Film Review: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

Also known as: Sinbad’s Golden Voyage (working title)
Release Date: December 20th, 1973 (London premiere)
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Brian Clemens
Based on: Sinbad the Sailor from One Thousand and One Nights
Music by: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: John Phillip Law, Tom Baker, Caroline Munro, Takis Emmanuel, Douglas Wilmer, Martin Shaw, Robert Shaw (uncredited)

Morningside Productions, Ameran Films, Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel!” – Sinbad

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t expect to love this movie as much as I did. I honestly just wanted to check it out because it had Caroline Munro in it. I mean, I was also sold on the fact that it had Ray Harryhausen stop-motion special effects, as well as Tom Baker and John Phillip Law in it.

I still figured that this would just be slightly better than meh.

To my surprise, this movie was a heck of an adventure that was packed full of action and charming characters that had solid and jovial camaraderie.

This really has the same spirit as a classic swashbuckler while also adding in some cool fantasy elements and special effects that were, honestly, some of the best I’ve seen from this era. Had I been a kid in 1973 and seen this in the theater, I would’ve loved the hell out of it.

I like Sinbad movies and frankly, I should actually watch more of them. Especially, the others that also feature Harryhausen’s work. His creatures in this were friggin’ great. I was most impressed by the six armed statue and her sword fight with the film’s hero.

I thought that the story was pretty good too and I really liked the casting.

John Phillip Law was enjoyable as Sinbad but Tom Baker was intriguing as hell as the evil sorcerer. It’s really cool seeing Baker play such a bastard when he’s most known for playing one of the most popular incarnations of The Doctor on Doctor Who.

If you’ve ever read any of my reviews of movies with Caroline Munro in them, then you know how I feel about her in everything. As far as I’m concerned, she should’ve been the leading woman in every film from the ’70s and into the ’80s.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is an entertaining popcorn movie and that’s all it needed to be. Luckily for us, the filmmakers went the extra mile and gave us something fairly exceptional.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Sinbad movies, especially those with special effects by Ray Harryhausen.

Film Review: Cry of the Banshee (1970)

Release Date: July 22nd, 1970
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Tim Kelly, Christopher Wicking
Based on: a story by Tim Kelly
Music by: Les Baxter (US theatrical), Wilfred Josephs (uncut version)
Cast: Vincent Price, Elizabeth Bergner, Essy Persson, Hugh Griffith, Patrick Mower, Hilary Dwyer, Sally Geeson

American International Pictures, 91 Minutes, 87 Minutes (edited cut)

Review:

“Oona. Of course. Once I showed her mercy. I should have killed her…. Burke. I don’t care how you do it – bring Oona to me.” – Lord Edward Whitman

It’s hard not to like a Vincent Price movie but this one is really low on the totem pole of quality for me.

We already saw Vincent Price hunt down witches in Witchfinder General a.k.a The Conqueror Worm and because of that, these films sort of blend together in my head. But I do remember liking Witchfinder General quite a bit more. I’ll have to revisit and review it soon.

Regardless, this film is incredibly derivative of its similar predecessor and I feel like it was only made to try and piggyback off of that better movie. Granted, Price’s role here is a bit different but the subject matter is the same, as is the picture’s tone and style. This one just comes across as a cheap imitation, though, and I say that as someone that’s actually a fan of Gordon Hessler, this flick’s director.

The film moves along at a drunken snail’s pace and even though stuff happens, most of it isn’t all that exciting and everything in this movie has been done better in other pictures.

Cry of the Banshee isn’t terrible, it just sort of exists in this weird state of limbo. It’s certainly not the worst film featuring Price but there are two dozen or more that I’d rank ahead of it.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Witchfinder General a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm, also with Vincent Price and dealing with similar subject matter.

