Sunday, September 10, 2017


Guy Williams, bless him, was a great Zorro and a very good Dr. John Robinson but he was no Kerwin Mathews when it comes to portraying the legendary Arabian swashbuckling adventurer Sinbad the Sailor. Still actors have to eat and one can only hope that he was well paid and that he enjoyed his time in West Germany making CAPTAIN SINDBAD in 1962 (released in 1963).

Williams found tremendous success playing Zorro on the Walt Disney produced television series which ran from 1957 to 1959 and again in 1960-1961. Following Zorro, Williams went to Europe where he made CAPTAIN SINDBAD and DAMON AND PYTHIAS (1962). He returned to the states to appear in five episodes of BONANZA in 1964 before striking gold once again with LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968).

And, just as Williams wasn't as good a Sinbad as Mathews was in 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), nothing about CAPTAIN SINDBAD, earnest as it may be, can compare to Ray Harryhausen's fantasy masterpiece. The special effects are poorly mounted string puppets (with strings visible in several shots) rather than Harryhausen's breathtaking stop motion animation. A miniature set of rocky islands reveals that the "rocks" are an unpainted white below the water line and blurry matte lines are visible in several shots.

The score, by Michel Michelet, pales in comparison to Bernard Herrmann's magnificent work. The music is punctuated occasionally by sound effects that appear to be lifted straight from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Director Byron Haskin did much better work with producer George Pal on such genre touchstones as WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954), CONQUEST OF SPACE (1955), and THE POWER (1968). Haskin also directed FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON (1958), and the much loved ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964) , in addition to six episodes of the classic science fiction television series THE OUTER LIMITS (1963-1965).

Despite being set in the middle eastern kingdom of Baristan, there are no Arab actors in the film. The men of Sindbad's crew are all white guys except for one African American character, Quinius (Bernie Hamilton), who for some inexplicable reason, cannot speak. El Kerim, the villain of the piece, is capably played by Pedro Armendariz, who was born in Mexico and who appeared as Kerim Bey in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963).

So, is there anything good to be said about this film? Yes there is. Heidi Bruhl is lovely as Princess Jana, the cinematography by Gunter Senftleben and Eugen Schufftan is colorful, lush and vivid. By the way, Schufftan had a long career as a cinematographer. He shot Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS in 1927, EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960)  and won an Oscar for Best Black and White Cinematography for THE HUSTLER (1961). According to the movie poster, CAPTAIN SINDBAD was shot in "Wondra-Scope" but I have no idea what the hell that means. The film was edited by, believe it or not, future Oscar winning director Hal Ashby (working as an assistant editor under the name Wm. Hal Ashby). The costumes are lavish, the sets well designed and the film really isn't a bad way to kill 85 minutes.

There was a Gold Key movie comic of the film featuring color photos on the cover and interior art by the great Russ Manning. I have a copy of it in my collection.

The problem is that the film can't help but suffer in comparison to Harryhausen's far superior cinematic Sindbad adventure. If I had seen CAPTAIN SINDBAD as a kid when it was first released in 1963, I'm sure I would have loved it but it failed to ignite a spark of wonder in me in 2017.

For hard core genre fans only.

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