SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977)

"He is not really a baboon. He was transformed by the black arts of Queen
Zenobia’s witchcraft. He is – Prince Kassim…."

Director: Sam Wanamaker
Starring: Patrick Wayne, Jane Seymour, Patrick Troughton, Taryn Power, Margaret Whiting, Kurt Christian, Damien Thomas, Nadim Sawalha, Bruno Barnabe
Screenplay: Beverley Cross, based upon a story by Beverley Cross and Ray Harryhausen

Synopsis: During his coronation, an evil spell is cast upon the Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas). His sister, Princess Farah (Jane Seymour), screams hysterically as she witnesses his transformation…. Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) and his crew arrive at Charnak, and are stunned to find the city under a curfew. A passing merchant explains that there is plague. He tells Sinbad that they may enter the city at dawn, and invites the adventurers to pass the intervening time in his tent. However, once there, the crew is served poisoned wine. The "merchant" is revealed as Rafi (Kurt Christian), Kassim’s half-brother and heir. Suddenly, a violent wind whips through the tent, and Zenobia (Margaret Whiting), Rafi’s mother, appears. She summons up three monstrous creatures from within the earth. Sinbad orders his crew back to the ship, and fights the creatures himself, finally destroying them. On his way back to the ship, Sinbad is found by the Princess Farah, with whom he is in love. Seeing Zenobia watching them, the two run to the dock and plunge into the water, swimming to the ship, which sets sail. As she warms herself by a fire, Farah begs for Sinbad’s help, speaking haltingly of spells and witchcraft. Sinbad tells her he came to ask Kassim for her hand. Farah promises to marry him, but only when Kassim is able to give his consent. The next morning, the ship docks again, and Farah’s uncle, Balsora (Bruno Barnabe), comes aboard. Sinbad says that Farah has told him about Kassim. When Balsora begs for his help, Sinbad recalls the legend of a wise man called Melanthius, suggesting that if he exists, he might be able to help Kassim. Balsora says that if Kassim is not crowned within the passing of seven moons, he will lose his throne forever. Zenobia approaches the boat. Seeing Balsora in consultation with Sinbad, Zenobia storms on board, insisting that nothing and no-one can help Kassim, and that Rafi will soon be Caliph. Provoked, Farah taunts Zenobia with the name of Melanthius. Zenobia is startled and disturbed, but dismisses the wise man as a legend only. The crew of the ship prepares for their voyage. Among the items carried on board is a large cage containing a baboon. Shortly after they set sail, one of the crew, Hassan (Nadim Sawalha), is stunned to see Farah playing chess with the animal. When he enters the cabin, Farah becomes hysterical, begging Hassan to go away. Sinbad intervenes, finally telling Hassan that the animal is not an ordinary baboon, but the transformed Prince Kassim. Meanwhile, Zenobia has brought to life a strange, half-bull, half-man creature made out of gold, and dubbed it "the Minoton". She, Rafi and the creature set out after Sinbad, with the Minoton rowing single-handedly. Sinbad and his crew reach their destination, the fog-bound island of Cascar. Once ashore, they are attacked by the natives, who are called off by a young woman, Dione (Taryn Power). Sinbad explains their mission, and Dione confirms that Melanthius exists – he is her father. Melanthius (Patrick Troughton) listens to Sinbad’s story, but remains sceptical until he shows the baboon a mirror and sees that it recognises itself in its reflection, something a real baboon could not do. Melanthius warns Sinbad that time is on Zenobia’s side; that the longer Kassim remains transformed, the harder it will be to change him back. He then speaks of an ancient civilisation that knew the secret of transformation; and of the fertile valley beyond the snow and ice at the top of the world where that secret might still be found….

