June 18: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is Cannon! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.
To read my five-part interview with The Cannon FIlm Guide author Austin Trunick, click here.
To catch up on the 145 — so far! — Cannon reviews on the site, check out the Letterboxd list.
If there was ever a movie that checked off nearly everything that I’m looking for in a movie, it would be this, which is an even better sequel to Luigi’s Cozzi’s Hercules than The Aventures of Hercules.
I knew that I would love it from the moment it started with an image of Edgar Allen Poe and the claim that it was based on his story The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade, even though that’s complete bullshit. God bless the filmmakers of my people. I mean, both stories have a hot air balloon, so I guess that’s good enough.
Austin Trunick, writer of The Cannon Film Guide, broke down how this film came to be in a series of tweets, explaining how a couple weeks into the shoot for Hercules in the summer of ’82, Menahem Golan was so happy with Cozzi’s rushes that he asked him to come up with another movie. Cozzi pitched Sinbad and Ferrigno — who had not yet been through the weirdness that saw a reshoot for Seven Magnificent Gladiators turn into The Aventures of Hercules. Yes, Cannon made a movie that everyone in the cast and crew other than Lou and his wife knew was a sequel and not a reshoot. That’s some Badfinger level kayfabe.
After making those three movies, Cozzi finally wrote Sinbad, but Cannon’s Italian division — unlike its American side — could only make one movie at a time. The Assisi Underground was their movie of the year, so Cozzi waited until Dario Argento asked him to work on Phenomena.
Meanwhile, Cannon’s Italian officer finally decided that instead of making a movie, this would make a great Italian kids TV show. They hired Enzo Castellari( 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Street Law, Keoma) to direct, padded out the script to four hour-long episodes and shot as much as they could, seeing as how it was 1986, the year Cannon made hundreds of movies and suddenly had to start cutting budgets. I mean — couldn’t they have floated over the ship from Pirates — it was docked at Cannes for years — and saved even more?
Cannon hated what they had in the can and thought it was unreleasable. Have you seen Italian movies? I can only imagine what they saw, because the footage here looks really classy for the most part.
A year later, Cozzi cast Cannon exec John Thompson in Argento’s TV series Turno di Notte and Thompson revealed the fate of Sinbad. He had an offer: instead of letting that movie just sit there, what if he fixed it? Cozzi said that they could make a movie, Menahem agreed and with a fraction of the film’s budget, he shot a The Princess Bride opening with his daughter and Daria Nicolodi in his apartment, added some special effects and a voiceover, and somehow put it all together.
As for Castellari, he had no idea that Cannon and Cozzi turned his footage into a movie until he saw it in an Italian video store shelf in the early 1990s. He rented the movie but wasn’t able to finish watching it.
It’s amazing that the film that resulted is as good as it is.
Daria plays a mother reading a bedtime story to her daughter and prepare yourself for Italian to English dubbing. She tells her of how Jaffar (John Steiner) has taken over the city of Basra from its kindly caliph (Donald Hodson). He’s put Princess Alina (Alessandra Martines) into captivity until she agrees to marry him instead of Prince Ali (Roland Wybenga) and you know, normally I wouldn’t ask if they were brother and sister but this is an Italian movie.
Sinbad (Ferrigno) and his crew — which includes Ali, Japanese (or Chinese but definitely Asian because he quotes Confucius and dressed in kabuki gear) warrior Cantu (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), the small Poochie (Cork Hubbert), the cook (Cannon utility fielder Yehuda Efroni) and a viking (Ennio Girolami) — sail on in to town and are captured by the soldiers they once called friends.
What follows are a series of episodic moments — which makes sense, seeing as how these were all going to be episodes of the TV show — like Hercules tying snakes into a ladder to escape a trap, an attack by the undead Legion of Darkness, a battle with rock monsters, Amazons that act like sirens and nearly kill the entire crew before Sinbad exposes the true nature of Queen Farida (Melonee Rodgers), the Ghost King and Knights of the Isle of the Dead, a Swamp Thing looking beast known as the Lord of Darkness and finally a battle between a good and evil Sinbad that uses the same laser effects that Cozzi throws into all of his movies and we’re all the better for it.
Man, there’s so much more, like Hercules meeting his true love Kira (Stefania Girolami Goodwin) and escaping the Isle of the Dead by inflating a hot air balloon by blowing into it like he’s Jon Milk Thor. There’s also a great villainess by the name of Soukra who is played by the muscle-bound Teagan Clive, who we all know as the Alienator.
This movie is non-stop fun, featuring scenes where Ferrigno bursts out of chains, throws dudes into alligator-filled pits, fights himself, defeats a laser trap, beats up numerous monsters and rips out a zombie’s heart, which has a face on it, and squeezes it while it screams.
Sinbad was intended to be a kid TV show, remember, so you may be surprised to know that this is an Italian movie through and through with blood, guts, impaling and all sorts of muck. It also looks like the cast is having an absolute blast filming it with everyone going over the top. I’d love to have had this be a full series, just like how Yor Hunter from the Future has even more Yor once you track down that miniseries.
You can listen to The Cannon Canon episode about Sinbad of the Seven Seas right here.