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SINBAD THE SAILOR (director: Richard Wallace; screenwriters: story by John Twist & George Worthing Yates/screenplay by Mr. Twist/; cinematographer: George Barnes; editors: Frank Doyle; music: Roy Webb; cast: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Sinbad), Maureen O’Hara (Shireen), George Tobias (Abbu), Walter Slezak (Melik/Jamal), Anthony Quinn (Emir), Sheldon Leonard (Auctioneer), Jane Greer (Pirouze), Mike Mazurki (Yusuf), Alan Napier (Aga), John Miljan (Moga), Brad Dexter (Muallin), Ben Welden (Porter); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stephen Ames; RKO; 1947)
“It’s a lush but humorless adventure tale about the mythical mariner and storyteller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

“Sinbad” is a campy but well-staged Arabian Nights swashbuckler that’s better to look at than listen to. It’s a lush but humorless adventure tale about the mythical mariner and storyteller Sinbad the Sailor, that is directed by Richard Wallace. The splendid cinematographer is provided by George Barnesis. The Technicolor is awash with an array of beautiful reds and yellows and blue. It’s set in the time of the caliph in Persia. The film opens with the playful but menacing Sinbad (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) holding a captive audience of dull looking men from Basra as he kills time before his next episode. He entertains with a story that might or might not be true about the time he set sail on his 8th voyage in search of a legendary island not on the map where the treasure of Alexander the Great is hidden.

Sinbad and his loyal flunky Abbu (George Tobias) while marooned on an island come across a wealthy prince’s ship adrift at sea, and when they board they find the entire crew is poisoned to death from the drinking water. Sinbad finds a map to where the secret treasure of Alexander the Great is, but the map disappears before he can show it to his sidekick. The two bring the luxury ship to the Basra port, but are ordered by the caliph of Basra to sell it. The auctioneer, none other than Sheldon Leonard without his Brooklyn accent, is tricked into selling the boat back to Sinbad who picked the auctioneer’s pockets and paid for his own boat with the auctioneer’s dinars.

The attractive red-headed Shireen (Maureen O’Hara) is also interested in the vessel. She has secret plans to get Sinbad to lead her to Alexander’s treasure, whom she thinks is a wealthy prince because of the medallion he’s wearing. Her ally in this venture is the villainous emir played by Anthony Quinn. The other villain is Melik (Walter Slezak). He’s someone obsessed with finding Alexander’s treasure and is never seen as he invades the palace of the emir, where he’s known as Jamal.

When Sinbad sets sail without Shireen, he finds among his crew a mysterious barber with a green face. Sinbad doesn’t know this is the poisoner of the vessel he found and is really Melik, aka Jamal. Soon Sinbad is forced off his vessel as the emir’s security force comes for him. Sinbad instead manages to infiltrate the emir’s tightly guarded palace, but he’s soon made a captive. But through his ability to perform magic, he escapes and takes Shireen along as a captive. The plot becomes too convoluted to completely follow and the dialogue makes little sense, but it boils down to Sinbad, Melik, and the emir forming an uneasy alliance to get the treasure and split it. When they reach the treasure island the two villains show their true colors. Sinbad hits it off with the philosophical wise old man on the island and with Shireen, who decides to go for love over riches.

The middle-aged Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is athletic but is really too old for this younger man’s adventurous part to be entirely convincing, but he does a fair imitation of his father–who invented this type of daring adventure role in the days of silent films. This big-budget film of nearly $3 million, was one of the few postwar RKO flicks to post a nice profit.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”