The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Ever since I began this blog, I’ve maintained one annual tradition: on my birthday, I post a review of a film featuring a film personality who shares my birthday. I’ve reviewed Ittefaq (starring Nanda); Wild in the Country (starring Elvis Presley) and Baghdad ka Jaadoo (with Fearless Nadia). This time, it’s back to Baghdad – with Kerwin Matthews, who, like me, was born on the 8th of January. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is typical Kerwin Matthews fare: he gets to swing a sword, battle an array of fearsome (sometimes unintentionally hilarious) monsters, and generally be the man who wins the day for the good guys.

So here’s remembering Mr Matthews. Happy birthday, and RIP.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is one of those films that plunges straight into action once the credits have rolled. We find Captain Sinbad (Kerwin Matthews) on board his ship, sailing through a dark and gloomy night. His crew are a disgruntled, hungry and thirsty lot – they’re lost – but Sinbad has guessed that they’re nearing land. When he calls for the depths to be plumbed, sure enough: there are signs they’re approaching land.
But what land? This stretch of the sea is very treacherous – who knows what dangers lurk here? Sea serpents? Other horrific monsters?

Sinbad is optimistic, though, and goes off to the cabin of his passenger and fiancée Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant). Parisa is the daughter of the Sultan of Chandra, and Sinbad is taking her, along with her maid Sadi (Nana DeHerrera), to Baghdad, where Sinbad and Parisa will be getting married.

Sinbad reassures the two women, and just as well, because when they reach land the next morning, the crew – out filling their casks with fresh water, and searching for food – see some mysterious (and unsettling) giant cloven footprints. Anybody else would’ve turned around and tiptoed back to the ship, but Sinbad is nothing if not adventurous (foolhardy?). So he follows, arrives at a cave, and comes face to face with a hideous Cyclops, all leathery hide and huge eye and loud roaring.

Also suddenly part of the picture is the magician Sokurah (Torin Thatcher). Sokurah and the Cyclops seem to have been in the middle of trying to kill each other, and the arrival of Sinbad and his men distracts the Cyclops enough to let Sokurah pull out a large brassy lamp, rub it, mutter a quick verse over it:

… and summon a sweet, rather sad-faced little genie (Richard Eyer).

The genie, at Sokurah’s command, raises an invisible wall between the Cyclops and the men, so that the men – including Sokurah – are able to make their escape. They hurry into their boats, and begin to row out to the ship.
Alas, they have barely moved away from the beach before a well-aimed rock thrown by the Cyclops upturns one boat, sending Sokurah’s magic genie-housing lamp down to the seabed:

From where the Cyclops retrieves it, and tossing it about in its three-fingered hands, takes the lamp back to the island. Sokurah is thoroughly peeved, of course – his beloved lamp, now in the hands of that Cyclops! – but he takes heart. Firstly, because the genie of the lamp can only be summoned to do tasks that do not entail causing harm to anyone. Secondly, because the genie cannot be summoned without speaking the magic words. And the Cyclops, as we’ve already witnessed for ourselves, is capable only of incoherent grunts and roars.

Sinbad is eager to get on home to Baghdad so he can and Parisa can get married, so Sokurah has very little choice. He goes along with them to Baghdad, and once they reach the grand city, Sokurah approaches the Caliph of Baghdad (Alec Mango). He tells the Caliph his sad tale, and tries to plead with the Caliph (and Sinbad, who’s there too) to outfit a ship so that Sokurah can sail back to the island.
He even shows them a blueprint he’s made for a giant crossbow that can kill the Cyclops – but it doesn’t appeal to either Sinbad or the Caliph.

Later that day, Parisa’s father, the Sultan of Chandra (Harold Kasket) also arrives, and Sokurah tries to impress him too. He tells them that the Cyclops (there are apparently an entire clan of them living on the island) collect treasure, and they’ve got a century’s worth of treasure buried deep in the caves of the island.
Eventually, Sokurah is reduced to trying to impress them all with evidence of his great power. He changes Parisa’s maid Sadi into a weird four-armed ‘snake woman’:

And when that doesn’t work, pretends to see the future of Baghdad and Chandra: a gloomy future, dark with disaster which only he, Sokurah, is capable of averting. Instead of being impressed, the Sultan and the Caliph tick Sokurah off for trying to hoodwink them. He is told in no uncertain terms that he’s not getting a ship to go retrieve a measly lamp, no matter how magical. That isn’t their problem.

