Returning home, Sinbad the Dirty Pinko Commie finds his people living in poverty whilst the local merchants live in splendour (sounds familiar). He decides to empower the proletariat by finding the Bird of Happiness, but can’t afford to finance the trip as he’s given all his money away like a good little comrade.
This is actually nothing to do with Sinbad at all, being a Russian fairy-tale movie called ’Sadko’ bought by American-International Pictures and dubbed for the U.S. market. Obviously, Sinbad still had box office clout after the hit Douglas Fairbanks Jr vehicle ‘Sinbad the Sailor’ (1947) so it made sense to ignore that this is actually a re-telling of a Ukranian folk story and crowbar in a few references to some of the more famous exploits of the swashbuckling adventurer instead.
Judging the original film on its own merits is difficult with the fairly hideous dub track in place, but what we seem to have is a garish, slightly plodding fantasy with a political agenda. That agenda is a tad muddled in the U.S. version, but I guess that’s fairly inevitable. American-International weren’t really known for the intellectual content of their product.
Anyway, it seems that what we have is a noble merchant capitalist elite who feast and carouse whilst the ignorant, lazy consumers starve in the streets, presumably because they don’t know any better. Comrade Sinbad isn’t too chuffed with all this and makes a lot of speeches, whilst waving his arms around in a most impressive fashion. The merchants aren’t interested in funding his search for the Bird of Happiness as it’s not a sound investment with increased dividends for their shareholders but, luckily, a strange aquatic woman with leftie tendencies stumps up the necessary in the form of golden fishes (which can be exchanged for goods and services). After recruiting his crew on the basis of their ability to take a punch and neck a flagon of ale (rather than their skill with… say, sailing a ship for instance), we’re finally off to sea with just about half the movie already over.
The voyage itself is somewhat underwhelming and a skirmish with some rather wimpy Vikings is an early highlight. Later on, Sinbad meets a woman with the body of a bird, plays some chess with a horse and throws himself into the drink to save his ship during a storm (eh?) Then he spends some quality time with King Neptune’s royal family in their underwater kingdom. The old monarch wants him to marry one of his daughters (the strange aquatic woman of the leftist tendencies and the golden fishes that can be exchanged for goods and services) but Sinbad quits the scene because it’s a drag, splitting on a sea horse after turning everyone on to the sounds of his funky harp (yes, really!) This is all fitfully amusing (well, the octopus seems to enjoy it anyway) and acceptably realised considering the vintage of the film, although some of the undersea puppetry is pretty awful at times.
Obviously, it would be interesting to see the original film, rather than this ‘adaptation.’ Too much has been lost in translation in terms of the plot and character motivation and what remains is some halfway decent visuals that inevitably fit far better with a traditional fairy-tale than they do with a tale of Sinbad’s derring-do.
Oh, and where was the ‘Bird of Happiness’? You’ll never guess. l was shocked, l tells ye, truly shocked!