Saturday, August 13, 2022
Sinbad the Sailor (1947)
The tales of Sinbad were among the most entertaining in that fabulous collection of eastern tales, The Thousand Nights and One Night (more commonly known as the Arabian Nights). The Arabian Nights became a major inspiration for swashbuckling adventure movies and there have been countless Sinbad movies. What’s surprising is that pretty much all of them are worth seeing.
Sinbad is a great sailor, trader, explorer and adventurer. We also get the impression that he is an accomplished and inveterate liar. But a charming one.
Sinbad found a chart on the ship, which he believes will lead him to the fabled island where the lost treasure of Alexander the Great can be found. He also notices a design on the window of the captain’s cabin which matches a medallion he has worn for years. Sinbad is convinced that he must have this ship and must find the lost island.
A major theme of Islamic folk tales is destiny, or kismet. Sinbad believes he has found his kismet.
Whether he can trust Shireen is an open question. It’s unlikely. She is ambitious and avaricious. Of course Sinbad is pretty ambitious and avaricious as well.
The problem is that Sinbad has lost that chart. It’s possible that Shireen knows how to find the island, but she thinks that Sinbad knows. The villainous emir who owns Shireen thinks Sinbad knows. I’s possible that whoever does know how to find that island doesn’t know that he (or she) has that knowledge.
Sinbad, Shireen and the emir all want Alexander’s lost gold. There’s going to be lots of intrigue and we can expect some double-crosses.
We also expect action and we get plenty of that.
And obviously you can’t go wrong with Maureen O’Hara as the female lead in a swashbuckler.
The standouts among the fine supporting cast are Anthony Quinn (as a deadly scheming emir) and Mike Mazurki. Not to mention Jane Greer in a bit part. Especially good is Walter Slezak as Melik, a clever barber who is probably quite untrustworthy but definitely useful.
This is a Sinbad story without magic or monsters which gives it a very different feel compared to the later movies with their Ray Harryhausen special effects. Sinbad does have a reputation as a magician but he’s really just a clever illusionist. This is a straight adventure film rather than a fantasy.
The Warner Archive DVD is barebones but looks terrific.
Sinbad the Sailor is a fine lively swashbuckler. The main reason to see it is Douglas Fairbanks Jr at the absolute top of his game. He really is superb. Highly recommended.