Comments: Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger is probably the weakest of all of the Ray Harryhausen fantasy films. All the usual elements are here, but they just don’t gel properly; the production feels half-hearted at best. The performances from the younger members of the cast are fairly amateurish; while the older ones seemed determined to compensate for that by overacting as much as possible. Patrick Wayne is perhaps the most uninteresting of all the Harryhausen leading men (and that statement covers some ground!); and, through no fault of his own, of course, his accent does tend to jar, since following the standard procedure, the film’s American "star" is surrounded by a British supporting cast. (Then there’s Margaret Whiting’s "accent"…. More on that later.) Jane Seymour and Taryn Power look very nice (and give us a startling reminder of what you used to be able to get away with in a G-rated film!), but as per usual, the good female characters contribute nothing to the plot; they’re just there to be fallen in love with. Heck, in this story, they don’t even need rescuing! On top of this, the film’s Bad Guys practically re-define the expression "ham"; while the resident Savant commits one of the dumbest acts ever captured on film. In addition, the story is perfunctory even by the standards of this kind of fantasy; the script is painfully repetitive; and although it was shot on location in Jordan and Malta, the production somehow looks cheap. Of particularly poor quality is the back projection, of which there is far too much throughout. (Indeed, during the sequence in which the adventurers are attacked on Cascar, the projection work rivals that in MegaForce!)

Still, you’d put up with all of this if the special effects were up to scratch. Frustratingly, however, they just fall short almost across the board. Part of the problem lies in the decision to animate "real" animals, which in context puts just a bit too much of a strain on the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Harryhausen’s work in animating the transformed Prince Kassim is very good – the baboon has a distinct and complex personality - but the creature never looks like anything but an animation; we’re always overly aware that we’re looking at "an effect". (Of course, you could say the same of Mr Joseph Young of Africa, and I have to confess, I’ve never had any problem believing in him; perhaps because Joe was such a quantum improvement over the "guy in gorilla suit" effects we’d had to that time.) Since the plot of Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger requires the transformed prince to be before the cameras so often, it might have been wiser to have him turned into something fantastical; something that (if this isn’t a contradiction in terms) would seem more natural animated. The same is true of the giant walrus that attacks the crew towards the end of the film: the thing is as stiff as a board, when it should be a jiggling heap of blubber. If the adventurers had to be attacked by a "real" animal, wouldn’t a muscular polar bear have been a better choice? The film’s other real animal, a giant bee, is good in itself, but suffers through some very poor matte work. Worst of all, however, is the sabre-tooth cat that takes part in the film’s climax. With its glassy eyes, and stiff, un-feline movements, this lethargic beast seems as much of a threat as my pet tabby. (Actually, it’s a lot less so – and I’ve got the scars to prove it!) On a brighter note, while the sequence in which they appear is far, far too close to the legendary "skeletons" sequence in Jason And The Argonauts for anyone’s comfort, the insectoid demon guys conjured up by Zenobia – dubbed "ghoulies" by Harryhausen – are pretty damn cool, with naked musculature over a fine framework, little horns, and huge, bug-like eyes. These creatures are, thankfully, very well integrated with the action – they throw embers at Sinbad, and chop through a tent pole – but their movements are slower and more halting than you’d like; they ought, by their design, to move like greased lightning. The Minoton is another wonderful invention (as would happen again in Clash Of The Titans, it is realised through a combination of stop-motion and man-in-makeup effects – the man in question being an uncredited Peter Mayhew!), but frustratingly, it is given next to nothing to do! The highlight of the film, however, is undoubtedly the Troglodyte, with whom our "heroes" meet up towards the end of the story. This huge, horned, brave and gentle creature has nothing whatsoever to do with a real troglodyte, of course, (and perhaps a little too much to do with the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad), but it’s one of Harryhausen’s most memorable creations, and the way that it is used in the film is depressing in the extreme. But I’m getting way ahead of myself….

Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger opens with the aborted coronation of Prince Kassim, with the prince’s transformation concealed by leaping flames, and only the hysterical screams of Princess Farah (Jane Seymour, instantly recognisable despite her veil) alerting us that something "terrible" has happened. Some time later, Sinbad and his inevitable multi-racial crew arrive, and find themselves barred from the city of Charnak. They accept the invitation of the passing "merchant", and end up in his tent watching dancing girls and knocking back poisoned wine. Well - in truth, only one of the sailors takes a swig (the fat guy, duh) – and as he collapses, wailing and clutching his gut, Sinbad springs into, uh, action. What follows is one of the worst swordfights I’ve ever seen. Editor Roy Watts struggles valiantly to conceal the fact, but obviously, neither Patrick Wayne nor Kurt Christian could handle a weapon convincingly; they look more like they’re blocking out their moves in rehearsal than actually fighting. Anyway, Sinbad disarms his adversary and demands to know his identity. Before he gets an answer, a huge gust of wind blows through the tent, and the film’s true villain appears.