Film Review: Scream and Scream Again (1970)

Also known as: Doctor Diabolic (France – video title), Screamer (Germany – alternative title)
Release Date: January, 1970 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Christopher Wicking
Based on: The Disorientated Man by Peter Saxon
Music by: David Whitaker
Cast: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alfred Marks, Michael Gothard, Judy Huxtable, Yutte Stensgaard

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, Warner Pathe, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Fastest transition in the world: from human to corpse. It doesn’t do to get the two confused, or you’ll never be successful.” – Professor Kingsmill

While I’ve always seen Amicus as the poor man’s Hammer, I’ve still found most of their films to be really enjoyable, especially those starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or Vincent Price. Now throw any two of those guys together and it’s usually going to make the picture much cooler. Throw all three of them into the mix, however, and you might break my classic horror-loving mind.

Sadly, this does not cut the mustard, whatever that even means. I don’t know, it’s an old adage people say.

Despite this having the Holy Trinity of Price, Lee and Cushing, it’s a really bad movie that just barely keeps its head above water simply because it has these three great actors in it, hamming it up and looking like they’re enjoying what they had to know was a terrible picture.

One problem with the film is that the three legends are barely in it. Cushing is in it the least while Price and Lee are sort of just there for the added star power. Their roles are really just glorified cameos. But you do get an interesting finale that features Lee and Price together.

This is a really weird film and the middle act is bogged down by an overly extensive car chase and manhunt sequence. While I kind of enjoyed that part of the film, I just don’t see how it will connect with people that don’t already love this sort of schlock.

For a film about a mad scientist and super soldiers, this is pretty boring. I still weirdly like it but when I think about popping on a film starring any of these legends, this one is usually pretty damn low on the list. In fact, I only watched it this time to review it and because I hadn’t seen it in about twenty years.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Vincent Price with either Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing or both. Also, other Amicus horror movies.

Film Review: Rage of Honor (1987)

Release Date: February 27th, 1987
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Robert Short, Wallace C. Bennett
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Lewis Van Bergen, Robin Evans, Richard Wiley, Ulises Dumont, Gerry Gibson

Transworld Entertainment, 98 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, I thought Sho Kosugi was the baddest man alive. Maybe he was but I’ve never seen him take a punch from Mike Tyson. Regardless, he was the quintessential ninja actor of the 1980s, which is a big friggin’ deal as ninjas are friggin’ the best thing ever and the 1980s was like the friggin’ best decade ever!

Granted, I was eight when this movie showed up on video store shelves and I didn’t have the life experience to recognize true greatness. Then again, maybe life hadn’t shat on my chest yet so I wasn’t a pissy overly critical film viewer.

This is not Sho Kosugi’s best film but it is still a damn good time and he is the star of it and it is a good compliment to his other starring pictures, Revenge of the Ninja and Pray For Death.

Unlike those two other movies, this one doesn’t have any of his kids in it, which is kind of a disappointment. Kosugi’s sons were fun to watch and having a kid in those films made my mum think that these uber violent ninja epics were family friendly.

The action is pretty great but when a Kosugi movie is choreographed by Kosugi, you get to see the master himself, as he intends to be seen, as the baddest ninja actor of all-time.

The film also reunites him with director Gordon Hessler. The two worked together on Pray For Death. Their styles mesh well together and if Kosugi isn’t working with Sam Firstenberg, I’d rather him work with Hessler.

Rage of Honor is a fun time if you are a fan of 80s ninja action, which you should be.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Pray For Death (1985)

Release Date: August 9th, 1985
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: James Booth
Music by: Thomas Chase
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Norman Burton, James Booth, Kane Kosugi, Donna Kei Benz, Michael Constantine

Transworld Entertainment, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I’m going to burn your kid like a roman candle.” – Limehouse

After three awesome ninja movies for Cannon Films, quintessential 80s ninja action star Sho Kosugi took his talents to Transworld Entertainment to make Pray For Death. This, more than his other Cannon films, felt like a true spiritual sequel to Revenge of the Ninja, Kosugi’s greatest movie. This is a pretty close second to that film but doesn’t quite measure up to it.

The story actually isn’t even that different from Revenge of the Ninja. In this movie, Kosugi moves his family to America to start a new life away from his ninja past. The family opens their own business, a restaurant. They quickly have a beef with some mobsters. One of Kosugi’s kids (played by his real life kids) is kidnapped. Then his wife and one of his kids is rundown by mobsters in a car. His wife is then murdered in the hospital. Kosugi finally straps on his ninja gear and goes Ginsu City all over Houston, Texas.