Sokurah pretends to be cowed down, but late that night, he looks in on the sleeping Parisa, and throws some magical powder into the candle burning by her bedside.
…making great clouds of ugly green smoke billow out. Poor Princess Parisa, still fast asleep, breathes in all those grotty green fumes – and shrinks. Next morning, Sinbad enters her room, and finds a tiny Parisa, understandably frantic, wondering what’s happened to her.  There’s much consternation, and both the Sultan and the Caliph, on arriving to discover the cause for the hullabaloo, are at their wits’ end.

Sokurah is happy to admit that he’s the one behind Parisa’s sudden miniaturisation. He is also quick to tell them why he did it: he, after all, is the only person who knows how to restore her to her usual size. And no, their jumping at him or torturing him is not going to help. The potion Sokurah must make to restore Parisa to normal has to contain a piece of eggshell from the egg of a roc, the giant bird that nests on the island of Colossa. Colossa just happens to be the island where the Cylops live, and where Sokurah’s magic lamp now resides.

So Sinbad, the Caliph and the Sultan are now caught in a cleft stick. They have no option but to agree.
Unluckily for Sinbad, his crew has disappeared – nobody wants to go on this suicide mission. Except for one faithful friend, Harufa (Alfred Brown), Sinbad has no shipmates.
His solution is simple: go to the local jail and offer the job to the prisoners. In any case, it’s a choice between dying by the hangman’s noose, or going sailing to Colossa – and Sinbad has managed to get the Caliph’s go-ahead that any men who volunteer for the mission and return alive will be granted a pardon.

Beggars can’t be choosers, so this bunch of criminals joins up as Sinbad’s crew. Sokurah, of course, will come along with them on the ship. He also insists that Parisa be taken along – Sokurah has a laboratory (or den, or whatever – where he brews his magic potions and gets up to no good) on Colossa. Once Sinbad has procured the roc’s eggshell, Sokurah will make for this place and make the potion to restore Parisa to normalcy.

And so they set off, Sinbad carrying his beloved in a small bejewelled glass jar (which reminds me rather of a canary in a cage – poor Parisa doesn’t even seem to have any miniature furniture in there to keep her comfy). Sokurah can’t wait to get to the island and have a go at getting his precious magic lamp back from the Cyclops. All Sinbad wants is to have Parisa a big girl again.

But the criminal crew is already plotting a mutiny, and a terrifying collection of surprises are in store for Sinbad, Parisa, and the loyal Harufa, the two lovers’ only real friend in this adventure.

What I liked about this film:

I must confess that I hadn’t held out much hope for this film. Firstly, I find old Hollywood interpretations of the Middle East very lame (have you seen Tony Curtis flicks like The Prince who was a Thief, or Son of Ali Baba? Painful). Secondly, special effects in a lot of early films tend to fall a bit flat. Thirdly, I must admit that I didn’t recognise the names of anyone in the cast.

Surprise, surprise. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad may not be the best adventure/fantasy film ever made, but I’m guessing it should rank pretty high up in the list of such films made in the 50s. The script’s good and tight (Sinbad and Parisa don’t even waste much time cootchy-cooing!). Some of the sets – filmed in the Alhambra – are beautifully Moorish, with lovely stonecarving. Okay, not Baghdad, but the closest they could get to, back then when the Middle East was a turbulent area.

And, a special mention: Ray Harryhausen’s special effects. In today’s CGI-heavy films, these would look fairly inept, but honestly: when you think back to the 1950s and the limited resources Harryhausen had to work with, what he’s churned out is really very commendable. In The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the Cyclops and the dragon move pretty jerkily (and don’t look too real, either)…

… but the roc’s more impressive.

