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'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' - the Film

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The Ray Harryhausen Sinbad Films | 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' - the Film
'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' - the Film | 'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' - the Film
From the land beyond beyond
From the world past hope and fear.

- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was the first of stop-motion effects genius Ray Harryhausen's three Sinbad films. The films do not form a trilogy in the normal sense; there is no continuity between them. However the character of Sinbad does appear in all three films and faces similar themes and perils in each.


Sailing back from Chandra with his fiancée Princess Parisa on board, Sinbad is blown off course to the island of Colossa. There, gathering food and supplies, they meet a mysterious fleeing magician named Sokurah carrying a lamp. They are attacked by a giant Cyclops and the lamp is lost as they get away.

After arriving in Bagdad1, where Sinbad is an honorary prince, Sokurah performs magical feats in celebration of the forthcoming marriage. He predicts that Sinbad and Parisa will not wed and that Chandra and Bagdad will soon be at war. Overnight, under Sokurah's spell, Princess Parisa shrinks to the height of about 3 inches. Sokurah states that the only cure is the shell of a giant roc, a bird found only on Colossa. Can Sinbad defeat the duplicitous magician, battle a skeleton, free a genie and save the princess before the Sultan of Chandra invades Bagdad, and in time for his wedding?


SinbadKerwin Mathews
Princess Parisa of ChandraKathryn Grant2
Sokurah the MagicianTorin Thatcher
Caliph of BagdadAlec Mango
Sultan of ChandraHarold Kasket
Baronni the GenieRichard Eyer
SadiNana DeHerrera
HarufaAlfred Brown
KarimDanny Green


The film was directed by Nathan 'Jerry' Juran, who had previously worked with producer Charles Schneer and Harryhausen to make 20 Million Miles to Earth. His experience in making Attack of the 50 Foot Woman3 meant he was familiar with complex effects sequences, such as having characters of very different sizes. They would work with him again in First Men in the Moon. He had also won a Best Art Direction Oscar for How Green Was My Valley in 1942. As Juran had an art direction background, he was able to visualise how the effects would work and allowed that to be the film's focus.

The screenplay was by Kenneth Kolb, based on Harryhausen's key scene sketches.

Making The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Harryhausen's concept of a film starring Sinbad began in 1952, after he had filmed The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Harryhausen had always wanted to illustrate a living skeleton, and realising it would look out of place in contemporary setting, needed a mythological tale to place it in. His fondness for the Arabian Nights tales seemed ideal, and he wrote a 2 page outline entitled Sinbad the Sailor, drew 12 key drawings, the first of which was of Sinbad fighting a skeleton at the top of a spiral staircase4. He had discussions with producers George Pal and Jesse Lasky Senior, but they showed no interest – Harryhausen did not even get to meet producer Edward Small, and was instead turned down by his secretary. Harryhausen then abandoned the project and agreed to work with producer Schneer on It Came From Beneath the Sea. This began a creative partnership that would continue throughout Harryhausen's career.

After having successfully made three films together, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers and 20 Million Miles to Earth, in 1956 Harryhausen persuaded Schneer to take on the Sinbad film, despite the recent box-office failure of RKO's Son of Sinbad. Schneer received backing from Columbia Pictures, and so The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen's first colour film, went into production. The final screenplay was written by the end of June 1957.

The film cost $650,000, of which $75,759.30 was spent on Harryhausen's special-effects work. Harryhausen's hands were insured for $1 million by Schneer. As this was the first full-length colour film Harryhausen had made, he spent a lot of time trying to perfect his stop-motion animation process5 to ensure that the same quality and colour of light matched both the live action and his stop-motion elements so that the two would fit seamlessly together.

Although producer Schneer had considered filming in the Middle East, he was discouraged by political turmoil. Instead, filming took place in Spain, especially at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the Caves of Arta on Mallorca, both of which involved night shooting to avoid tourists, and locations at Costa Brava including the beach at s'Agaró. For Sinbad's ship, a replica of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria was used, despite its non-Arabic appearance. As it had no keel it remained in the harbour of Barcelona and was only shot from certain angles to make it appear that the ship was at sea. For the storm sequence, harbour water was pumped out and hosed over the actors; however, as the water was not particularly clean, it led to Kerwin Mathews contracting a fever. In total, the actors spent six weeks filming on location and in studio.

Studio work not only took place in Spain but also in England for special-effects work, as the Rank Film Laboratories had earned the reputation of being the world's leading experts in travelling mattes, which were needed to combine different filmed elements together. Olympic fencing master Enzo Musumeci-Greco choreographed the complex skeleton fight, which is regarded as the film's highlight.

