Making a Monkey… (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, 1977)

Sinbad_Eye_PosterPrince Kassim has been transformed by his stepmother into a Baboon.  She wants her own son, Rafi, to inherit the throne. For help, his sister, the Princess Farah calls on her beloved Sinbad for help.  They go on a quest to save Kassim from his cruel fate.

After finding out that the only cure can be found in a magical region of the Arctic, Sinbad races against the evil Zenobia and Rafi, who use magic to try and sabotage Sinbad’s chances.

Harryhausen, as usual, delivers amazing and whimsical monsters, ranging from a giant walrus to a giant Troglydite. Margaret Whiting makes a deliciously over the top villain and Patrick Wayne is pretty good as the swashbuckling Sinbad.

This film, of course, suffers the same cultural problem of casting white people in non-white roles.  This was certainly treated as less of an issue as recently as the 70’s, but that simply does not make it less problematic.

In spite of this, I have always had fond memories of this film.  It is both exciting and whimsical.  It is worth noting that this film is written by Beverly Cross, who wrote Jason and the Argonauts and would go on to write the original Clash of the Titans.  Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is an enjoyable adventure in that same vein.

The Quest for A Better Story (Superman IV: the Quest for Peace, 1987)

Superman-IV-posterSuperman III bombed heavily.  Eventually, the rights were sold to Canon Films.  Reeve had sworn off ever playing Superman again.  But four years later he was back.  In part, he was promised that he could be involved with the story.  And the story we got was Superman getting rid of all our nuclear weapons.  He puts them in a net and hurls them into the son.  Gene Hackman is back as Lex Luthor…he gets busted out of prison by his dope of a nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer, looking like he stepped on the set of Hiding Out).  His plan is to take advantage of Superman’s plan by using Superman’s DNA (from a strand of Superman’s hair) and get it in with the missiles.  He succeeds and creates the weirdest enemy for Superman the screen has seen.

Nuclear Man is Luthor’s creation…and has Luthor’s actual voice.  He is super strong, can fly, breathe in space, grow his fingernails long and sharp…he even scratches Superman and makes him sick.  Nuclear Man has one weakness

In addition, there is a subplot where businessman David Warfield (Sam Wanamaker)and his attractive daughter Lacy (Mariel Hemingway) are buying the Daily Planet and want to turn it into a tabloid paper.  Which would be a decent story-line if the Planet had ever shown itself interested in anything other than fluff pieces in the previous films.

Lacy starts to pursue Clark, while Lois still only has eyes for Superman.  This leads to a double date sequence where Reeve keeps switching personas based on which woman he is visiting.  Eventually Clark reveals himself to Superman (no worries, she forgets by the end through story magic).  This plot feels problematic and unnecessary.

The return of Hackman does not improve the film, his character feels like a cartoonish version of the character he was.  If Nuclear Man gave actor Mark Pillow any hope of a big movie career…it appears the film killed it.

This film is quite terrible, and using a plot where Superman solves such a real world issue as nuclear war…it just does not play effectively.  The performers all feel like they are sleepwalking through the roles, with little more to say about them.  The Quest for Peace really earned it’s terrible reputation.  And it killed the Superman Franchise for almost twenty years.

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