Ah, dear me…. How does one go about conveying just how bad Margaret Whiting’s performance in this film is? I’m not sure that I really can….so I will just assure you that she gets all of the script’s worst dialogue (with the occasional challenge from Patrick Troughton), and delivers it either LOUDLY, or in a weird, sing-song intonation that’s even more irritating; and that throughout, she speaks in an accent that’s part Zsa Zsa Gabor, part Bela Lugosi, and part Natasha Fatale – only not as subtle as any of them. (And if, after hearing Zenobia’s pseudo-Rrrrrussian accent, we needed any more convincing that she’s EEEE-ville, (i) she wears black; and (ii) she’s the heroine’s stepmother. Boo, hiss!) Anyhoo, Zenobia suddenly materialises, and without missing a beat, cries out, "From the depths of the earth, I command thee, arise!" As she does so, her eyes suddenly go "cat-like" – an effect that looks suspiciously like it may have been imposed in post-production, probably when someone finally realised that the film’s title doesn’t make a lick of sense. At Zenobia’s word, three creatures obediently appear out of the fire, armed with swords, and as the spineless Rafi makes a run for it, Zenobia’s mini-army attacks. This is perhaps the film’s most purely enjoyable sequence, and contains one of its few intentionally funny moments, when Hassan (aka Annoying Hassan, the Odious Comedy Relief©) runs one of the demons through (a very well-executed effect). The creature pauses for a second, looking down at itself – then simply ignores the "injury" and returns to the attack. The battle moves outside the tent, and the quality of the sequence drops, as we are exposed to the first – but by no means the last – instance of the film’s poor projection work. Sinbad orders his men back to their ship, and leads his attackers close to a convenient stack of roped-up logs. He cuts the ties, the logs crash forward, and the three little demon guys are thoroughly squished. Awww….[*sniff*]

Sinbad heads for his ship, but is suddenly accosted by the Princess Farah. They see the black-cloaked figure of Zenobia nearby, and make a run for the dock, then swim to the ship – which, in the first of the film’s startling displays of female skin, gives Farah an excuse to strip off her wet clothing. (Hardly necessary, you’d think, since until the adventurers reach the North Pole, she never wears anything more substantial than a harem costume.) As she huddles in a blanket, Farah tries to tell Sinbad what happened to her brother, but collapses in helpless tears instead. (Yes, she’s that kind of "heroine".) Sinbad tells her that he came back to Charnak to ask Kassim for her hand, and Farah, although she loves him, replies that she will not marry him until Kassim can give his consent. The next morning, the siblings’ uncle, Balsora, appears on the scene (with Bruno Barnabe giving Margaret Whiting a run for her money in the overacting stakes). In a jaw-dropping bad taste moment, as "His Excellency" reins in his horse, Sinbad’s token black crewmember, Maroof (played by the delightfully named Salami Coker), sprints across eagerly and kneels down so that Balsora can use him as a dismounting block. By this time Farah has managed to tell Sinbad (although not us) what has happened to Kassim, and now Sinbad demands to know if her incredible story can possibly be true. Balsora confirms it, and the three discuss ways of rescuing the stricken prince. "Unless Kassim is crowned before the passing of seven moons," explains Balsora gravely, "he will lose forever his right to be Caliph." Inevitably, Sinbad has one of those "There’s just one chance!" brainwave moments, as he conveniently recalls the legend of the wise man, Melanthius. Balsora promises Sinbad a rich reward if he can help Kassim, and still more inevitably, Sinbad replies loftily, with a significant look at Farah, "Should I undertake this mission, it will not be for treasure or jewels!" (Of course, it never occurs to him that his crew might want to be paid for their efforts. Or perhaps he’s planning on sharing Farah with them….)