What I didn’t like:

What I feared: the exotified (and distorted) depiction of the Middle East. It’s obvious – Baghdad, the Sultan, the Caliph, the frequent references to Allah – that this is an Islamic milieu. Seeing Parisa wander around in rather revealing clothing, even sharing a palanquin in Baghdad with Sinbad (whom she kisses in the course of the ride) – made me go “Huh?”

And the four-armed snake lady that Parisa’s maid Sadi is turned into? We could’ve done without that scene. Really. Not needed at all, and it was weird.

But, barring those minor inconveniences: a fun film that doesn’t require thinking, and is good, fast-paced fantasy adventure all the way. Sit back and enjoy!

Edited to add: At Harvey’s request, a couple of shots of the ‘bejewelled glass cage’ (Parisa’s travelling cabin’) in which Sinbad takes his poor shrunken sweetheart to Colossa. Here, you can see her standing outside the case (which is on the right of the screenshot), talking to Sinbad:

And here she is, in a closer shot. Okay, I was a little wrong about the lack of furniture; but really, how much help is a flimsy little bench? What if she wants to stretch her legs? Or go to the loo?

62 thoughts on “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

  1. A very Happy Birthday DO!!!
    I see that you share it with some interesting people. :)
    What are the plans for the day?

    Not very original of me, but I want to post this song

    Enjoyed reading your review, and am wondering if that should suffice.
    All these Baghdad films (Hollywood or old hindi films) had this air of a fairy tale so I think of them rather fondly.


    • I don’t mind the ‘lack of originality’ (though I wouldn’t put it like that) in you posting that song – it is one of my favourites, ever. I simply love it. Thank you, pacifist! That’s a great birthday present for me. :-)

      The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is certainly very fairytale-like. All the elements there – evil magician, monsters, valiant hero, pretty princess, buried treasure – what’s not to like? This one was lots of fun.


  2. Pirate films!
    Love good pirate films. Hindi pirate films are always such a let down. Arabian Nights are always a treat!
    Here it seems that Sindbad gets to partake some of Odysseus adventures as well. Good for him!

    Wish you a happy birthday and an adventurous and exciting, but all the same safe, new year in your life!


    • Thank you for the birthday greetings, Harvey!

      This film’s not much of a pirate film, though it does have some similarities (sailing, the treasure, battling for one’s life, and so on). But it’s straight out of the Arabian Nights, with a good bit of other fairytale elements thrown in. Plenty of good entertainment. Now I’m looking for more Kerwin Mathews films – apparently he acted in quite a few of these swashbuckling ones, including Jack the Giant Killer (a remake of which is going to be released in 2012).


  3. Today in the morning I was very much in hurry to write all the things that went though my mind while reading your review. But now ‘fursaat se’ I can tell you that it was once again a very entertaining review. Funny AND enjoyable!

    So here are some of my thoughts!

    “Parisa is the daughter of the Sultan of Chandra”
    Of Chandra like Moon?

    “where Sinbad and Parisa will be getting married.”
    A princess getting married to a lowly sailor? VEry egalitarian, aren’t they? *snubbing my nose*

    “but Sinbad is nothing if not adventurous (foolhardy?)”
    I think foolhardy and encroaching.

    “sad-faced little genie”
    I would look sad too if I had to live in a lamp my whole life and carry out orders every time I come out.

    In the 10th screen cap is Parisa draped in a sort of sari?

    “And when that doesn’t work…”
    Kind guest is this Sokurah, transforming the house-hold help into unearthy creatures. Does he really thing that such actions bring in good-will?

    “Parisa… shrinks”
    And so does her gown!

    “Sinbad carrying his beloved in a small bejewelled glass jar”
    A screen cap of this scene! Pleaaase!

    “Parisa doesn’t even seem to have any miniature furniture”
    One should call the SPCM

    “back then when the Middle East was a turbulent area.”
    Compared to now, it was a haven of peace then!

    BTW the post which I had promised you for mid-winter is on my blog!


