Director: Enzo G. Castellari, Tim Kincaid, and according to the IMDB, an uncredited Luigi Cozzi
Tagline: “He must conquer evil on land and at sea!” Or the more reserved, “A magical adventure.”
Plot: Once upon a time, there was a delightful fantasy film called The Princess Bride. It made a modest amount of money, and become a beloved cult hit for generations of college students who liked sword fights and quoting things. Then, in the magical land of Italy, where successes are reincarnated as vaguely similar, much cheaper “homages,” someone decided to combine the raw acting talent of Lou Ferrigno, champion bodybuilder and TV Hulk, and the bedtime-story whimsy of Bride into the high-seas adventure of Sinbad Of The Seven Seas.
Plus, it’s based on writing by Edgar Allan Poe, so it’s literary.
Sinbad (Ferrigno) and his merry band of adventurers are returning home to the city of Basra. Unbeknownst to them, the Caliph of Basra’s evil vizier, Jaffar (John Steiner), is just putting into motion his grand plan to take over the city and marry the Caliph’s beautiful daughter, Alina (Alessandra Martines). Alina will have none of this, but since he’s both evil and magical, Jaffar has already taken her stubbornness into account. First he swipes the four gems that keep Basra prosperous, then he locks Alina in a machine that will break her will, provided she’s susceptible to plastic shackles, rubber tubing, and colored fluids. (It seems that Jaffar, when looking to impress the ladies, does his shopping exclusively at Spencer Gifts.)
Sinbad and the others aren’t resting on their laurels, however. No, upon arriving in Basra, Sinbad seeks an audience with the Caliph, and is immediately captured and dropped into a snake-filled dungeon. His friends (Alina’s true love, the Prince Ali, plus a Viking, a Chinese soldier-of-fortune wearing an Eastern variation on Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and last but not least, the comic-relief dwarf, Poochie) are soon captured as well. Thankfully, Sinbad escapes and rescues his friends by knocking all the torturers into a tank full of piranha. At one point, he manages to break an iron (?) chain with his pectoral muscles, in a slow-motion sequence which is not homoerotic in any way at all.
Team Sinbad then spends the remainder of the movie tracking down the four missing gems. In the process, they fight all manner of monsters, including seductive Amazonians, rock men who can be defeated with rocks, a giant pile of green mud, and the third act of Bedknobs And Broomsticks.
In the end, the bad guys are defeated, Sinbad marries a lovely woman with a hugely irritating father, and poor Poochie never gets any respect.
Key Scenes: Sinbad isn’t just a hulking guy with a talent for shoving people. He also has a silver tongue, as evidenced by the way he first convinces the dungeon snakes to aid him—
—and then ties the (obviously rubber) snakes together into a rope that he uses to climb out of the pit.
The editing is heavy in places, so some sequences (like Sinbad’s fight against the rock men) play like “Previously on…” montages. Combined with the dubbing, it gives the movie a cursory feel, like something that was knocked off over a couple of lunch breaks.
Also, just about any scene with Steiner as Jaffar is, well, something to see. It isn’t really a good performance, but it’s awful with gusto. During the final confrontation, Jaffar—who has shown himself capable of teleporting Sinbad’s crew wherever he wishes, or blasting Sinbad’s sword away—attempts to trap Sinbad in a cage of special effects. Not only does this seem like a poor use of his powers, it’s also ineffective even in its own right, as Sinbad is able to break free with physical prowess alone. Jaffar counters by creating an evil double of the sailor that could theoretically match his physical prowess. It’s a classic villain mistake, though. Never make a copy when you can zap somebody into a volcano.
Can easily be distinguished by: The Princess Bride connection may not seem obvious from the above plot summary, but keep in mind, the whole movie is framed as a story a mother is telling her daughter before bed. As there was no practical sound during filming, all the dialogue was dubbed in, and that means a lot of narration, much of it unnecessary description. (Example: “The high towers and minarets of the city rose before them” over a shot of the high towers, etc.)
Then there’s Jaffar’s co-villain, Soukra, played by female body-builder Teagan Clive. She brings a complicated layer of bitchy sarcasm to Jaffar’s already-complex camp.
Sign it was made in 1989: There’s the rip-off factor, the heavily synthesized score, and the presence of multiple body-builders in large speaking roles. Oh, and everything is vaguely Aladdin-ish without actually being about Aladdin, so the movie had to come out before Disney’s Aladdin, because otherwise, it would’ve ripped off that.
Timeless message: Good will always win out over ambiguously sexualized villains. And don’t be a rubber snake.
Memorable quotes: The torturer who briefly holds Sinbad’s friends captive loves his puns: “Be sure to make him comfortable, he’ll be in there for quite a stretch.”
When Poochie tries to contribute, Sinbad is a dick: “I was thinking…” “That’s unusual. By the way, what were you thinking?” “I forgot.”
Soukra displays thoroughly anachronistic snark levels throughout: “Have you taken your medication this morning?” (While the answer is never given, it’s clearly “No.”)
Sinbad Of The Seven Seas is available on DVD from MGM.