Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)

The 1980s were a big time for action movies.  Muscle-bound men went to war with just about everyone and everything.  People like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were lighting up the screens in the blockbuster action films that would stick with people for years to come.  Then there were the lesser stars, the people who were featured in movies from studios like The Cannon Group.  Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren became stars thanks to this level of action films.  They weren’t the only people to take a chance on action with The Cannon Group.

Lou Ferrigno tried his hand at action with The Cannon Group’ adaptation of a classic story in Sinbad of the Seven Seas.  The movie was about Sinbad (Lou Ferrigno) and his quest to retrieve four magic crystals to take down the evil Jaffar (John Steiner).  Along for the adventure were a few of Sinbad’s friends: Prince Ali (Roland Wybenga) who wanted to save his love Princess Alina (Alessandra Martines), the Viking (Ennio Girolami), Cantu (Hal Yamanouchi), Poochie (Cork Hubbert), and the bald cook (Yehuda Efroni).  Together, they fought evil monsters, the reanimated dead, and other dastardly evils in their quest to save the city of Basra.

There was a lot to take in with this retelling of the Arabian Nights tales.  It wasn’t completely faithful to any of the stories.  The filmmakers did their own thing and turned it into low budget action fun.  It would be difficult to have a bad time with the movie, with how fun it manages to get.  Sinbad of the Seven Seas might not be great.  Some of the stuff made no sense.  But it did have the fun factor going for it, and that helped to bring it up to a good experience rather than a slog.

The perfect place to begin this journey of why Sinbad of the Seven Seas was a good experience is the beginning.  What is a story without a beginning?  It’s definitely no longer a story.  A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Losing one of those feels jarring to the audience.  Such was the case with The Devil Inside, which didn’t have an ending.  The movie stopped was right before the climax, and told the people watching to go to a website to find the ending.  That is not how you finish a movie.  There needs to be a beginning, a middle, and an end.  There shouldn’t be a beginning, a middle, and a direction to where the ending can be found.  That’s not storytelling.  Sinbad of the Seven Seas told a complete story.

A story’s beginning must set up what is to come.  The characters must be introduced and the conflict must begin.  Something needs to push the protagonist into what he or she does for the remainder of the story.  Sinbad of the Seven Seas began by introducing the town of Basra.  The Caliph (Donald Hodson) noticed something happening to his town that was making the people living there act like maniacs.  He called upon Jaffar to figure out what was happening.  Jaffar instead took the throne from the Caliph and used his evil magic to try and brainwash Princess Alina into loving him.  When Sinbad and his friends returned from a voyage, they tried to fight Jaffar, only to discover they would need to find four magic crystals that Jaffar had hidden around the world in order to defeat him.  They set out on a journey to find the crystals and save the say.

Two major elements of what made Sinbad of the Seven Seas so fun came into play during this setup portion.  One was the over-the-top performance by John Steiner.  The man was revelling in how evil his character was.  He relished every moment of villainous glee.  An evil magician this exaggerated in his mannerisms can be overwhelming, but the way that Steiner was enjoying himself in the role came through the screen during every scene he was in.  He loved playing the evil Jaffar, and it was easy to love watching him.  The other element was how enjoyable the fight scenes were.  Two fight scenes happened before the journey for the crystals began.  One involved Sinbad’s friends fighting off guards while attempting to not be captured by Jaffar.  It set up the different fighting styles of the different friends.  The other fight was focused on Sinbad taking out a group of torturers who were terrorizing his friends.  He fought with his fists in a punch ‘em, throw ‘em style, landing them all in a pool of piranha.  It helped to highlight that Sinbad would do whatever he could to get his friends out of trouble, and made sure that the audience knew why Lou Ferrigno had been chosen as the star.  His physicality was near perfect for the role.

The second part of any story is the middle.  In the case of movies, this is the second act where the rising action is, which leads to the climax.  The middle of Sinbad of the Seven Seas was the section where Sinbad was on his journey to get the four magic crystals that he would use to defeat Jaffar.  There were four different crystals that Sinbad had to get which meant that there were four different challenges that he had to undergo.

When Sinbad began his quest, he had no idea of the danger that he and his friends would face.  The challenges became more threatening as time went on.  It began fairly easy with a rock monster that was quickly taken down.  The crew of Sinbad’s ship then went up against Amazonian women who had ways of capturing each of them, through weaponry or seduction.  Whatever it took, they would do.  Next up were the ghosts of dead knights.  Finally, Sinbad had to go solo to fight some big, fat, poison sludge filled monster.  These four challenges were the obstacles that Sinbad had to clear in order to face off against Jaffar for the fate of his beloved Basra and the release of his friend Ali’s beloved Alina.

