The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (Gordon Hessler / United Kingdom-U.S., 1974):

Following manuscript-styled opening credits, an incantation of Baudelaire's albatross: A swooping creature drops a fragmented amulet on the vessel's deck, Sinbad (John Philip Hall) decides to hang on to it after a faceless odalisque with painted eyes on her palms comes as a vision. Another piece of the tablet belongs to the noble Vizier (Douglas Wilmer), who hides a charred visage behind a gold-plated Hellenistic mask; together they reveal a navigation chart, the answer to its riddle is at a mystical island populated by natives who paint themselves jade-green and worship Ray Harryhausen behemoths. The climactic brawl between a centaur and a griffin has to be some kind of stop-animation benchmark, and a few wide-eyed words are all it takes for the Amazonian figurehead at the ship's prow to come to vengeful life. Still, Harryhausen's most touching work is done in the quiet, beguiling scene in which the villainous wizard (Tom Baker) patiently breathes life into a tiny gargoyle, a concise ode to the divine qualities of the craftsman's art. Zoom lenses and matte work figure very adroitly in Gordon Hessler's direction, reaching a hallucinatory zenith during Robert Shaw's unbilled appearance as the "Oracle of All Knowledge," a horned Mister Arkadin. As for the rest, you have the marvels of the '70s -- the stoned slacker (Kurt Christian) who reaches manhood while facing down a rampaging Shiva statue with six swords, and the tightly-cleavaged slave (Caroline Munro) who allows Sinbad a knowing sop to women's lib ("You are free now. Fetch me a drink. Please?"). With Martin Shaw, Grégorie Aslan, Takis Emmanuel, and David Garfield.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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