Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Creatures of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

Ray Harryhausen truly outdid himself with the amazing visual effects and creatures he created for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974).
The first creature we're treated to is a small, bat-like animal that is referred to as a living homunculus.  An homunculus is a miniature human (oid) body.  Though this creature is more gargoyle-like than human, the name fits.  It's a creation of the dark prince, Koura, and it spies on Sinbad and runs errands for its master.
Next, Koura brings to life the figurehead on Sinbad's ship so she can steal the sailor's navigational charts.   She is brought to life very believably with creaky wooden sound effects.
On the lost continent of Lemuria, Sinbad and his crew encounter a mysterious oracle.  It hovers, a disembodied head surrounded by mist, over an ancient well. Played by Robert Shaw will great make-up by Jose Antonio Sanchez, the Oracle is a really memorable character from this voyage.
Undeniably, the star attraction of the film is the great six-armed goddess Kali. Koura brings her shrine to life with a magic potion and orders her, first to dance for him and then to fight with Sinbad.  The dance is an amazing piece of animation by Harryhausen.  He choreographed a complicated series of intricate movements for all six of her arms.  Watching it, you really forget that it's not an actor on screen. Equally impressive is the fight sequence where Kali fights off multiple opponents simultaneously.  The sequence is unforgettable.
A cycloptic centaur is also discovered on Lemuria.  I'm not crazy about his wacky hairdo but he's an impressive character nonetheless.
The centaur later battles a giant griffin in a battle of good and evil foretold by the Oracle.  Characters with fur and feathers are known to be very difficult to animate in stop-motion because the slightest movement of the hairs by the animator between frames will show up on screen as unexplained movement.  Harryhausen does a great job at limiting this kind of movement in a fight that is reminiscent of the one between the Cylcops and Dragon in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
If for no reason but to see Kali, this film is worth checking out.  Harryhausen is at his creative peak.

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