Much of the fun within Sinbad of the Seven Seas came through the rising action portion of the movie.  Each of the fight scenes had their own highlights that kept the entertainment value high.  It began with a fight against some skeleton ghosts on Sinbad’s ship.  Since Sinbad and his crew were all featured in the fight, it gave a variety of fighting styles.  Instead of the purely muscle or purely martial arts action that most movies had, there was a blend of different styles through the team.  Ali was the swashbuckler.  Cantu used martial arts.  The Viking had the unique weapon.  Sinbad was the brute force.  These four styles were cut together in a way that had none of them overstaying their welcome.  In a fairly simple hand to hand combat scene with skeleton ghosts, it was a necessary device that made things flow better.  It never got stale.  The group fighting only got better with the battle against the ghost knights.  Not only was there a variety in the styles that the fighters used, there were some interesting visuals in how the knights were defeated.  Sinbad’s crew was fighting against a small army of empty suits of armor.  As they “killed” the ghosts, the armor fell apart or was destroyed in other cool looking ways.  The group fights were the near highlights of the movie, if not for the ending.

Before we get to that, one more aspect of the middle part of the story must be mentioned.  After Sinbad defeated the ghost knights, his crew was teleported away from him.  That left him alone to find the final crystal.  He got help from a father and daughter duo.  Nadir (Leo Gullotta) was a wizard who had been stranded on an island with his daughter Kira (Stefania Girolami Goodwin).  There was comedy throughout Sinbad of the Seven Seas, but any time that Nadir was on screen could help to perfectly highlight what the comedy was like.  He was reminiscent of a character that Mike Meyers would play.  Specifically, the character brought to mind The Love Guru.  Nadir was a good wizard who was more into wacky inventions than the magic that wizards should be using.  One of his inventions was a flying machine that was nothing more than a hot air balloon that Sinbad had to fill with his own breath.  Nadir’s mannerisms were straight out of a Mike Meyers performance.  Yet, this character didn’t feel out of place in a movie that complemented its torture scene with one-liner puns about the methods of torture.  Stretching a guy on the rack?  Using the line “He’ll be here… for a stretch of time” is a good idea.  That’s the kind of cheesy humour in the movie.  It was bad, but at the same time so bad that it worked.  It was the bad jokes being good mentality that made the comedic sensibilities work through the beginning and middle.

The end of Sinbad of the Seven Seas wasn’t so much about the comedy that had been sprinkled throughout the rest of the movie.  It was the climactic emotional moment of the movie, as well as the biggest action scene.  It wasn’t big action in scope, but rather the most important action.  Sinbad confronted Jaffar at last and began to stalk him as though he were a piece of prey.  Jaffar, in a last attempt at safety, used the only magic trick that he had left.  He created an evil clone of Sinbad that Sinbad had to fight.  It was Lou Ferrigno versus Lou Ferrigno.  It was muscle versus muscle.  The struggle of the battle between a man and himself was the tensest moment in the entire story, with Sinbad needing to find his strength and weakness at the same time in order to win.  He had to kill himself in order to save himself, Princess Alina, and Basra.  It was a great payoff for a fun, yet dumb movie.

Sinbad of the Seven Seas had a beginning.  It had a middle.  And it had an end.  The ending wasn’t as big in this post because there still needs to be reason for you, my audience, to possibly seek out the movie.  I described a lot of what was in it, but I didn’t get so far in depth as to ruin any of the scenes.  You know what the story is.  That doesn’t matter.  The movie will still be fun.  Grab some friends and some beers.  Have a good time watching a dumb action adventure from the 1980s.  The Cannon Group did good with this movie.  They made a bad movie, but it is good entertainment.
Now let’s get some notes in here:

  • Sinbad of the Seven Seas was suggested by @TheTomNix.
  • The Devil Inside was mentioned during this post.
  • Donald Hodson was in Sinbad of the Seven Seas.  He was also in Starcrash, the first movie ever covered for the Sunday “Bad” Movies.
  • Another early appearance in the Sunday “Bad” Movies was Hal Yamanouchi in Robot Jox.  He returned this week as Cantou, one of Sinbad’s friends.
  • The man who played Sinbad, Lou Ferrigno, was already in the Sunday “Bad” Movies in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
  • Finally, Ted Rusoff made a return to the Sunday “Bad” Movies in Sinbad of the Seven Seas after first appearing in Double Team.
  • Have you seen Sinbad of the Seven Seas?  If you haven’t, check it out.  If you want to discuss it, there’s a comment section below where you can chat away.
  • The comment section is also a place where you can suggest movies for me to watch in the future.  I’m always looking for movies I might not have heard of that I could add to my watchlist for the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  If you don’t want to comment below, you can always find me on Twitter.  I like suggestions.
  • If you add me on Snapchat (jurassicgriffin) you might get to see clips from the bad movies I watch, or other random things that I might put into my story.
  • Now for the preview of next week.  I’m not previewing my writing since I don’t know what the post will be yet.  I can tell you what the movie is though.  A movie called Automaton Transfusion is coming up in seven days’ time.  It’s some sort of zombie movie.  That’s about all I know.  We’ll see how this one goes.  Last time I saw a zombie movie was Bigfoot vs. Zombies, and that was garbage.  Before that was Antisocial, which was decent.  This one could go either way.  We’ll see.  In a week.  Come back then.

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