Son of Sinbad
Cast & Crew
Lili St. Cyr
In ancient Bagdad, poet Omar Khayyám wanders the streets in search of his friend, Sinbad, the son and namesake of the great adventurer, and finds him outside the Khalif's palace. Although the Khalif has offered a reward for his capture, the roguish Sinbad ignores Omar's warnings and nonchalantly sneaks into the palace. Spouting Omar's poetry, Sinbad romances Nerissa, one of the Khalif's harem girls, but is exposed by jealous slave Ameer, who also loves him. Both Sinbad and Omar are caught and brought before the Khalif for sentencing. Also on trial are Greek scholar Simon Aristides, and his daughter Kristina, Sinbad's childhood friend, who has been wrongfully accused of stealing. After the Khalif orders that Sinbad and Omar be executed, his advisor, Jiddah, persuades him to meet with Murad, the ambassador to Tamerlane, a Tartan leader whose forces are threatening to invade Bagdad. Murad boldly informs the Khalif that the Tartars will soon be storming the city and demands that he and his men be entertained in the meantime. Anxious to save Kristina, Sinbad reveals to the Khalif that Simon possesses the formula for an explosive called "Greek fire" and will share it with the Khalif in exchange for Simon's, Kristina's, Omar's and his freedom. The Khalif refuses to release Sinbad and Omar, but while they are incarcerated in the dungeon, Simon and Kristina give the ruler a private demonstration of Greek fire. As protection, Simon has entrusted the formula to Kristina, who can recite the instructions only while hypnotized. In front of the Khalif, Simon hypnotizes Kristina, who then gives her father directions for mixing the various bottled ingredients. Unknown to them, Jiddah is in cahoots with Murad, and both men are eavesdropping on the proceedings. Although Jiddah and Murad can hear Kristina telling her father how much of each item to use, they cannot ascertain the chemicals being poured by Simon. Meanwhile, the Khalif, ecstatic about the explosive, agrees to Simon's demand that Sinbad and Omar be freed in the morning. That night, Kristina confides in Ameer that she wants to marry Sinbad and asks her to tell him about his imminent release. Though jealous, Ameer delivers the message to Sinbad, but when she returns to Kristina's chambers, she finds Kristina gone and Simon murdered. Ameer sees Murad fleeing with Kristina and Simon's chemicals and sends a message via carrier pigeon before being caught by Jiddah. While torturing Ameer to reveal the bird's destination, Jiddah notices that she has a Forty Thieves tattoo on her shoulder. Although the Thieves, a band of raiders once led by Sinbad's father, are now dead, Ameer admits that their heirs have banded together, and Jiddah deduces that the message went to them. At dawn, Sinbad and Omar learn that their execution is to proceed as scheduled, but they escape the dungeon and fight their way to the Khalif's chambers. There, Sinbad offers to retrieve Kristina in exchange for his and Omar's freedom, some gold and a promise that he will be made second in command in Bagdad. The Khalif agrees and Sinbad rides off with Omar, unaware that Jiddah, having heard his exchange with the Khalif, is alerting Murad of his plan. Later, while resting in the desert, Sinbad and Omar are joined by Ameer, who reveals that Murad and his men are traveling in disguise with a caravan of merchants and that the Forty Thieves will attack them at first camp. Omar and Sinbad ride to the camp ahead of the caravan, and Sinbad has Omar bury him in the spot where he thinks Kristina's tent will be placed. Breathing through a reed, Sinbad remains buried in the Tartars' camp, far from Kristina's tent, until Murad unwittingly plucks his reed from the sand. Sinbad is forced to surface but manages to sneak into Kristina's tent and free her. As Sinbad, Omar and Kristina ride off, the Forty Thieves, who are all women, attack the camp and reclaim Simon's bottles. Omar, Sinbad and Kristina then go to the Forty Thieves's cave and, using the cry "open sesame," signal a donkey named Sesame to open the "door." After arranging with Ghenia, the raiders' leader, Sinbad reunites with Ameer, but when he refuses to have "eyes only for her," Ameer rejects him. Just then, Murad's men advance on the cave, and Sinbad quickly hypnotizes Kristina, who has fallen in love with Omar, and concocts some Greek fire using Simon's chemicals. Hurling torches coated with the explosive, the Thieves, Sinbad and Omar cripple Murad and his men. Sinbad then defeats Murad in a sword fight, and victory is declared. Later, Sinbad convinces the women to go with him to Bagdad and make peace with the Khalif. At the palace, the Khalif waits for Sinbad with Jiddah, whose duplicity he has yet to realize, preparing to execute him for failing his mission. When Sinbad appears with Kristina and a bevy of beautiful raiders, however, the Khalif embraces him and orders Jiddah to be de-tongued. At Sinbad's behest, Omar is made the royal poet, the Thieves are pardoned, and Sinbad is installed as second in command. Then as a final request, Sinbad asks Ameer to be his bride.