Unfilmed Sequences

After Harryhausen had sketched some sequences that he wished to animate, a screenplay was written by Bob Williams and Kenneth Kolb. During this stage many sequences were deleted, usually due to time and budget constraints; though more expensive than any previous film the two had worked on, it was still made very cheaply. Harryhausen had originally conceived the island of Colossa as being occupied by a large range of gigantic animals6 rather than just the giant Cyclops, Roc and Dragon. The proposed scenes never filmed included:

  • A sequence involving rocs dropping rocks on Sinbad's ship
  • A giant toad
  • A Valley of Diamonds, originally conceived as being the purpose of the quest. This reflects the original tale of Sinbad, in which he discovers a valley of diamonds
  • A giant tentacle menacing the ship near the Isle of Wailing Demons/Sirens
  • A sequence in which Sokurah conjures up giant rats to free him after being imprisoned by Sinbad, followed by the rats chasing after Sinbad
  • Two Cyclopses fighting over the roasting sailors
  • Bat Devils – these would appear as Harpies in Jason and the Argonauts
  • Mermaid-like Sirens on the rocks of the Island of Wailing Sirens
  • A giant serpent that is killed by a Cyclops. Again, a giant serpent had featured in the original tales of Sinbad

In his book Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, Harryhausen speculated that the reason that the scenes involving giant rats and serpents were vetoed by producer Charles Schneer had as much to do with his fear of rats and snakes as with the question of cost.

Creatures Featured

  • Cyclops
    Large, hoofed carnivorous animals. They have horns on their heads and are bald, with scaly skin, but curiously hairy legs. They do display rudimentary intelligence; they use tools such as clubs, construct cages to keep their prey (humans) secure and also have discovered fire. Curiously 20 Million Miles to Earth had begun as a project entitled The Giant Cyclops, before the design for the Ymir from Venus was changed to a more reptilian appearance7. Harryhausen gave the Cyclops hoofs to ensure audiences would not think it was played by a man in a costume. The Cyclops armature8 still exists, though it is missing a leg.

  • Dragon
    Fire-breathing giant reptile, useful for guarding caves etc from the predatory Cyclops. Also quite intelligent, they are known to be tamed by Sokurah the Sorcerer and able to understand and follow basic commands such as 'follow' and 'kill'. Not entirely dissimilar to Harryhausen's Rhedosaurus, aka The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

  • Rocs
    Large 2-headed carnivorous birds. A baby and a fully-grown adult are seen, as well as a roc's nest. Curiously, the eggs are outside the roc's nest. Giant birds would return in Mysterious Island and Clash of the Titans. The baby roc model was covered in genuine duckling down, the adult in ordinary feathers.

  • Sadi the Snakewoman
    Not a creature, but the Princess's handmaiden transformed by magic and combined with a cobra to form a four-armed snakewoman. This anticipates Golden Voyage's six-armed Kali as well as Clash of the Titans' ultimate snakewoman, Medusa. Humans transformed into animals would be a major plot point in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

  • Skeleton
    The skeleton is brought to life by Sokurah's magic. The skeleton model created for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad would return as one of the seven-strong skeleton horde in Jason and the Argonauts, and is the only creature model from the film to still exist intact. The armature had been created by Ray's father, Fred Harryhausen, who had previously worked for RKO Studios Machineshop.

Also animated was a miniature model, 30 inches long, of Sokurah's giant crossbow, which still exists. Another model was the face in the cliff that leads to the Valley of the Cyclops.

The Original Tales of Sinbad

Giant man-eating cannibals appear in the Third Voyage of Sinbad in a tale very similar to that of the Cyclops and Ulysses. Just as is seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad blinds the Giant so that he and his crew can escape. Rocs also appear in the original Second and Fifth Voyages of Sinbad. The film was entitled 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' not because it was based on the tale of Sinbad's seventh voyage; it wasn't. In the words of Harryhausen, it was:

a title I had suggested because the number seven has had magical connotations throughout history and we all felt it was a better title for a fantasy/adventure movie.


Oscar-winning composer Bernard Herrmann, most famous for his soundtracks for Alfred Hitchcock's films, was the composer. This was the first of four Harryhausen films for which he would write the score9. A record of the soundtrack was originally released, and a new recording by John Debney based on Bernard Herrmann's score has since been released on CD. Columbia even released a pop record by Ann Lenardo in 1958 to promote the film, the A-Side entitled 'Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He's Been Good to Me' with 'Sinbad, Cha Cha Cha' as the B-Side.


This iconic film is a perfect Arabian Nights fairytale, containing a genie in a lamp, an evil sorcerer and a sword-wielding hero who gets the princess. The story may well be straightforward and the plot predictable, but that does not matter. Nor does the fact that we're never really given any real reason why Sokurah, having spent the first five minutes of the film trying to escape the island of Colossa, simply doesn't buy himself a boat but instead resorts to causing a war just to hitch a lift back there. Princess Parisa is a fairly typical princess in distress and, yes, Sinbad is presented as a fairly typical hero, indistinguishable from any other cinema swashbuckler such as Robin Hood with little effort to make him appear Arabian.

