The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) / Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) / Royal Flash (1975) Blu-rays Review: A Vintage Hero and a Classic Cad

Late last year, while most of your average, run-of-the-mill distributors were busy emailing out holiday gift guides en masse to publications both virtual and tangible alike in order to push those illustrious fourth-quarter sales up as high as possible, the folks at Twilight Time were kickin’ back in a surprisingly laissez-faire-esque manner. They were foregoing that whole “Santa Claus wants you to buy this, for you’ll surely burn in a rich Christian Hell if you don’t!” aggression most outfits succumb to during the holidays, instead opting to release three lesser-known entries from two classic film franchises. Well, you had better make that one classic film franchise, actually: the other series never quite materialized. But more on that in a bit. First off, let’s sin bad.

I meant “Sinbad”, really. While probably not as critically acclaimed as their 1958 counterpart – The 7th Voyage of Sinbad – Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad entries from the ’70s nevertheless hold a special place in the hearts of fantasy lovers around the world – and their addition to the world of HD home video releases is surely something to embrace. We begin with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad from 1973, wherein the likes of clean-cut Kerwin Mathews had been replaced with the more fitting begrunged appearance of Diabolik himself, John Phillip Law. Here, our hero is pitted against the evil ways of dark sorcerer Prince Koura (future Doctor Who actor Tom Baker, who somehow won the part over Christopher Lee) – who is intent on ruling the country of Marabia with his black arts ways. Unfortunately for Koura, Sinbad is brought forth to Marabia’s shores via a tantalizing vision of Caroline Munro in a slave-girl outfit. And seriously, who could say no to that?

Next up is the last of Harryhausen’s Sinbad trilogy, 1977’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. For those who had become accustomed to John Phillip Law as our titular hero, it must have been utterly shocking to see John Wayne’s son Patrick cast in the lead here, opposite the charms of his on-screen lover, Jane Seymour. Shock, of course, turned into astonishment (yes, that was a deliberate Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference) upon witnessing the fate of the tale’s Prince Kassim of Charak – who has been turned into a bloody bastard of a baboon (an intentional Planet of the Apes remark) by his evil stepmother (Margaret Whiting) to prevent him being crowned caliph – which, in-turn, sends Sinbad and Co. off to find a reclusive alchemist for help. Oh, and to rise up to the challenge of his rival and stalk his prey in the night (oh, come on, you knew I wouldn’t be able to resist that reference!). Sadly, few people bothered to take note of the film upon release, as something called Star Wars was rumored to have sold more tickets at the box office that year [citation needed]. Interestingly, Peter Mayhew appears as a big furry creature in this one, too – though only during closeups; the rest of his character’s moments are part of the many stop-motion creations Mr. Harryhausen continues to be so well-known for today.

And now for that aforementioned series pilot: 1975’s Royal Flash. Now, for those of you who used to read those book things in those glorious pre-Internet days gone by, you may recall a certain George MacDonald Fraser series entitled Flashman – which told of a callous, cowardly 19th Century English cad named Harry Flashman, an entirely fictitious character who had a habit of popping up in actual historical events, often turning such affairs into what they are remembered for today. Royal Flash is an adaptation of the second Fraser novel (of the same name), which finds Flashman (played here quite superbly by Malcolm McDowell) accidentally making the acquaintance of both Lola Montez (Florinda Bolkan) and Otto von Bismarck (Oliver Reed) – the latter of whom he instantly makes enemies with. Years later, Flashman is summoned to Bavaria by Montez, though it turns out to be a trap set by Bismarck – who kidnaps our antihero in order to turn him into a double for a Danish prince just before the real Royal’s wedding to a German state princess (Britt Ekland). Alan Bates plays Reed’s equally-nefarious henchman, who is always one-step ahead in this awkward, off-beat (even by British standards) comedy – which never saw a wide release in theaters, and has been all-but buried since.

Once more (or thrice more, I guess), Twilight Time presents us with lovely 1080p HD transfers of these vintage moving picture classics, which are presented in their original aspect ratios (1.85:1 for both Sinbad films, and 1.66:1 for Royal Flash). Both Harryhausen flicks sport newly-mixed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtracks (which are quite awesome), while the Harry Flashman title is brought to aural life via a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track. Each title sports optional English (SDH) subtitles, an isolated 2.0 DTS score, and original theatrical trailers (which, in the instance of Royal Flash, is actually an American TV spot), as well as their own set of special features. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad contains vintage featurettes for other Ray Harryhausen titles; Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger features a retro look at Harryhausen’s patented Dynamation technique; Royal Flash boasts two featurettes as well as an audio commentary by Malcolm McDowell and Twilight Time’s own Nick Redman. As per usual, each Blu-ray features a booklet featuring liner notes by the one and only Julie Kirgo – who is still probably ready to box me after publicly dissing The Way We Were last month.

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Luigi Bastardo

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