Lili St. Cyr
M. U. Smith
Mary Ann Edwards
Claire De Witt
Dee Gee Sparks
Mary Ellen Gleason
Phyllis St. Pierre
La Rue Malouf
Louise Von Kories
Albert S. D'agostino
S. G. Haughton
Walter E. Keller
Son of Sinbad
Undeterred by the censorship difficulties which plagued him after the lusty western The Outlaw (1943), multi-millionaire Howard Hughes spent the bulk of his tenure with RKO Radio Pictures in the 1950s churning out a string of glossy, fetishistic entertainments like Underwater! (1955) and, in a project that might have inspired Hugh Hefner to enter publishing, the 1955 dames-and-desert opus Son of Sinbad.
Already a Hughes favorite after his superlative turn in His Kind of Woman (1951), Vincent Price was recruited again to play Omar Khayyam, right hand man to our skirt-chasing hero, Sinbad (played by barrel-chested western star Dale Robertson). Despite the familial nature of the title, the plot actually follows the same known-and-loved sailor as he avoids a prison sentence by aiding the Khalif (One, Two, Three's (1961) Leon Askin) in an upcoming battle. Fortunately the famous forty thieves (of Ali Baba fame) sired an equal number of slinky daughters, all of whom come into play for the film's cantilevered finale.
Son of Sinbad was originally planned as a 3-D spectacle with acres of cleavage spilling out of the screen but unfortunately arrived at the end of that craze, instead unspooling for the public completely flat (relatively speaking). Nevertheless the film offers plenty of visual appeal, largely thanks to its rosters of aspiring actresses and Vegas showgirls filling the screen including a welcome lead role for notorious burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr as Nerissa, the Khalif's easily tempted wife. However, her contributions are largely overshadowed by more "legitimate" dancer/actress Sally Forrest (seen the next year in RKO's While the City Sleeps for Fritz Lang), whose exotic dance routine was one of the film's greatest stumbling blocks with the censors. Several famous faces also appear in bit roles or even split-second cameos, including a young Kim Novak, Woody Strode, and a rare onscreen appearance by ubiquitous voiceover artist Paul Frees. As for the bulk of the female cast, credit is usually attributed to Hughes' insatiable womanizing; though only credited as executive producer, his influence extended to offering roles to the countless would-be starlets he romanced and plied with promises of big screen roles. From that vantage point alone, Son of Sinbad stands as a unique cinematic experience by offering the contents of one man's little black book spilled out across an entire film.
The film's striking look can largely be attributed to director Ted Tetzlaff, a former cinematographer from such films as Notorious (1946) and My Man Godfrey (1936) whose promotion to director produced less consistent results (with the striking film noir classic The Window (1949) standing out as his finest achievement). Cinematographer William E. Snyder, already a 3-D veteran from the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), again proved his compositional ingenuity while busy composer Victor Young (The Uninvited (1944) and 1957's similar Omar Khayyam) offers another efficient and exotic score.
Released in many territories as much as two years after its premiere thanks to its displays of pulchritude, Son of Sinbad proved to be Hughes' penultimate project at RKO (followed by 1957's Jet Pilot). The film's largely self-generated scandalous reputation limited its potential as a recurring family title, though its value as a voluptuous camp exercise has ensured viewer interest for decades to come.
Producer: Howard Hughes, Robert Sparks
Director: Ted Tetzlaff
Screenplay: Jack Pollexfen, Aubrey Wisberg
Cinematography: William Snyder
Film Editing: Roland Gross, Frederic Knudtson
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Dale Robertson (Sinbad), Sally Forrest (Ameer), Lili St. Cyr (Nerissa), Vincent Price (Omar Khayyam), Mari Blanchard (Kristina), Leon Askin (Khalif).
by Nathaniel Thompson
Son of Sinbad
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
Born in Vienna, Austria as Leo Aschkenasy on September 18, 1907, Askin developed a taste for theater through his mother's love of cabaret, and as a youngster, often accompanied his mother to weekend productions.
He made a go of acting as a profession in 1925, when he took drama classes from Hans Thimig, a noted Austrian stage actor at the time. The following year, he made his Vienna stage debut in Rolf Lauckner's "Schrei aus der Strasse."
For the next six year (1927-33), he was a popular stage actor in both Vienna and Berlin before he was prevented to work on the stage by Hitler's SA for being a Jew. He left for Paris in 1935 to escape anti-semetic persecution, but returned to Vienna in 1935, to find work (albeit a much lower profile to escape scrutiny), but after a few years, the writing was on the wall, and he escaped to New York City in 1939, just at the outbreak of World War II. His luck in the Big Apple wasn't really happening, and in 1941, he relocated to Washington D.C. and briefly held the position of managing director of the Civic Theatre, a popular city venue of the day. Unfortunately, after the tragic events of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the United States became involved in the war that had already engulfed Europe for two years, and seeing a possibility to expediate his application for American citizenship, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
After the war, Leon indeed became a U.S. citizen and changed his name from Leon Aschkenasy to Leon Askin. He returned to New York and found work as a drama teacher, and more importantly, landed his first gig on Broadway, as director and actor in Goethe's Faust in 1947, which starred Askin in the title character opposite the legendary Albert Bassermann who played Mephisto. The production was a huge success. Askin followed this up with another director/actor stint with Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and co-starred with Jose Ferrer in Ben Hecht's 20th Century. They were all Broadway hits, and Askin had finally achieved the success he had worked so hard to seek and merit.
