Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) is leading his crew and his ship into unknown waters, and they are sceptical that they will ever reach land and more importantly food. But to their surprise Sinbad has been right and the sea grows shallower as they draw closer to an island. As it is nighttime, it is decided that they will wait till morning to go ashore, and the next day the crew finds all the food they could possibly want - along with some huge tracks in the sand. And then comes the cry of "help!" from a figure in black robes fleeing from a cave and the towering Cyclops that pursues him...
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad could well be the perfect Ray Harryhausen movie, even if, for many, it is eclipsed by his later Jason and the Argonauts. But taking that into account, there are still a wonderful variety of monsters and special effects here that guarantee a solid series of thrills with Mathews' handsome and clean-cut hero the finest of the effects master's Sinbads, and perhaps his finest protagonist as well. Scripted by Ken Kolb from Harryhausen's story outline, this film enchanted many who saw it as children, and memories of it are still strong in their minds.
That fellow in black is none other than a magician called Sokurah (the forcefully menacing Torin Thatcher is very well cast), who has stolen the Cyclops' lamp. Why does he want a lamp that has put him in such peril? That's because there is a genie inside and if you know the appropriate rhyme then he will grant your every wish. The genie is not of the Rex Ingram type, although the previous decade's Thief of Bagdad appears to have been an influence on this film, but a little boy (Richard Eyer) who wishes only for his freedom. Not that Sokurah is going to allow him that, as what he wants is even more power than he already has.
The genie helps Sinbad and his crew escape, but the Cyclops manages to reclaim the lamp, prompting the magician to demand that they return. Not before we go back to Bagdad, says Sinbad, as he is about to be married to the beautiful Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant, as well known for being Bing Crosby's wife as she was for this) who hails from a neighbouring country. The wicked Sokurah sneakily gives Sinbad a reason to take him back to the island when he secretly shrinks the Princess in her sleep (achieved with a superbly simple effect of showing her arm and hand diminishing as they lie on her bed). He then tells Sinbad that they need a fragment of a Roc's egg to let him create the potion that will restore her.
So it is that our hero sets sail once more (with the Princess in a little box), taking as his crew a group of ne'erdowells from the local prison, the only ones willing to embark on such a dangerous mission. What this film is notable for is how bad a time Sinbad gets, which is good dramatic sense because it makes his adventure seem all the more perilous: obviously he is not going to perish, but those around him certainly do, and 7th Voyage is pretty violent in places. But it's Harryhausen's animation that is the star of the show, with not only the Cyclops (who roasts a sailor on a spit in one scene!) but the double-headed Roc attack, a snake woman and a fire-breathing dragon all brought to marvellous life under his direction. There is also a living skeleton, a foreshadowing of the most famous sequence from Jason and the Argonauts. It's the monsters who really bring the personality, but this is great fun nevertheless. Music by Bernard Herrmann.