The 7th Voyage of Sinbad appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was an inconsistent transfer that was never unwatchable but it also failed to become particularly positive.
My main complaint came from the excessive grain that affected much of Voyage. This was a virtually constant presence that made the entire image rather messy. I didn’t mind the grain so much during interiors or effects shots; I expected them there. However, even daytime exteriors suffered from an awful lot of grain, and that left us with cloudy visuals that tended to mar every other aspect of the image.
Other source flaws weren’t as distracting. I noticed a handful of specks but nothing serious, as the movie remained pretty clean. Black levels seemed okay, though they tended to be a little too dense. Shadows were fairly smooth and well-developed much of the time, though some ugly “day for night” shots looked rather opaque.
Because of all the grain, colors varied. At times they could be pretty dynamic, but since the grain often made it look like we watched the film through gauze, the hues usually suffered. Much of the time they were flat and runny.
Sharpness was erratic. The messiness caused by the grain could make things seem tentative, and since that was such a big factor, much of the movie looked moderately ill-defined. Some shots featured nice delineation, but the transfer lacked consistency. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minor. Honestly, without the excessive grain, this probably would have been a decent transfer, but as is, it looked pretty bad.
Much of the time, I don’t care for remixes made from single-channel sources. However, the Dolby Digital 5.1 reworking of Voyage offered a surprisingly natural piece of audio. Taken from the monaural source – which also appeared here – the soundfield created a pretty broad and involving setting. Shots on the water opened things up well, and scenes with action also gave us some good localized audio. These elements meshed smoothly, and they also used the surrounds in a moderately useful manner.
Bernard Herrmann’s score fared best of all. The flick featured very good stereo imaging that allowed the music to come to life. In fact, the stereo presentation was so solid that it tended to make the rest of the track a little less effective; the score barely showed its age, as the music was lively and robust.
Other aspects of the audio seemed more dated but remained acceptable. Speech suffered from a lot of awkward dubbing, but the lines remained intelligible and lacked edginess. Effects elements could be a bit rough, but they appeared decent at worst and boasted some nice low-end response. Overall, this was a good little track.
How did the picture and audio of this “50th Anniversary Edition” compare to those on the original 1999 DVD? Both showed improvements, especially in terms of sound. I liked the remixed 5.1 track, though more for the increased fidelity; even without the broader scope, it simply sounded better. The visuals weren’t substantially better here, as both DVDs suffered from lots of grain and the residual issues. However, the 50th Anniversary image showed fewer source flaws, so it worked better. Both were ugly, but the new transfer seemed less offensive.
In terms of extras, this “50th Anniversary Edition” of Voyage presents mostly new supplements. The majority of the earlier disc’s components pop up here. I’ll discuss that situation after I examine this package’s pieces.
We open with an audio commentary from special visual effects creator Ray Harryhausen, producer Arnold Kunert, visual effects experts Phil Tippett and Randall William Cook and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven Smith. All sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and crew, the score and its composer, the project’s origins and development, the film’s impact and influence, sets and locations, and its visual effects.
Expect a lively little chat here. This was the fourth Harryhausen commentary I screened, and it’s the best, largely due to the presence of Smith. He adds a non-effects perspective that provides useful, while the others give us a good take on the flick’s technical elements. This turns into a solid commentary.
Next comes a featurette called Remembering The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. In this 23-minute and 30-second program, we hear from Harryhausen. We get notes about the film’s roots and development as well as facts about Harryhausen’s effects and some other production issues. If you listened to the commentary, you already learned virtually everything presented here. We see some interesting archival elements, and Harryhausen even trots out one of the old skeletons he animated. Nonetheless, if you took in the commentary, you might want to skip this fairly redundant piece.
The Harryhausen Legacy goes for 25 minutes, 30 seconds and includes remarks from Tippett, archivist/film historian Bob Burns, writer/agent/editor Forrest J. Ackerman, and filmmakers John Landis, Hoyt Yeatman, Ken Ralston, Joe Dante, John Dykstra, the Chiodo Brothers, Dennis Muren, Doug Beswick, Jon Berg, Rick Baker, Kevin Kutchaver, Frank Darabont, and Stan Winston. The participants reflect on how Harryhausen’s work influenced them as well as aspects of his effects. Expect a lot of fawning praise here. Yes, it’s nice to get the perspectives of those so heavily impressed by Harryhausen, but the comments lack the critical assessment I’d like. If the show had focused more on an appreciation of specifics and less on general praise, it would’ve been more satisfying.
In the 26-minute and 50-second The Music of Bernard Herrmann, we hear from Smith. He gives us an overview of Herrmann’s career and also an appreciation for those scores. I like the parts that emphasize Herrmann’s work on the Harryhausen flicks, but we don’t get a great general look at Herrmann. Smith barely mentions Hitchcock, so this doesn’t become a strong biography. Nonetheless, it allows us some good info about Herrmann’s fantasy film efforts, so it’s worth a look.
A running Photo Gallery fills nine minutes, 34 seconds. Movie score accompanies the shots as we see a mix of movie stills. I’d have liked some behind the scenes images, but this remains a decent collection.
For something unusual, we head to ”Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He’s Been Good to Me”. This offers a song created to promote the film, and it comes accompanied by movie ads. It’s a goofy little tune, but it’s fun to hear.
All of the next three elements appeared on the earlier DVD. A Look Behind the Voyage provides an 11-minute and 46-second piece that features comments from Harryhausen, Schneer, and actor
Kerwin Mathews. This is a pleasant and entertaining feature that offers some interesting details about the creation of the film.
This Is Dynamation! is three-minute and 25-second featurette that comes from the era in which the movie was released. The piece gives us a hint of what to expect from the flick’s effects. It's short and frothy fun in a campy way, and it includes a few decent notes about the creation of the effects.
For the final featurette, Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by John Landis fills 11 minutes, 52 seconds. Despite its placement on this DVD, the program concentrates on Jason and the Argonauts. Landis chats with Harryhausen about the flick and has him demonstrate some aspects of his effects work. While it does focus on Argonauts, it also provides an abridged history of Harryhausen's career. It shows nothing particularly crucial that we don't hear elsewhere, but Landis' obvious affection and semi-awe help make it entertaining. Ultimately, it helps give us a better appreciation for Harryhausen because we can see him through the eyes of those who really learned from him.
The disc includes Previews for a few films. We get ads for “Ray Harryhausen in Color”, CJ7 and Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.
What does this set drop from the prior DVD? The main omission comes from the absence of a fine hour-long called “Ray Harryhausen Chronicles”, though we also lose an abundance of trailers. The old disc included promos for Voyage and other Harryhausen films that fail to reappear here. The new set also omits some talent files, a reproduction of the film’s poster, and a booklet.
While I really respect the pioneering visual effects work of Ray Harryhausen, many of the flicks on which he worked weren’t good. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad boasts some cool visuals but otherwise stinks. Packed with poor acting, bad dialogue and a host of other problems, it’s a pretty bad movie. The DVD offers flawed visuals, pretty good audio, and a very nice roster of supplements. This is a generally decent release for a silly movie.
For Voyage fans who don’t own the prior disc, I think the “50th Anniversary Edition” is the one to get. It offers slightly improved visuals, a nice 5.1 track, and some good new supplements, though it loses a fine documentary from the old release. I’d also recommend this package for Voyage buffs who already have the 1999 disc, though it’s not a slam-dunk. I like the 5.1 remix, and the new extras are good; if that’s enough to warrant a double-dip, this set should make you happy.