The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). All of these movies featured groups of heroic adventurers -- as well as some unfortunate henchmen -- who journeyed out into a mysterious world populated by Ray Harryhausen stop-motion monsters on some great quest. To say that these movies exerted an influence over my youthful imagination is an understatement. When I first discovered Dungeons & Dragons, I naturally drew on the ideas and imagery of these fantasy movies for inspiration. Needless to say, I felt vindicated in this when I purchased the AD&D Monster Manual in early 1980 and saw Dave Sutherland's illustration of the iron golem and realized that I wasn't the only one who did so.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is, in my opinion, the weakest of the three Sinbad movies, in part because neither its lead (Patrick Wayne) nor its primary antagonist (Margaret Whiting) are all that memorable. On the other hand, some of the supporting cast, particularly Patrick Troughton, who plays the Greek alchemist Melanthius, are very good in their roles. Jane Seymour is no Caroline Munro, it's true, but she more than acquits herself as Farah, Sinbad's love interest and the catalyst for this latest adventure of the famed sailor in ancient Arabia.
I've never really understood why this film was titled as it was. There is a saber-toothed tiger, which features prominently in the movie poster, but its presence is not central to the plot. The same is true of the cat-like eyes that the evil queen Zenobia possesses whenever she engages in some act of sorcery. It's long been a mystery to me, since the plot sees Sinbad on his way to attend the coronation of Prince Kassim, his friend and the brother of the woman he hopes to marry. When he arrives, he finds that Kassim's capital city is in chaos thanks to the machinations of Zenobia, who hopes to put her son -- Kassim's stepbrother -- on the throne instead. To effect this coup, she uses black magic to turn Kassim into a baboon. His sister, Farah, turns to Sinbad to help reverse this spell, believing that, in his travels, he might know someone with the knowledge to do so. Naturally, he does and so Sinbad, Farah, the cursed Kassim, and a crew of doughty seamen head out to find the one man in the whole world who might be able to save the prince, pursued by Zenobia, her son, and the memorable metal minion known as the Minoton.
What follows is a rollicking adventure, as Sinbad travels from place to place, encountering a variety of hazards and creatures, on his quest. Unfortunately, the creatures aren't particularly interesting, or at least they weren't for me as a child. There's the aforementioned saber-toothed tiger, frozen in a block of ice, the baboon Kassim, and a cave man (called a troglodyte here), in addition to the Minoton. Of these, the Minoton is perhaps the most visually intriguing, but he doesn't actually do much more than row Zenobia's ship. The baboon is extremely well animated; it's almost believable as an actual animal, but it's just a monkey, however fun it is to see him play chess with Jane Seymour. Couple the lack of creatures as exciting as the Hyrdra from Jason and the Argonauts or the multi-armed statue from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad with the lackluster portrayals of both Sinbad and Zenobia and you're left with a less than satisfying fantasy film.
It's a shame really, because I think the overall plot of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is pretty good. Likewise, the character of Melanthius, as the only man with the knowledge to save Prince Kassim, is delightfully eccentric and engaging. He pretty much steals any scene he is in and I found myself wishing he were even more involved in the plot than he was. Still, there's enough in the movie to hold one's attention, so I'd never argue against seeing it. Compared to its predecessors, though, it's lacking a bit of "heart" and that prevents me from raving about it as I have other Harryhausen efforts.