Here's an example of one of our shorter write-ups in the book. These start with "Now Showing" information and a seventy-character "Preview" (always exactly seventy characters). Then come the essay's title and a 400-word discussion, followed by an "Added Attraction" that supplements the main movie with some extra list or further analysis.
NOW SHOWING: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (April 1974)
Director: Gordon Hessler
Stars: John Phillip Law, Caroline Munro, Tom Baker
Academy Awards: None
PREVIEW: Sinbad and his crew sail to a mysterious island and fight extraordinary opponents.
"A VERY STRANGE TRIP": THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD
The three great Indiana Jones adventures of the 1980s seem to echo The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974). Consider: all are ripping yarns set in the past in exotic locations; all of them star a dashing headgear-wearing hero. Like Golden Voyage, the early Indy trilogy includes a spell-casting villain, a sea voyage to a mysterious island, sequences inside temples and caverns, symbolic gold objects, a marketplace fight, a frantic horseback ride, and a pretty girl who gets captured. With all these similarities, you almost expect Sinbad to declare, "That belongs in a museum!"
What Sinbad has that Indy doesn't is Ray Harryhausen. The legendary stop-motion animator provides the story and visual effects that make Golden Voyage golden. Harryhausen had already made The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) with a different Sinbad (Kerwyn Mathews), a cyclops, and a dragon. Sixteen years later he's got John Phillip Law doing an indeterminate accent and battling a range of fantasy opponents highlighted by a bat-like "homunculus," a six-armed sword-wielding statue, and a centaur and griffon that have their own clash of the titans. Orchestrating these foes is Prince Koura (Tom Blake), a sorcerer with "black and ugly ambitions" who can "summon the demons of darkness." Both men are trying to unravel "a great and might secret" that involves a journey to "a place of untold dangers" and a Fountain of Destiny.
As a crewmember says, "a very strange trip, this one," starting with Sinbad himself: he gets no introduction or back story, as if we're continuing some ongoing TV series. Next, the pace is a little slow, and almost forty minutes elapse before we get the first big animation showcase, the fight with the ship's angry wooden figurehead. Along for the expedition is a "worthless slave girl," the stunningly sexy Margiana (played by the tanned, glistening, architecturally amazing Caroline Munro). Sinbad says, "She finds favor in my eyes," his version of "hubba-hubba," but unfortunately she's given little to do or say. Also, for some reason much of this movie takes place in darkness or in caves, and even when Sinbad sails away at the end it's at night.
Saturday-afternoon kids and nostalgic adults will be enjoying the imaginative pre-digital spectacle too much to worry about these minor issues. For now there's popcorn to munch, and soon there'll be another fun Harryhausen epic sailing over the horizon, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977).
ADDED ATTRACTION: Sintax
This movie blends together some old-sounding proverbs, obvious truisms, and strange observations, including these five examples. The second entry is spoken three times in the movie, and the fourth one is delivered by the villain, so heed at your peril.
• "He who walks on fire will burn his feet."
• "Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel."
• "Every voyage has its own flavor."
• "He who is patient, obtains."
• "For one who enjoys the hashish, you should be more at peace."
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