On shore, the horses suddenly react as if someone had said "Blucher" to them; and Zenobia arrives in her palanquin. Farah immediately has a hissy fit over the very existence of her stepmother (boo, hiss!) and Balsora warns Sinbad that Zenobia is "more dangerous than a scorpion!" Sinbad runs to greet her, and unwisely refers to "the Caliph Kassim". Zenobia immediately storms on board ship, to warn Balsora to stop meddling. She also insists that Kassim is beyond anyone’s aid, helpfully adding, presumably for the benefit of those of us who weren’t paying attention ninety seconds earlier, when Balsora gave the exact same speech in the exact same words, that "If Kassim isn’t crowned before the passing of seven moons, yada-yada." Farah has been repeatedly warned to keep her mouth shut, but when Zenobia again (for the benefit of those of us, yada-yada redux), insists that "nothing and no-one" can help Kassim, the princess retorts childishly, "Melanthius can!" Ladies and gentlemen, our heroine. (I’m only surprised that she didn’t poke her tongue out and say "Nyah, nyah!" at the same time.) Armed with this information, Zenobia takes off, while Sinbad – manfully refraining from bestowing upon his beloved a sorely deserved smack in the gob – announces that there is no time to be lost, and that they will set sail that very evening.

And so the ship is prepared. Amongst the goods carried on board is a large cage containing a baboon. Shortly afterwards, as the journey begins, Annoying Hassan is, uh, painting part of the ship (?), which allows him to see into a cabin, where Farah is playing chess with the animal. Now, you’d think that in the course of his voyages with Sinbad, Annoying Hassan would have seen many much stranger sights than that; but apparently not, as he is compelled to barge into the cabin, pointing and gibbering, "A baboon that plays chess!" and utterly ignoring Farah’s repeated cries for him to "Go away, go away!!" Finally, Sinbad is forced to intervene. (We get one of the film’s better moments here, as Annoying Hassan reiterates his cry of, "It was playing chess!" and Sinbad responds offhandedly, "Yes, I know – it’s already beaten me twice." Given Patrick Wayne’s performance here, we’d have no trouble believing that even if it were an ordinary baboon.) Confronted by shrieking hysterics from both his fiancée and his subordinate, Sinbad is driven to tell Annoying Hassan the truth: that this is not merely a baboon; it is – gasp! – the transformed Prince Kassim….

To which the viewer can only respond, big whoopdy-doo.

I dunno, maybe I’m being unfair here. But after all the build-up, after the repeated descriptions of the horrible, terrifying, nightmarish fate of the Prince Kassim, I’m sure there isn’t a viewer out there who doesn’t feel badly let down by this long-delayed revelation. Of course, Farah has every right to regard what’s happened to her brother as the ultimate horror; I’d feel the same way if my brother were turned into a baboon – I suppose; but given that we are in the fantasy world of a Ray Harryhausen film, where literally anything is possible, why on earth did they choose a baboon? It’s just so disappointingly mundane. Anyhoo….

Back in Charnak, Zenobia and Rafi are completing work on the Minoton, a golden creature with a mechanical heart fashioned from still more gold, and diamonds. Again for the benefit of people with short attention spans (I guess), Zenobia rehashes the entire scene on the ship. (This film could have been fifteen to twenty minutes shorter, if they’d just refrained from repeating everything!) Rafi starts whimpering and whining when hears of Melanthius, and we learn that Zenobia is indeed doing all of this so that Rafi can be Caliph. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pause here for a few moments and reflect on something that’s always puzzled me: namely, why it is in so many fantasy stories that people with amazing powers waste them on such pathetic little enterprises? Take Zenobia: she can read minds, transform human beings into animals, create something like the Minoton….yet devotes all of this to winning a tin-pot throne for her wimp of a son! And am I the only one affronted by the fact that, with all of her powers, the Wicked Queen in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs can find nothing better to do with her time than sit around on her duff fretting over whether or not she’s "the fairest in the land"? For heaven’s sake, woman! Give that little bimbo a wart or a walleye, and get on with your life! Yeesh!