While the Texas setting didn’t give us a cowboys versus ninjas scenario like one would hope, it still gave us a sole bad ass ninja against a bunch of evil mobsters. Although, there is that amazing scene where Kosugi literally flips over some hillbilly gangsters in a beat up pickup truck. That should have been nominated for the Brass Balls Stunt of the Year Award in 1985 but I just made that award up and I didn’t have the money to make my own trophies in 1985 because I was six. But maybe I’ll make it and mail it to Kosugi now.

Pray For Death is not the epic ninja masterpiece that Revenge of the Ninja is but it is pretty close. It doesn’t have as much action as Revenge but it is heavier on the drama and family elements of the story. Also, it doesn’t have the insane and lengthy ninja battle that capped off Revenge. Regardless, it is still one of the greatest cut’em up ninja flicks of the 1980s. Plus, any film that makes Kosugi the focal point, benefits greatly. Enter The Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination lacked when compared to Revenge and this film, simply because Kosugi wasn’t the main character and just more of a glorified cameo.

I love Pray For Death. For a film that wasn’t made by Cannon, it certainly feels like it was.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Oblong Box (1969)

Release Date: June 11th, 1969 (USA)
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Lawrence Huntington, Christopher Wicking
Based on: The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Harry Robinson
Cast: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Uta Levka, Sally Geeson, Alister Williamson, Peter Arne, Hilary Dwyer

American International Pictures, 96 Minutes (USA), 91 Minutes (UK)

the-oblong-boxReview:

Horror legends Vincent Price and Christopher Lee worked together several times. But there is always a first time for everything and The Oblong Box is the first time that they got to be in the same picture.

The credits state that this is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name but it really isn’t. The only thing similar between the two is the title and the fact that it refers to a coffin.

The Oblong Box starts with a man being tortured in an African village. Vincent Price’s Sir Julian Markham walks in to discover this. The man being tortured and disfigured by the villagers is his brother Sir Edward. As the plot progresses, the brothers return to England where Julian has Edward locked up in the attic due to his disfigurement and change in temperament. Edward with help from a shady lawyer, fakes his own death, in an effort to be free of his chains. Mistakes happen and Julian accidentally has his brother buried alive. Edward is then unearthed by grave robbers and finds himself in the home of Dr. Newhartt, played by Christopher Lee. Edward blackmails Newhartt into letting him live in his house, as he goes out at night to seek justice for how he was wronged. There are twists and turns and overall, the plot is interesting and engaging.

While fitting the mold of Price’s other Poe-inspired horror films of the 1960s, The Oblong Box is also a slasher film before slasher films were even a thing. Edward covers his face with a crimson mask and uses his knife to slash his way to the justice he seeks.

Both Vincent Price and Christopher Lee are top notch in this movie. Unfortunately, Price and Lee barely share any screen time. This would be rectified in later films, however. Lee does well in the role as the morally questionable Dr. Newhartt, while Price’s Julian is a character you grow to care about. A favorite actor of mine, Rupert Davies was enjoyable as Kemp. I also really loved Harry Baird’s performance as the witch doctor N’Galo.

The theme of the film was controversial, at the time, and it led to it being banned in Texas. It explored the relationship between Europeans and native Africans. More accurately, it showed the exploitation of the African people by white men. All the horror that befalls the European characters in the film is really just the consequences of their mistreatment of the African villagers.

The Oblong Box isn’t as well-known as other Price and Lee films but it is certainly one of the better ones. It feels real and isn’t as over-the-top as some of the other Poe films of the day.

The only negative about the picture is some of the special effects. The reveal of Sir Edward’s face at the end is pretty disappointing. Also, his throat slashing was pretty awful. When he cut people’s necks, it looked like he was just drawing a line with lipstick. Also, the scene where a man gets bashed over the head had some of the worst blood I’ve seen. It literally had the color and consistency of ketchup.

The bad effects don’t really distract from the picture, however. It is a pretty solid film and maybe deserves a bit more recognition than it has.

Rating: 7/10