Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Movies of My Childhood: Captain Sindbad

Earlier this week, Turner Classic Movies showed a handful of Sinbad movies, including the 1963 King Brothers production, Captain Sindbad (This German production for some reason adds an extra "d" to the title character's name). I have strong memories of my mother taking me to see this movie as a matinee at a local theater that showed older kids-fare like this during the summer. And it was a movie that freaked me out at the age of 5 or 6, and in watching it again for the first time in 30+ years, I was still freaked out. The movie gets a bad rap for its special effects, but I still find them charming, and they certainly did a lot to spark my imagination as a kid.

The film stars Guy Williams, an actor who was ubiquitous in my childhood, through reruns of Zorro and Lost in Space. As he was in Zorro, Williams is incredibly charismatic as Sindbad, and he contributes to the overall sense of fun in the film.

Here's a link to the trailer on TCM's website. This trailer really does the film justice, highlighting the most crazy and imaginative stuff that happens in this movie, including the wizard Galgo being tortured by having his head spun around, the fist of danger, the invisible monster, the giant crocodiles, and the hydra-like ogre monster. Also, you can find nice image collections from the film here and here.

One of the craziest ideas in the movie involves the villain, El Karim. At one point in the film, El Karim captures Sindbad and goads the hero into taking a shot at him with his sword. When Sindbad stabs El Karim, the sword goes right through his chest, and El Karim just laughs it off. It turns out that El Karim cannot be killed conventionally, as his heart is sealed in a crystal and stored at the top of a tower surrounded by many dangers. (The heart actually looks like a beating, glowing stuffed valentine.) Also, the crystal is guarded by a giant hand that Sindbad has to fight, which is pretty much the greatest part of this movie. As Sindbad approaches, the hand gets up on its wrist, raises its index finger, and shakes back and forth. As you can imagine, these things like the giant hand and El Karim's disembodied heart contributed to the freaking out of young Dr. K.

This is an awesome movie that never lets up, with one crazy idea after another, as you can see in the trailer. I also have in my comics collection the Gold Key Movie Comics adaptation. The comic, however, takes a lot of liberties with the film's plot, though it does capture the film's spirit. The main changes come with the types of creatures Sindbad fights. Artist Russ Manning includes more mythologically based creatures, like minotaurs and chimaerae, that aren't included in the film.

The movie also does not feature any giant ants:
Or an elephant stampede when Sindbad defeats the invisible monster in the arena:

While I'm pointing out these differences, they do not necessarily make the comic version weaker than the film (though the comic does not feature the giant hand, and it leaves out the climactic battle between Sindbad and El Karim). I would argue that both the film and the comic create fairly equally awesome versions of the same story. The giant ants and minotaurs in the comic are certainly cool, but so are the giant crocodiles and the hydra-like creature in the film.

Here's a whole page of stuff that is absolutely not in the film, but it shows off Russ Manning's great art. Fans of the comic Nexus may notice the strong influence that Manning had on artist Steve Rude.

Captain Sindbad is a movie that is purely designed for kids, but it's a load of fun, and it never lets up. It's not available on DVD right now, which is a crime. I'd love to see a nice, restored version of this movie.


Larry M. Belmont said...

You can get Captain Sindbad on DVD via the new Warner Bros. Archive site where they offer a few hundred rare movies in a sort of DVD-on-demand service.

Michael James Lundell said...

Great post on Sinbad (and blog as well!), I've added a link to it to my blog on the 1001 Nights on my page of Sinbad comic covers:

arabiannights said...

Nice post about the comic version of the movie. I've seen the movie but was unaware of the differences between it and the comic. BTW, the film title actually used the more correct, or an earlier, spelling. Early English editions of the stories spelt the name Sindbad. Somewhere along the way the d was dropped some of the time, primarly in childrens editions I think. Check some of the Burton or Payne translations and you'll find they still use the d.
Gold Key also published a couple other Sindbad comics: The Fantastic Voyages of Sindbad, 1967.

paul barbour said...

My other faves were "the magic sword"(there is a dfferent title, sir george & the dragon maybe) & jason and the argonauts(tcm likes showing that one also.