    • Wah, that is a long and well-thought out (though refreshingly spontaneous!) comment. :-)

      Yes, ‘Chandra’ did seem to be as in the ‘moon’ – I didn’t see it written anywhere, so I’m guessing that’s how they spelled it. But, as you say, the royalty of Chandra seem to be very egalitarian. Perhaps the Sultan has figured out that Sinbad, what with all his adventures, will probably find a huge treasure soon (which, as it happens, he does), so thinks it doesn’t matter. Or maybe he’s just a fond father, and willing to go along with whatever Parisa says. Now I’m wishing there was a prequel in which we saw how Parisa and Sinbad met and got engaged…

      The ‘spending one’s life in a lamp and carrying out people’s commands’ is what’s made the genie sad. He admits it, later.

      Oh, and a lot of Parisa’s fashions seem to be based on the sari. That one in the garden, certainly. Also the one before that, where Sokurah is trying to convince Sinbad to return to Colossa while they’re still in the ship – though that costume of Parisa’s is something like a cross between an ancient Greek dress and a sari

      Have put in two screen caps of Parisa and her travelling cabin, at the end of this post. Seems I wasn’t paying total attention re: the furniture, but I honestly think it’s too meagre. :-D


      • P.S. It’s convenient, isn’t it, how people who shrink/shapeshift/disappear/appear etc in old films invariably have the same thing happen to their clothes too? Though I remember watching a TV adaptation of HG Wells’s The Invisible Man, in which he took off all his clothes when he wanted to remain invisible. Smart, for a change.


        • Thanks for the screen caps of Parisa’s travelling cabin! It makes me feel all very sad for Parisa. That thing is less than a canary cage. In fact, it is more of a standing coffin with board going horizontally in the middle making it into torture chamber! Poor Parisa! :-(

          The father a Sultan and all she gets is a coffin to live in! No wonder she takes the first good man that comes in her life, even though he is a sailor, is more interested in one-eyed beasts and doesn’t cootchy-coo with her. ;-)


          • Oh, he does cootchy-coo, but only in between fighting off monsters! But he’s obviously pretty fond of Parisa, even though he doesn’t have the sense to realise that maybe she won’t be very comfortable in that box he’s put her in. Worse? There’s one point in the film where he’s having to run and climb and fight and whatnot – which he does with poor Parisa (inside her box) tucked into his waistband. Poor girl must be getting thrown about from here to there inside! :-(


  4. Happy birthday, Madhu Dustedoff! That’s a fun writeup for what looks like a fun film. And that’s an interesting concept; i.e., annually reviewing a film featuring a personality who shares your birthday. But I imagine you will run out of personalities soon…

    There is one very famous person who shares your birthday who is much better known as a rock star but has been in some films. Here’s a song of his, one I specifically picked so as not to stray too far from the subject of the post :-) …


    • Thank you, Richard – and for the video! Yes, I mostly tend to associate David Bowie only with being a musician, though I have seen a movie of his that I did like quite a bit: Labyrinth:

      There are rather a lot of people whom I discovered who were born on the 8th of January. In fact, till just a couple of days back, I’d been thinking of reviewing I Accuse! (starring Jose Ferrer, also born on the 8th)… but the film’s theme is somewhat reminiscent of Paths of Glory – French army, injustice. etc – so I decided to be different. Oh, and Saeed Jaffrey was also an 8th of January baby. And Roy Kinnear and Yvette Mimieux.

      P.S. Saw a mention of your blog in The Times of India yesterday, in an article about non-Indians who blog about Indian cinema. :-)


    • Thank you! :-) I was chatting with some friends yesterday, and all of us agreed that films like this reminded us of those lovely old days of when we were kids and loved films like this – as long as there was lots of adventure and a happy end, it was fine. We even thought, back then, that the special effects weren’t bad at all.


  5. Many happy returns of the day, Madhu. I hope you had enjoyable time.

    Sounds like fun; and I’m willing to forgive more in the movies of those days than I am in recent films.