Zenobia and Rafi set out in pursuit of Sinbad in a boat propelled by the strength of the Minoton alone, as it works multiple oars from a single control. Meanwhile, Sinbad and his crew have already reached their destination, the fog-bound island of Cascar. As they stare gloomily at the dangerous reefs surrounding the shore, wondering how to proceed, Annoying Hassan suddenly announces, "I’ve got an idea!" As his companions gather round him, he exclaims, "Let’s go back!" Yuck, yuck, yuck! Sinbad then makes the kind of off-the-wall, out-of-nowhere decision that only can only come from a truly great leader: they’ll go in their rowing-boats – between the reefs. Get it? This they do, with a minimum of fuss (i.e. we don’t actually see it), then set out to search for the legendary Melanthius. They find a huge, beautiful temple-like building carved into the rocks, and as they stare at it in awe, suddenly find themselves under attack; as indeed does the viewer, from - The Back Projection From Hell! As our "heroes" are assailed by a shower of rocks launched from the nearby cliffs, we see them flailing around in the extreme foreground, while a series of blurred, jumpy sets jerk around in the background. (Actually, this entire sequence has been rather strange. They were obviously on location – in Petra, I think - yet all of the close-ups were done through projection. Why?) Mercifully, a cry in a woman’s voice puts a stop to both the barrage and – the barrage. We then meet Dione – who is, naturally, a blonde, so as to contrast with Jane Seymour’s Farah. Sinbad demands to know whether Melanthius exists, and Dione finally admits that he does – and that he is her father. (As usual in these kinds of set-ups, there’s no sign of "mother".)

Enter Patrick Troughton, who is also a competitor in the "Chew The Scenery" stakes, prefacing nearly every sentence with a broad "HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!". Sinbad reveals the transformed Kassim, and Dione immediately feels a [*cough*] rapport with the creature. (Which reminds me – I haven’t seen The Bride And The Beast for simply ages.) After convincing himself of Kassim’s identity, Melanthius "just happens" to remember that he has in his possession some scrolls that used to belong to an ancient people known as the Aremaspai, who "just happened" to know the secret of transformation. (As everyone gathers around to examine the scrolls, we are given a painfully clear look at the zipper that runs down the back of Dione’s "Grecian robe".) After some persuasion on Sinbad’s part – and reflecting that his "good friend, Archimedes" would "split himself with envy" if he knew of the journey – Melanthius agrees to join the expedition. As they sail away, they are spotted by their pursuers, who – not being blessed with Sinbad’s navigational genius – managed to run onto the reefs around the island. "THEY ARE LEAVING!!" bellows Zenobia, and re-doubles her nagging of poor Rafi, who for some reason is stuck with trying to fix their oars. Um – wouldn’t the Minoton do that a bit faster? I guess it’s not in its contract…. They finally do get underway again, and catch up to Sinbad in remarkably quick time. Zenobia tries to use telepathy to discover their destination, but her enemies are out of transmission range. So, in desperation, she uses the same potion upon herself that she used on Kassim, and transforms into – a seagull. And because she is transforming into a seagull, and because this is the seventies, the transformation is accompanied by – ulp! - psychedelic lighting effects. In fact, the only thing missing here is Neil Diamond ululating© on the soundtrack….

Zenobia lands on Sinbad’s ship where – conveniently concealed by a coiled rope – she transforms again, into a six-inch-high version of herself. She sneaks into the main cabin, causing Kassim to go berserk. The dense humans misinterpret this behaviour, so Kassim is forced to break out of his cage and take matters into his own, uh, hands. The humans finally catch on, and Melanthius grabs Zenobia and deposits her in a glass bell jar. He then orders the others out of the room, telling them that he will interrogate the dangerous Zenobia, and force from her the truth about Kassim.

