Gordon Hessler is one of those directors that no one talks about, but he made a lot of movies worth watching. The Oblong Box; Scream and Scream Again; Scream, Pretty Peggy and Prey for Death are all pretty great. He also made the George Hamilton kind of, sort of giallo Medusa and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, but not every movie can be a winner, right?
That said, here he has a script by Brian Clemens (Captain Kronos, And Soon the Darkness and Highlander II: The Quickening, proving that yes, not every movie can be a winner all over again), effects by Ray Harryhausen and a cast that inclues a pre-Dr. Who Tom Baker, John Phillip Law and Caroline Munro, somehow making a G-rated film sexy.
Seconds into this movie, I was already writing a review to tell all of you how much I loved it. Get this opening scene: Sinbad (Law) Sinbad finds a golden tablet that was lot by a mysterious flying creature before he falls asleep and dreams of Margiana, as she reveals an eye tattooed on her hand before a man dressed all in black calls his name and makes her disappear between the folds of his cape.
That man is Prince Koura, who battles Sinbad throughout the film for the three pieces of a medallion which will point the way to the Fountain of Destiny of the lost continent of Lemuria. Whoever gets there first will discover youth, a shield of darkness and a crown of untold riches.
With each use of his magic, Koura ages more and more. Yet he still sends all manner of beasts after our hero, who has assembled a crew to discover this uncharted island which includes a deposed Vizier (Douglas Wilmer, who played Sherlock Holmes on British TV) who hides his scarred features behind a mask.
A homunculus, an animated statued of Kali*, a one-eyed centaur, a griffith, an invisible shield — this movie really does have it all in full Technicolor. This even had a tie-in Marvel comic (Worlds Unknown #7–8)!
Even cooler, the Oracle of All Knowledge was Robert Shaw! He was a friend of producer Charles H. Schneer, who got him to play the part — which took 20 minutes — covered in make-up and with his voice altered. He’s uncredited, but yes, that’s really him. Orson Welles was originally supposed to do this part, but he had asked for too much money. Shaw was on vacation in Spain and ended up taking the role as a favor to Schneer.
This is the kind of movie that helps you escape from the world into the better than real life world of monsters, magic and, well, Caroline Munro. This is a movie I foresee returning back to over and over again.
*This entire section of the movie is based on one of Harryhausen’s favorite movies, 1940’s The Thief of Bagdad.