In ancient Persia, legendary Middle Eastern adventurer, Sinbad the Sailor (Douglas Fairbanks’s Jr., Gunga Din), recounts his search for the lost treasure of Alexander the Great to a group of incredulous bystanders.
Reaction & Thoughts:
RKO’s elaborate, expensive production didn’t become the blockbuster the studio was hoping for, but over the years, Sinbad the Sailor has acquired a cult following. Although it has always been a childhood favorite, now I can see why Sinbad the Sailor wasn’t a big hit with audiences and why it still doesn’t have ardent defenders.
Sinbad the Sailor is a bit talky for an adventure movie. The literate dialogue, courtesy of John Twist (The Big Trees), is good but tends to slow things down considerably. Director Richard Wallace (Tycoon) doesn’t do much to keep the momentum going. It’s disappointing that there isn’t much swashbuckling action. It also lacks any fantasy elements, something I have come to expect from a Sinbad movie.
But the movie’s top production values are candy to the eyes. George Barnes’s (Rebecca) three-strip Technicolor photography is simply gorgeous. The sets and costumes are colorful and the visual effects — mostly miniature work and matte paintings — are playful and imaginative. Roy Webb’s (Cat People) wonderful music score is the movie’s biggest asset — it’s spirited and melodious in equal doses.
I also liked how the movie plays like a fairy tale with a moral lesson. The film’s main message, greed is bad, makes it perfect for small children — maybe that’s why I loved it as a kid — who don’t suffer from a short attention span.
Above all, Sinbad the Sailor shows Douglas Fairbanks Jr. at his best — this is probably his best film role. He looks so much like his father — the same winning smile and hyperactive personality — that I kept pinching myself; am I watching the father or the son? Was it a deliberate attempt to pay homage to dad? I don’t know, but it worked for me.
Maureen O’Hara’s (The Black Swan) role is more window dressing than anything else, but her natural feistiness comes across well enough. Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek) and Walter Slezak (The Pirate) play the villains, and Alan Napier (Alfred, TV’s Batman) shows up late as an old hermit. George Tobias (Sergeant York) plays Sinbad’s sidekick. Noir Queen, Jane Greer (Out of the Past), has a small role as harem girl.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Sinbad the Sailor isn’t as much fun as Ray Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) or Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), but Fairbanks Jr. alone makes the film worthwhile. Although a bit on the slow side, the film is very pretty and delightfully old-fashioned. Color, 118 minutes, Not Rated.