Well, we soon learn why Melanthius didn’t want any witnesses to his "interrogation". What follows is the lamest, most embarrassing Good vs Evil "showdown" scene in the history of cinema. Melanthius starts out by threatening Zenobia with a bee sting, but soon moves on to asking what she wanted on the ship. He then suggests that, "Perhaps it was this?" – and shows her the Aremaspai scrolls! - and the key to their Shrine to the Four Elements, which he "just happened" to have lying around as well. "How did you know of their existence?" he demands. (Uh, maybe she didn’t, smart guy!) Zenobia responds by turning her telepathic powers onto him, trying to read his mind. Melanthius succumbs for some moments, then shakes himself free and throws a tantrum, angrily insisting on knowing the secret of her powers of transformation. Perhaps, he muses, this power could re-transform Kassim – and "make our journey to the Shrine of the Aremaspai unnecessary," he helpfully adds. "THE AREMASPAI!!" howls Zenobia triumphantly, and Melanthius gives a little "Oh, rats!" gesture. But then, perhaps feeling she should make it a fair fight, Zenobia herself does something incredibly stupid. On her journey through the cabin, she somehow managed to mislay the locket that contains her potion; and now she draws Melanthius’s attention to the fact by shrieking, "MY LOCKET! MY LOCKET!" Melanthius finds the item, and pours out the remaining potion out onto the table. "Perhaps this could transform Kassim!" he enthuses. "But perhaps there isn’t enough of it. I’ll have to test it."

So, what does he do, this legendary Wise Man, this genius? He lets a bee drink the transforming potion! And then looks shocked when the freaking thing grows huge and attacks him!!

Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy….

Anyway, much shouting and waving and knocking things over ensues; in the midst of which, Zenobia escapes, scoops up what’s left of her potion, re-gulls herself, and departs. Sinbad and the girls have come rushing in, and he succeeds in killing the bee, only to learn that, uh, there’s been a slight mishap in the Zenobia department. Back on her boat, Zenobia uses the last of her potion to restore herself (accompanied by more psychedelic effects). But alas! – there wasn’t quite enough; and she wails in horror as she sees that – one of her feet is still webbed…. (Hilariously, of all the possibilities in this film, Zenobia’s foot was what they chose to feature prominently on the original poster art; although it must be said that, as rendered, it didn’t look exactly gull-like….) Back on Sinbad’s ship, the Good Guys worry over Kassim’s behaviour, which is becoming more ape-like by the day. They journey on, eventually penetrating the ice of the northern seas. They find the tunnel-like opening in the ice marked on the scrolls, but decide that their ship is too big for them to enter safely. Instead, they sail north as far as they can, then disembark and proceed on foot, the caged Kassim being drawn on a sled. And suddenly – they are attacked by a giant walrus!! (You know, it’s a pity this animal doesn’t move in a more realistic way, because it’s actually a beautifully designed model.) The girls and Melanthius cower away, while the other men fight back with spears and lumps of ice. A couple of the crewmembers are killed here, although astonishingly, the black dude isn’t one of them. (Neither, tragically, is Annoying Hassan.) Finally, after a gruesome poke to the creature’s eye (G-rated!?), the walrus departs the way it came. The travellers go on their way, and eventually find Hyperborea, the warm, green and fertile valley that was once home to the Aremaspai.

As if the violence against the walrus wasn’t enough, we now get another chance to mourn our lost G-rated past as the two girls shed their clothing and go skinny-dipping! We only get distance shots, of course, but nevertheless, we’re given a relatively clear view of Ms Power’s bare behind, and then see a startling amount of Ms Seymour, as she sits naked in the sun with her hip-length hair artfully arranged down the side of her body. This idyll is interrupted by the arrival of the Troglodyte, whose appearance causes the two girls to snatch up their flimsy robes and run away shrieking – not to mention granting the audience an uninterrupted look at Ms Power’s right breast. Amazing. The men come running, and Sinbad draws his sword, demanding to know what kind of "evil monster" is confronting them. Ooh, you judgemental prat! Melanthius insists that it’s not a monster at all, but "one of man’s ancestors"; and that he’s "more frightened of us than we are of him". And with good reason, as we shall see. Melanthius further claims that Troglodytes "were known for their gentleness with the female of the species" (hmm….I guess that’s one trait that got lost down the evolutionary pathway), and suggests that Dione try to make contact with the creature. The girl - who obviously has a thing for the "primitive" type of male - does so. Melanthius then draws a sketch of the opening to the Aremaspai Shrine in the dirt. Trog recognises it, and obligingly (courtesy of more crappy back projection) leads the adventurers to it. On the way, Trog makes friends with Kassim, and the two "chat" together as they go. (And you can just imagine the conversation, can’t you? "You mean this is what I evolve into!?" "I know, pathetic, isn’t it?")

