One of my earliest encounters with "Euro-Cult" cinema was virtually two decades before the term itself came to be coined and it happened via a TV screening of an obscure, Italian-made, comical Arabian Nights fantasy entitled SINBAD AND THE CALIPH OF BAGHDAD (1973) which, unsurprisingly, I haven't seen again since. Incidentally, while Italians usually dabbled more in Greek mythology than in tales from the 1001 nights – in fact, I would love to revisit both the afore-mentioned SINBAD film and the Steve Reeves version of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1961; which, again, is lost to me in the mists of time) someday – the character of Sinbad featured in at least two other Italian productions I know of – SINBAD AGAINST THE SEVEN SARACENS (1964; with Gordon Mitchell in the lead and which I've actually missed out on twice on TV recently) and, naturally, the film under review itself.
Dubbed a "complete disaster" by Euro-Cult expert Marco Giusti, this was originally intended as a 4-part TV mini-series and was to have been directed by Luigi Cozzi (who had previously helmed the two HERCULES movies with Lou Ferrigno) but he had to be replaced due to conflicting commitments. As it happened, incoming director Castellari (whom I've met personally while at the Venice Film Festival in 2004) entirely rewrote Cozzi's script but, despite the considerable budget spent on the production, it was actually shelved for two years before Cozzi was eventually recalled to re-edit Castellari's rough-cut! Cozzi also shot new scenes – including the entire framework featuring Daria Nicolodi and his own daughter Giada, which purports to pass the following fiasco as a faithful filmization of an obscure Edgar Allan Poe Arabian Nights story! In an unwieldy attempt to bestow on the disparate elements a semblance of cohesion, Nicolodi's narration was overused to such an absurd extent (covering whole stretches of dialogue between Sinbad and his men) that it was an endless source of irritation for me throughout. Even so, this troubled Italian production, ironically, does not seem to have ever received theatrical release in its native country hence the official English title! Furthermore, Castellari was unaware that the film had actually been completed and released and only learned this when he chanced upon the film in a video store and, understandably, he couldn't bear watching more than a few minutes of it himself! Incidentally, despite the released version not being Castellari's "vision", he is the only director credited (due to contractual obligations) – although the IMDb lists someone called Tim Kincaid as a co-director
but his name does not appear anywhere in the credits of the version I've seen!!
John Steiner's outrageously over-the-top, eye-rolling performance – complete with elongated green fingernail and madly tilted framing – as (what else?) Jafar the wicked Vizier is something that has to be seen to be believed but is, in fact, one of the minimally bright spots in the film; the same applies to the actress playing Kyra, Sinbad's belated love interest (Stefania Girolami, who was not only director Castellari's daughter but this actually proved to be her swansong to acting before embarking on a directorial career herself!). Steiner's muscular female ally Soukra (Teagan) seems only to be there to belittle the former's would-be infallible plans and does not even have a decent exit of any kind! Future Italian TV personality Leo Gullotta, then, is embarrassing as the aptly named Nadir, a silly wizard/inventor who talks gibberish and is also Girolami's father.
Lou Ferrigno's one-note performance in the title role extends only to his perennially bemused facial expression – even when required to play his evil doppelganger – making Sinbad seem unintentionally moronic, never more so than when he impulsively "frightens" Gullotta or when he is made to mouth such utterly terrible lines as "Gosh, you're sure beautiful" (to a would-be irresistible Amazon Queen) and "No, dice, huh?". Naturally, Sinbad has a motley crew of followers: a grumpy Viking, a martial arts expert spouting such dubious Confucian proverbs as "When the world around you has been turned upside down, chin up", a "Prince Charming" named Ali, a Greek cook who is also a hulking coward and, a staple of the peplum genre – the would-be comic relief provided by an irritable (and irritating) dwarf, here stupidly named Poochie! Besides, it's hard to believe that Alessandra Martines (who plays the kidnapped princess here) went on to become the wife of someone who, at his best, was considered one of the most sophisticated film-makers of his time – Claude Lelouch!; incidentally, she would eventually star in her own cult fantasy franchise – the numerous "Fantaghiro'" series directed by Lamberto Bava!
Listing the film's other flaws would be a Herculean task; suffice it to mention Dov Seltzer's hideously inappropriate electronic soundtrack, a hilarious sequence in which Sinbad is dropped into a snake pit but eventually escapes by making a rope out of assorted cobras(!) and the cheapskate usage of stock footage lifted from a much earlier peplum, HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (1964) as just three examples of the seemingly limitless ineptitude on display here; to the film's credit, it uncannily predates Disney's wonderful animated feature, ALADDIN (1992), in many respects – not least the appearance of Jafar and the Caliph! Furthermore, ironically enough, my viewing of this total turd led to my discovery that the Image R1 DVDs SADKO aka THE MAGIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1953) and ILYA MUROMETS aka THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON (1956) are now out-of-print! Actually, I had originally intended to watch SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947) as well during the Christmas period but had to postpone that viewing due to time constraints and unforeseen family events. Ultimately, the two HERCULES movies with Lou Ferroigno were also pretty awful but at least they showed a modicum of imagination and ingenuity at work and were undeniably lots of fun to watch and make fun of; SINBAD OF THE SEVEN SEAS doesn't even have that mixed blessing to offer its unfortunate viewers.
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