals, especially in New York and the Philharmonic Orchestras, and was always introducing himself to loads of famous composers, like for instance George Gershwin. As Bernard Herrmann progressed he now started composing musical scores for lots of well-known films, but most of all Bernard liked to experiment, like with the Theremin, and unusual mix of brass and also electronic instruments and in the 1950s started his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock and his films. But eventually Bernard Herrmann moved onto to composing musical scores for the Ray Harryhausen films and it all came about because producer Charles H. Schneer was a massive big fan of Bernard Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann was always proud of his extensive work on the Ray Harryhausen films and ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’ was his most proudest composition and would show excerpts of the film to students, especially pointing out the composition of the music score, especially in the scene where Sinbad has a sword fight with the skeleton. One other film Bernard Herrmann is proud of and that he composed was ‘The 3 Worlds of Gulliver,’ and especially one of the reasons is that Bernard Herrmann was a massive “anglophile” of European music and especially the 18th century composers. But one of the negative aspect of Bernard’s life was the increasing frustrated of the budget restrictions, especially how many musicians he could employ and the time he was allowed to compose the music score. But when Bernard Herrmann left Ray Harryhausen to pursue other projects, Bernard would stay very good friends with Ray Harryhausen. But in the last part of Bernard Herrmann’s life, he mainly resided in Great Britain and worked in different directions. But in his twilight years, his final film score was for the film ‘TAXI DRIVER.’ So to supervise the score, Bernard Herrmann flew from London to Los Angeles to hear the finished score being recorded, he then went back to his hotel and sadly passed away in his sleep. But of course Bernard Herrmann has and never will be forgotten, as a lot of modern directors loved Bernard Herrmann’s composed music and especially all the films he had worked on. This is a really nice and welcome supplement, and one not to be missed.
Special Feature: Photo Gallery  [1080i] [1.78:1] [9:34] Here we get to view a montage of stills from ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD,’ which are both in Colour and Black-and-White. While you view the montage of stills, you get to hear the impressive film's music score by Bernard Hermann. Unfortunately with the majority of the Black-and-White images, they tend to be slightly grainy.
Special Feature: "Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He's Been Good to Me"  [1080i] [1.78:1] [3:06] As part of its advertising campaign for the 1958 holiday release of ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,’ Columbia Pictures, in collaboration with its record division, Colpix Records, created a 45 rpm recording entitled "Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He's Been Good to Me." Theater managers Nationwide were encouraged to play the song in their lobbies and told that it would be perfect for all their music promotions for ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,’ including disc jockeys airings, and as awards for any contests the managers would create in their theaters. This is the first time the song has ever appeared in this special feature of the release of ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’ on the Blu-ray format. What you get to view while the song is being played, you get to view loads of colourful cinema posters from all around the world. You to unfortunately hear the song in all its glory! It also must have been totally annoying to have the staff in the theaters hearing this song blasted out 24/7. You also realise why this ghastly and embarrassing song didn’t even venture into the Hit Parade, as again it is a totally embarrassing musical experience and the people who composed this song should be totally ashamed of ever thinking of composing it.
Special Feature: A Look Behind the Voyage  [480i] [1.33:1] [11:46] This is an archival American television special on the career of Ray Harryhausen and his work on his stop-motion animation. We get contributions from Charles H. Schneer [Producer] and Kerwin Mathews [Sinbad] praising the career of this ultimate genius. We also get a lot of personal comments from Ray Harryhausen himself on the films he worked on and how he started off in his Parents garage, who also helped to encourage him in his pursuit of his dreams. You also get to see extracts form the film and also behind-the-scenes still of Ray Harryhausen working on his stop-motion animation. Despite it being brief, it is still very interesting vintage retrospective on the making of the film ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD,’ and it is a welcome inclusion. This was a Columbia Tri-Star Home Video presentation.
Special Feature: This is DYNAMATION! [Special Effects]  [480i] [1.33:1] [3:24] At the start of this special promotion, the announcer keeps telling us that “This is DYNAMATION!” and that “DYNAMATION will be brought to the screen for the first time in COLOR!" in this classic 1958 special promotion highlighting especially the ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD’ film special effects. This is really cool special, which was a vintage promotional piece that was used to promote film’s theatrical cinema release, which introduces Ray Harryhausen’s special “DYNAMATION” tricks of the trade effects techniques, which is shown in both Colour and Black-and-White. Of course Ray Harryhausen was the stop-motion animator extraordinaire behind such phantasmagorical creatures like the fighting skeletons, the cyclops, Medusa, Kraken, and the beast from 20,000 fathoms in such classics as "Jason and the Argonauts" , "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" , and of course "Clash of the Titans" . Despite it being only 3 minutes and 24 seconds long, it does have some very nice before-and-after VFX comparisons that I found totally fascinating.
Special Feature: Ray Harryhausen: Interviewed by Director John Landis  [480i] [1.33:1] [11:52] Here we get to see John Landis interviews Ray Harryhausen talking about the wealth of work Ray Harryhausen has done in his films and what is a more of a friendly discussion in which John Landis obviously holds Ray Harryhausen in very high esteem. Ray Harryhausen once again details much of the stop-motion animation process techniques he used in the filming of ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD’ and many of his other films. We also get to view some of Ray Harryhausen’s fantastic black-and-white sketches of what would eventually appear in all his fantastic films. We find out that Ray Harryhausen trained as an actor in his early career, but got stage fright, so gave up this career and instead take up his passion for stop-motion animation. In the film ‘Jason and the Argonauts,’ Ray Harryhausen says that the skeleton sequences is one of his favourite scene in the film, but it was also one of the most challenging to do the stop-motion animation, as there were seven skeletons all performing at the same time. This is a charming and welcome supplement. This was a Columbia Tri-Star Home Video presentation.
Finally, ‘THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD’ offers an interesting glimpse into the origins of special effects on the fantasy/science fiction genre of films that are so prevalent today. Without pioneers like Ray Harryhausen, much of the films and visual effects we have grown so accustomed to today may never have existed. Now is your chance to see this early master and this inventor of special effects at work in what is the best possible presentation of this film on home video in this Blu-ray Disc release. It won't wow with its presentation by any means, but it is as good as it can get given the source. The inclusion of the original mono soundtrack also adds an element of authenticity making this a cinematic experience any true cinema fan will not want to miss. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom