Sinbad returns to the city of Basra, and finds his old friend the king enslaved by the evil court vizier Jafar. The wizard also has designs on the blushing bride of the sailor’s good friend, Prince Ali, and has scattered some magic crystals to the far corners of the kingdom. Sinbad must quest for the gems before he can return to Basra and put Jafar in his place. For some reason.
This movie started life as a 4-part TV mini-series with Luigi Cozzi (‘Starcrash’ (1979), ‘Hercules’ (1983) with Lou Ferrigno) slated to direct. But he walked away for reasons unknown and the project fell into the hands of Enzo G Castellari, a low-budget filmmaker since championed by director Quentin Tartantino. What happened next isn’t confirmed but it seems highly probable that financing collapsed after production began. What is known is that the footage gathered dust on a shelf for a couple of years before Cozzi was rehired to try and salvage something out of it. Fortunately, he had both a beginning and an ending, both of which had been shot on the impressive palace sets. Also the principal actors had already looped a lot of their dialogue. Unfortunately, the middle section was fragmentary; completed scenes that made no narrative sense whatsoever.
So what was Cozzi to do? Bring in Voiceover Man of course! Or Voiceover Woman in this case: Daria Nicolodi, who Cozzi filmed in a wrap-around sequence where she tells the tale as a bedtime story to her young daughter. Unfortunately, the device is so over-used that it quickly becomes very annoying; Nicolodi often providing a running commentary on what we’re seeing on the screen. Sometimes she even talks over the actors, but that was probably because they had never looped those particular scenes. Cozzi also inserts some footage from a 1964 Hercules movie to help explain the plot and slaps a ‘based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe’ credit on the finished article. This isn’t actually as silly as it sounds, Poe did write a ‘Sinbad’ story (‘The Thousand-and-Second Tale’) – it just wasn’t this one. Rather brilliantly, Castellari knew about none of this, and only became aware that the film had been released at all when he found it in his local video rental store!
Obviously, these are all problems enough, but, even worse, is the inconsistency of tone. Is it supposed to be a comedy? It’s a hard question to answer. The main point in favour is the dialogue. The film was obviously shot in English and, although you expect some gags and banter in a Sinbad movie, what you don’t expect are modern American colloquialisms and phrases. ‘No dice, huh?’, ‘You missed one hell of a party’, ‘Have you taken your medication today?’ and ’Don’t you worry, I’ll give it a shot’ are just a selection of what we get here. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t deliberate, but it simply plays like a poor translation of something written by a non-English speaker. A translation that was done in a hell of a hurry and never rewritten. There’s also some head scratching non-sequiturs which give weight to this theory. Also coming down on the side of the comedy explanation is the performance of John Steiner. His Jafar is a glorious mixture of incredibly silly faces, and a ridiculously over emphasised delivery. He looks like he’s having the time of his life.
And thank god we have Steiner because the rest of the principals are a dull bunch. Sinbad is ‘Incredible Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno who flexes his pecs and tries hard in poorly staged action scenes, including a fight with skeletons cribbed from ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (1963). Unfortunately, he’s saddled with a silly 1980s mullet, cheap cartoon SFX, and a crew of the usual suspects; handsome prince, Kung Fu Charlie Chan, cowardly brain box, and (supposed) comedy dwarf.
Wilting princess Alessandra Marrtines married famous French director Claude Lelouch, 26 years her senior, and had a successful acting career on the continent, taking the lead in ‘The Cave of the Golden Rose’ movie series and playing Elise opposite Jean-Claude Belmondo in ‘Les Miserables’ (1995). After her divorce from Lelouch, she settled down and had a second family with a man 20 years her junior.
A film that will puzzle you (what were they thinking?), bore you (shut up, woman!) but make you laugh out loud too, thanks to Steiner who is simply on fire. It’s a strange combination to be true but well worth a look for lovers of bad film.