    Coming late to this one (migraines and insomnia do not make a conducive atmosphere to blogging).


    • Thanks, Anu, for the wishes. Yes, I had a wonderful time – watched a film (of course!), went out with family for dinner, got phone calls and messages from a lot of people, and generally felt very pampered. Lovely!

      Oh, poor you. Migraines and insomnia are an awful combination. :-( Get well soon!


    • Thanks, Piyush!

      Yes, the Sinbad stories (and the other Arabian Nights ones) were so much fun, weren’t they? I loved them as a kid, which is why this film had gave me that lovely nostalgic feeling…


  6. A very Happy belated Birthday Madhu!!! i hope you had a blast yesterday. Have a wonderful year ahead, see awesome films and post on them up here for us to enjoy!! May Love and happiness always surround you!! Take care.


    • Hey Sharmi, thank you so much! I did have a wonderful time. :-)

      Amen to that “see awesome films and post on them up here for us to enjoy!!” May we all see awesome films; may we all be spared the trauma of having to sit through films like Chandan ka Palna and Parivar!


  7. A belated Many Happy Returns of the day. Of your “birthday” movies, the only one I have seen is “Ittefaq” (and liked it as well.)
    I presume you are nothing like Nanda in “Ittefaq” ;), on my birthday I was once given a list of famous persons who share my birth month, and the first two were Adolf Hitler & Saddam Hussein.


    • I should hope I’m nothing like Nanda’s character in Ittefaq

      Big spoiler ahead for Ittefaq:

      I haven’t killed anybody yet, at any rate! ;-) But she was just a fictional character. no? At least I don’t share a birthday with Dr Crippen or Osama. Oh, and I don’t think sharing a birth month with the world’s big villains is bad. Birth day, maybe… not birth month.

      Spoiler ends

      Ittefaq was good, wasn’t it? One of my favourite ‘classic’ Hindi suspense films.


        • Ouch! My brains must’ve gone wandering. Thanks for pointing that out, pacifist – I’ve added a spoiler alert now.

          Spoiler for Ittefaq

          And yes, you’re right. Conspirator, I’d think. Not Sudhir; do you mean Sujit Kumar?

          Spoiler ends


  8. Belated Happy Birthday, Madhu! I remember reading the Sindbad stories and enjoying them (once upon a time, that is!), and it sounds like this movie was an enjoyable one, too! I remember wondering how big the roc would be, because I remember reading about Sindbad riding on the roc in one of the adventures, and now that I have seen your picture, I can imagine Sindbad riding on that bird!

    Those pictures of Parisa’s cabin are great! Incidentally, we have a friend whose granddaughter is named Parisa, and I was telling her that I had never heard the name Parisa before. Well, now I can tell her about this movie and the Parisa here!

    And I am not trying to be nitpicky here, but there is no way that Parisa can stretch out on that tiny bench!


    • And I am not trying to be nitpicky here, but there is no way that Parisa can stretch out on that tiny bench!

      Parisa expands as she is taken outside, and shrinks to fit when she is inside the case.

      After all these years of movie watching! Lalitha, I’m shocked! :-)


      • That is a thought. Hmm.

        But then why not stretch all the way back to her normal, lady-sized form when she’s out? Or has Sokurah put some sort of ‘outside limit’ on her size? Maybe that’s it.

        Hope you’re feeling all right now, Anu.


        • Till the beginning of XIXth century the sorcery rules allowed a shrinkage only to 10 cm and that was it. The Sorcerers Congress of 1832 at Hampshire of allowed the winds of the Age of Enlightenment blow through the halls of Sorcery and said even the shrunken humans had rights and gave them the rights to shrink to even smaller size while travelling in a travelling kit, as to lessen damage through shaking while travelling.

          This story of the film plays in the years before this amendment came to power and to show the cruelty of the rules before that age Ray Harryhausen had even created a set for the director Nathan Juran to shoot certain scenes to this effect, but the producer Charles H. Schneer wouldn’t allow it and said that since the film is being shot in XXth century the rules of that century should apply for the film. He also gave the excuse that the one couldn’t expect from the audience to see such cruelty on screen. Nobody at that time could understand Schneer’s line of reasoning. Only in the 70s did people realise why he did it. His daughter was being held hostage at that moment by the Sorcerers Guild of Hollywood. The Sorcerers Guild of NY City was against this but but the Hollywood Guild was more powerful.