That so much of the film is ordinary only goes to heighten all that is extraordinary in the film. The first has to be Bernard Herrman's perfect soundtrack. This instantly evokes the spirit of adventure as Sinbad sails into the unknown. Yet the real stars are the creatures that Harryhausen spent almost a year of his life bringing to life and animating on his own with such care and attention. The film sails from Bagdad and the ordinary world of cinema to the island populated by Harryhausen's skill and imagination, an extraordinary journey into the world of pure fantasy.


Many of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad's themes would be reprised in later films.

  • The mix-and-match mythology method of having Greek influences, such as the Cyclops, in an Arabian tale would continue in later films, such as Clash of the Titans, where the Norse Krakken appears in a Greek legend.

  • The filming of a shrunk princess interacting with the normal-sized crew gave Harryhausen the experience required for his next film, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, still the definitive cinematic version of Gulliver's Travels. Actor Kerwin Mathews had been so convincing as Sinbad interacting with much larger Cyclops and the tiny princess, he was cast as Gulliver.

  • Harryhausen would return to s'Agaró beach in The Three Worlds of Gulliver and Mysterious Island.

  • A princess carried in a cage would feature in Clash of the Titans, and a prince would be seen in a cage in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

  • Sinbad would next return in a non-Harryhausen film entitled Captain Sindbad in 1963.

  • The skeletal look of the Terminators in the Terminator film series was inspired by the skeleton design first used in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and later in Jason and the Argonauts.

Jack the Giant Killer

After seeing The 7th Voyage of Sinbad's success, producer Edward Small regretted rejecting Harryhausen's Sinbad script in 1952. Wishing to make up for his earlier mistake, he produced Jack the Giant Killer for Universal Artists. He hired Sinbad's director, Nathan Juran, as well as Kerwin Mathews and Torin Thatcher and had stop-motion effects. There are numerous similarities between The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jack the Giant Killer:

  • In Sinbad, Torin Thatcher plays evil Sokurah the Sorcerer; in Jack he is Pendragon the Sorcerer. In both films he is the sole human inhabitant of an uncharted island full of strange and terrifying monsters.

  • The Giant, Cormoron, in Jack the Giant Killer has a horn, hairy legs and hoofs; he roars just like the horned, hairy-legged, hoofed, roaring Cyclops in Sinbad.

  • Just as the Cyclops captures and carries Sinbad, the Giant captures and carries Princess Elaine.

  • In both films Kerwin Mathews' character falls in love with a princess.

  • In both Sinbad and Jack, the Sorcerer has a Crystal Ball used to spy on the hero's actions.

  • Both films involve a shipboard mutiny.

  • In Sinbad, Sokurah turns Sadi into a snakewoman, in Jack he turns characters into dogs and monkeys.

  • Shortly before the end of Sinbad there is a Cyclops v Dragon fight. Shortly before the end of Jack, there is a 2-headed giant v sea monster fight.

  • At the end of Sinbad, Sinbad defeats Sokurah's fire-breathing dragon. At the end of Jack he defeats Pendragon transformed into a flying dragon.

  • In Sinbad, Sinbad is assisted by a genie in a lamp. In Jack, he is assisted by a leprechaun in a bottle. At the end of both films, the magical assistant is freed.

Jack the Giant Killer is a film worth watching by those who enjoy the Sinbad films. Though there were four people working on the special effects, including three creating the stop-motion sequences, these are not up to Harryhausen's high standard. Although the models imitate those by Harryhausen, they are not as detailed nor do the sequences seem as realistic. Additionally, the care and effort Harryhausen went to in order to ensure that the live-action and effects sequences matched has not been duplicated. This means that whenever a special effects sequence appears in the film, the colour of the live action elements either fades or the shot as a whole becomes much darker.

The Ray Harryhausen Sinbad Films | 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' - The Film
'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' - The Film | 'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' - The Film
1Although now normally spelt Baghdad, the city is spelt 'Bagdad' in the film's captions, following the 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad.2Also known as Kathy Crosby, being married to Bing Crosby.3Later remade in the 1980s, and one of the inspirations for Monsters vs. Aliens.4 Harryhausen had used a spiral staircase in his short film The Story of King Midas and often used flights of steps as a visual motif.5The method was advertised as 'Dynamation' so as to avoid confusion with 2D animation.6A theme he would return to in Mysterious Island.7The Cyclops used the same armature that had been constructed for the Ymir. In order to save time and money armatures from previous films were frequently reused.8An armature is a supporting skeletal framework built inside models used in stop-motion animation. They provide stability, and through the uses of hinges and joints, enable the models to be held in precise positions for long periods of time.9The others being The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts.

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