It wasn't long before Hollywood came calling, and soon Askin, with his rich German accent and massive physical presence, made a very effective villian in a number of Hollywood films: the Hope-Crosby comedy Road to Bali (1952); Richard Burton's first hit film The Robe; and the Danny Kaye vehicle Knock on Wood (1954).
Askin's roles throughout the 50's were pretty much in this "menacing figure" vein, so little did anyone suspect that around the corner, Billy Wilder would be offering him his most memorable screen role - that of the Russian commissar Peripetschikof who gleefully embraces Amercian Capitalism in the scintillating politcal satire, One, Two, Three (1961). Who can forget this wonderfully exchange between Peripetschikof and Coca Cola executive C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney):
Peripetschikof: I have a great idea to make money. I have a storage full of saurkraut and I'll sell it as Christmas tree tinsil!
MacNamara: You're a cinch!
His performance for Wilder was wonderfully comedic and wholly memorable, and after One, Two, Three the film roles for Askin got noticable better, especially in Lulu and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (both 1962); but he began to find prominent guest shots on hit television shows too: My Favorite Martian and The Outer Limits to name a few; yet his big break came in 1965, when for six seasons he played General Albert Burkhalter, the Nazi general who was forever taking Col. Kilink's ineptitude to task in Hogan's Heroes (1965-71).
Roles dried up for Askin after the run of Hogan's Heroes, save for the occassional guest spot on television: Diff'rent Strokes, Three's Company, Happy Days; and parts in forgettable comedies: Going Ape! (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). After years of seclusion, Askin relocated to his birthplace of Vienna in 1994, and he began taking parts in numerous stage productions almost to his death. In 2002, he received the highest national award for an Austrian citizen when he was bestowed with the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class, for Science and Art. He is survived by his third wife of three years, Anita Wicher.
by Michael T. Toole
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
As depicted in the film, Omar Khayyám was a Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer, best known for his poetical work Rubáiyát. Contemporary sources add the following information about the production: Prior to production, Ursula Thiess, Louis Jordan and Keith Andes were announced as cast members but did not appear in the final film. At the start of principal photography, Sally Forrest replaced an ailing Piper Laurie in the role of "Ameer." Maurice Anka was cast, but his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. RKO borrowed Dale Robertson from Twentieth Century-Fox and Mari Blanchard from Universal for the production. In January 1953, RKO announced that the desert scenes would be shot in Death Valley, CA, but it is not known whether any location filming actually took place there. The picture was shot in 3-D, without SuperScope, but was released theatrically in flat widescreen. Modern sources note that one of the film's negatives was adapted to SuperScope. Son of Sinbad was writer-producer Robert Sparks's last film for RKO, the studio with which he had been associated since 1947, and also marked Kim Novak's first screen role. Although The French Line is generally considered to be Novak's first film, as it was released before Son of Sinbad, Son of Sinbad was made first. Novak is listed in the CBCS as Marilyn Novak.
Because of censorship problems, Son of Sinbad was not generally released until June 1955. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, while the script met with only minor objections, the shot film was condemned by the PCA. In a January 27, 1954 memo, PCA director Joseph I. Breen noted that the picture was "unacceptable" by "reason of indecent dance movements and too scanty costuming." Breen particularly objected to dance footage appearing under the opening titles. On February 11, 1954, Breen notified RKO of its decision not to grant the film a certificate. According to an April 1954 Daily Variety news item, RKO considered releasing the picture without a seal, as it briefly had done with its 1954 release The French Line . Although the PCA file includes reports from Ohio and Kansas censor boards, dated March 1954, it has not been determined whether the film actually had any public screenings at that time.
To obtain a PCA seal, RKO cut and resubmitted Son of Sinbad, finally eliminating the title dance sequence and shortening other offending numbers. Although Breen issued the film a certificate in March 1955, the Legion of Decency gave the picture a "C," or condemned, rating in mid-May 1955. In particular, the Legion complained about a dance performed by Lili St. Cyr, a former stripper. Because of the Legion's rating, RKO announced that the picture's Los Angeles June 1, 1955 opening was to be canceled. The film did open in Los Angeles on June 1, 1955, and with the exception of Memphis, all state and municipal censor boards passed the edited picture, with only some minor eliminations. In mid-August 1955, however, Hollywood Reporter reported that the film, which had already netted over $1,000,000 at the box office, was being withdrawn, presumably to be recut and resubmitted to the Legion. In 1961, the film was re-released by Excelsior Pictures under the title Nights in a Harem. For information about other films featuring "Sinbad," see the entry for the 1947 RKO film Sinbad the Sailor in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.