          • Good one, Harvey! You have successfully messed up whatever little brains I have functioning at this point with your explanation for the limits on shrinkage!


            • Thank you, dear Lalitha!
              But you haven’t as yet heard about the amendments of Lausanne Congress 2005 as yet.
              for e.g., People can be shrunk only to their 1/10th size and for travel purposes therre is a buffer of 5 cm, but that is only for people with the height from 2m to 1.45 . People with height below 1,45m can be shrunk only to 1/8th of their height but this limitation is removed if they weigh more than 80kg. There are more rules now, but I won’t bore you with it.
              A fascinating field, this Science of Sorcery!


          • Why on earth did I ask that question?!!

            Harvey, Harvey *shakes head in despair*. What are you doing in botany? You should be writing screenplays. Such immense creativity, expending itself on leaves and stamens and pistils and whatnot… a sheer waste.


    • Lalitha, thank you for the birthday wishes! The movie was certainly an enjoyable one – very much like how I’d imagined (as a child) the stories to be.

      I don’t think poor Parisa was even meant to stretch out on that bench – just curl up on it. That’s why, whenever Sinbad remembers to let her out of her ‘cage’, she spends the first minute or so stretching and limbering up! Poor girl. I hope the Parisa you know never ends up with a boyfriend with such little sensitivity for her comfort!! ;-)


  9. Belated Happy birthday! Hope you had a fabulous one.
    You must be really glad to have so many film personalities born on the same day as you. Great for the blog :)


    • Hey, Anoushka! Thank you so much. :-)

      Yes, I’m glad so many film personalities share my birthday – I won’t have to wonder how to keep this tradition going, at least for a few years!


        • IMDB. If you know of even one actor/actress/film personality who shares your birthday, you go to their IMDB page. Where their biography appears, you’ll see their birthdate. Click on that, and the page that opens will contain a list of all IMDB-mentioned film personalities who were born on that date (irrespective of year).


            • I did tell you, didn’t I, that you share a birthday with my sister? I have also discovered that both of you share your birthday with one of my favourite modern filmstars – in fact, my favourite British actor, Richard Armitage. Looks drop-dead gorgeous and is a fantastic actor.


                • “You can have him.”

                  Really?! Yay!!! Yippeee!! (Though I’m not so sure my husband will approve). ;-)

                  Honestly, Richard Armitage does look good even without the long sideburns:

                  You actually need to see him act to appreciate him.


  10. Madhu, just a note for you, and your readers – if you haven’t already heard:

    Kalpana (Shammi Kapoor’s heroine in Professor) passed away on the 4th of January.

    I meant to put that down when I commented on your post the first time but it slipped my mind.


  11. I haven’t read this review yet, I will later but I do not actually need to read the review to find out whether I will like the film or not, that actually is a foregone conclusion I love these old fantasy films. I loved Jason and the Argonauts and the older version of Clash of the Titans and many such films, names of which I do not at the moment recall.


    • My brother-in-law keeps telling me about the older version of The Clash of the Titans, and how good it was. He has the DVD of that, so I’ll borrow it one of these days and see it. About time! Incidentally, the special effects for that too were done by Harryhausen, who did the SFX for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this film – it’s great fun!

      Thanks also for the Jason and the Argonauts recommendation – I’ll look out for it.


  12. Nostalgic! Was very fond of Arabian NIghts as a kid. I still like these fantasy stories…though too loud at times. The fact that they will have happy endings not matter what is what keeps me glued to them


    • Yes, the happy endings are a major part of the attraction, no? And the reassurance all through that no matter how dangerous the monster or how seemingly hopeless the situation, things will turn out all right. :-) I love these fantasy stories for that reason, too – they appeal to the kid in me.


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