Meanwhile, Zenobia, Rafi and the Minoton have located and entered that original ice tunnel, so they’re ahead of our "heroes"; and they find the pyramid-like Shrine first. But Melanthius has the only key. Nothing daunted, Zenobia summons up her powers and loosens some of the huge stone blocks, then orders the Minoton to pull them free. It does so, and this violation of the Shrine results in a violent storm and earthquake, which topples the Minoton and leaves him pinned beneath one of the blocks he just pulled free. Zenobia stares down at her crushed creation, and casually shrugs. "He’s done his work."

"AND HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET HOME, YOU IDIOT!?" shrieked the occupants of my lounge-room in chorus.

Of course, it needed only a moment’s reflection for us to realise that this was a misplaced objection. Zenobia and Rafi are the film’s Bad Guys, after all. Obviously, they ain’t going home….

The adventurers find the breach in the wall, and Melanthius cries out in horror that this will threaten the very power of the Shrine. They hurry inside, and find themselves in an ice-bound central chamber, a column of blue light at its heart, at which they gaze in helpless awe. (The film lets itself down again here. The set itself is impressive, but the "ice" is all too clearly made of plastic.) Sinbad suddenly notices that the ice is melting, and sure enough, huge icicles start plunging from the ceiling. Simultaneously, Dione points out the golden cage that sits near the column of light, in which Kassim must be placed in order to be passed through the light. But MWOO-HA-HA!! The adventurers find themselves confronted by Zenobia and Rafi. For some reason, Zenobia suddenly decides that conventional weaponry is the way to go, and she orders Rafi to kill Melanthius (why?). Her son obediently draws his sword, and (since Sinbad, Annoying Hassan and Maroof just kind of stand around) very nearly succeeds. At the last moment, Kassim sinks his teeth into Rafi’s wrist. Man and ape struggle violently, rolling down to the bottom of the stairs, where Rafi lands with a broken neck. (You see? Being transformed into a baboon does have its upside. Kassim’s probably been dying to do that ever since his father lumbered him with this whiny brat of a younger brother. But, you know, being a Good Guy….) The stricken Zenobia staggers down to her son’s body, while everyone else backs nervously out of her vicinity (including Kassim, who gives us an opportunity for learning the baboon-speak for "You all saw it! He came at me with a sword, right? Right?" Also chucklesome in this sequence is the fact that the thinly-clad Melanthius and Dione remain seated on the stairs throughout. Uh, those stairs are covered in ice, remember! Brrr!!). As Zenobia wails in grief, the icicles begin to fall again, and the column of blue light flickers in and out. Melanthius and Sinbad (finally) spring into action, putting Kassim into the cage. He is passed through the light, and sure enough, emerges as the real Kassim. Everyone celebrates except Dione, who backs away with a slightly embarrassed expression, as if it’s occurred to her that not so long ago, she was scratching this guy behind the ears and letting him lick her fingers….

But Zenobia has one more shot left. As the Shrine begins to crumble in earnest, she does that "eye effect" again, dissolves her body into smoke, and enters the sabre-tooth cat which "just happens" to be encased in ice near the column. The creature comes to life, and attacks! – or at least, as much as an entirely unimpressive stuffed animal can. The humans back away in, uh, terror – and suddenly Trog comes to their rescue, armed with the Minoton’s golden javelin. What follows is the most depressing climax of any of these films, as poor Trog is thoroughly and explicitly mauled to death, while his "friends" stand around watching. (At one point, while Trog is still alive, Sinbad, Annoying Hassan and Maroof could all three run the cat through from behind, but instead they merely poke it in the butt – what the fudge!?) Trog being bloodily disposed of – boy, I bet he’s glad that "civilisation" came to Hyperborea! - the cat turns on the humans again, and swiftly disposes of the black dude. That Contractual Obligation out of the way, Sinbad is free to kill the cat, which he does by impaling it with the javelin, then burying his sword in it. The humans flee the ruined Shrine as it begins to cave in….

….and then Kassim is crowned and everyone smiles. The End.

Wow…. I guess when this production ran out of money, it really ran out of money….