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We've all wanted to see Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, playing chess with a large baboon, right? And that's just one of the many endearing attractions of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). We'll admit that Dr. Quinn isn't actually in the film but Jane Seymour sure is and she does in fact match wits against a large ape. But what else would you expect from such an off-the-wall fantasy adventure featuring plenty of special effects from Ray Harryhausen, the maestro of stop-motion animation?
It seems that Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas) has been turned into a baboon by the evil Zenobia (Margaret Whiting). Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) has the idea that if he releases the Prince from the spell then the Prince's babe-licious sister (Jane Seymour) will marry him. Along the way he has to deal with ghouls, a saber-toothed tiger, a giant Troglodyte, a metal robot and an angry hornet. A really big angry hornet.
Like so many other things in Hollywood, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger came into being because an earlier film was a hit. That trigger event was The Golden Voyage of Sinbad which hit screens in 1974, becoming a surprise success largely due to Ray Harryhausen's wonderful animation. The studio prompted him for a follow-up so Harryhausen came up with the idea for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, co-writing it with Beverley Cross (Jason and the Argonauts, 1963, Clash of the Titans, 1981). Brought on board to direct was Sam Wanamaker, perhaps best known as a character actor in films like Private Benjamin (1980) and Baby Boom (1987). He's even more highly regarded for his stage work in Shakespearean productions.
In an interview with Dan Scapperotti for Cinefantastique magazine, Harryhausen admitted that the main challenge of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger was creating a fantasy world far removed from previous Sinbad outings, one which includes a snow-covered environment. "Ice always presents a problem," Harryhausen stated. "We photographed some of it in Northern Spain. We didn't have the cast at the time so we had to supplement it by photographing some of the ice shots in Malta, where it gets to be 110 degrees. It became a problem for the actors to wear the heavy fur coats in the heat, but regardless, we got the effect that it was cold. We wanted to get Sinbad involved in an adventure that didn't occur in the Arabian Nights - going to the North Pole." As for the stop-motion effects and animated creatures on display in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Harryhausen clearly had a favorite: "I suppose I had the most fun with the baboon because he was the most humanoid. Trog had a lot of interesting qualities because as some people might comment he could have been a man in a suit. But I feel he would have lost something if we used a Greek wrestler with hair glued on and a mask. I don't think we would have gotten the effect and I would have been wide open to criticism as I was on One Million Years B.C.  with our little talented lizard."
Although the special effects in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger are the main event, the unusual cast is also a reason to take this voyage. Patrick Wayne (as Sinbad) is John Wayne's son and appeared not only in a few of his dad's films (like The Searchers, 1956) but also The People That Time Forgot (1977) and Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985) when he wasn't busy hosting TV's The Monte Carlo Show. Jane Seymour (as Farah) we've already mentioned is also Dr. Quinn but did any trivia hounds know her real name is Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg? Perhaps the biggest surprise is Margaret Whiting (the evil Zenobia), the classic singer who had over 40 hits during the decade after World War II. This was one of her very rare film appearances, though she did grace an episode of The Avengers. And the offspring theme continues with Taryn Power, the daughter of Tyrone Power. Science fiction fans may think Patrick Troughton (as Melanthius) looks awfully familiar. That's because he was the second Dr. Who. And somewhere in the supporting cast is Peter Mayhew, better known as Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, but we have to confess ignorance as to exactly which scenes he makes an appearance.
Producer: Charles H. Scheer, Ray Harryhausen
Director: Sam Wanamaker
Screenplay: Beverley Cross, Ray Harryhausen (story)
Cinematography: Ted Moore
Art Direction: Fred Carter, Fernando Gonzalez
Music: Roy Budd
Film Editing: Roy Watts
Special Effects: Ray Harryhausen
Cast: Patrick Wayne (Sinbad), Taryn Power (Dione), Jane Seymour (Farah), Patrick Troughton (Melanthius), Margaret Whiting (Zenobia), Kurt Christian (Rafi), Nadim Sawalha (Hassam).
by Lang Thompson