Made in the days prior to CGI, back when Ray Harryhausen was a one man special FX wizard, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad is obviously constrained by the less dynamic CGI cameras that zoom and duck and dive bomb all over the place. Usually into areas where no real camera could fit. It's kind of a relief.
It's directed by Gordon Hessler, but as with these types of film where Harryhausen does the FX, he's the real star. The action scenes and the monsters are where the film shines, so much so that the story leading up to these magic moments suffers quite a lot from slow pacing. I often counted the minutes until the next stop motion delight, of which there are many.
The centre piece, and perhaps the one that everyone remembers, is Sinbad and his band of pirates fighting a giant statue of the Hindu goddess, Kali. Sprung into unnatural life by an evil wizard (and the film's main baddie) played by Tom Baker, she has six arms, a sword in each hand. There is a cool moment where Baker tosses her his sword and she catches it, with new swords then magically appearing in her other five hands. I like how unshowy it is: the swords unsheathing themselves from nowhere. It just looks... what's the word? Badass. Yep, that's it.
Eye popping outfits and deep character arcs
Elsewhere, the monsters that receive that Harryhausen magic touch are a centaur/cyclops, a griffin, and the wooden figurehead of Sinbad's ship, another inanimate object brought to creepy life by Baker's wizard. There's also a smaller winged creature which acts as his spy.
It's the stop motion scenes which elevate the story, rather than the characters and plotting. Tom Baker stays just the right side of being a total ham, portraying a fantastically evil villain with a clear motive of reaching the Fountain of Destiny so he can become super powerful. But other than him, the plot and characters are fairly humdrum. Sinbad himself, played by John Phillip Law, is a cheerful enough sort but ultimately forgettable. Caroline Munro, squeezed into a variety of eye popping outfits, doesn't get a huge amount to do apart from being a damsel in distress. And the only standout in the rest of the unmemorable crew is Rachid played by Martin Shaw, prior to his stint in The Professionals (created by Brian Clemens, who also wrote this movie).
But that's okay. The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad is an adventure movie that doesn't need endless soul searching, in-depth character arcs or any other such nonsense. It just needs a brave hero and some cheerful sidekicks to get us through the action from one moment to the next. I don't think is the best Harryhausen movie I've seen — although the Kali statue set piece is one of his best out of everything he's done — but it's a pleasant enough way to spend 100 minutes.