"Mighty Kali...Mightier than thou am I. Make obeisance to ME!"
Released in 1973, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was the second in a trilogy of swashbuckling movies about the Arabian Nights hero produced by Charles H. Schneer and featuring the stop-motion animation wizardry of Ray Harryhausen.
I first saw it when I was nine years old, munching popcorn in the darkness of the theater at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Now I have to tell you up front, this was a great movie theater. Whatever offerings they had for the adults on base was naturally beneath my notice (if there was no possibility of a swordfight, an alien invasion, or an experiment gone horribly wrong, what cared I?), but during the weekend kids' matinees we got great stuff like Hercules, Zorro, and those old black-and-white Disney movies where Fred MacMurray and Tommy Kirk did things like turn into dogs or bounce around a basketball court like rubber balls.
But as I watched the exploits of this beturbaned mariner on the screen that day, I realized that this movie was the standard against which every adventure film I saw from then on would have to be measured. In short, Sinbad (appropriately brave, strong, clever, and witty in this performance by John Phillip Law) comes across one of three golden tablets sought by the evil magician Koura (Tom Baker). Combined with the other pieces and laid over a mysterious map painted on a palace wall, it directs the bearer to the legendary Fountain of Destiny, where possession of the tablets grants one eternal youth, a shield of darkness, and a crown of riches. Accompanied by a masked Vizier and a mysterious slave girl (breathtaking Bond girl Caroline Munroe), Sinbad sets off to beat Koura to the Fountain and win the treasure.
The resulting journey is packed full of lost temples, forbidden isles, savage tribesmen, magic spells, inescapable deathtraps, giant monsters, and swordfights, swordfights, swordfights. In what is quite possibly -- and I am being purely objective here -- the greatest scene in motion picture history, Sinbad and his crew fight a six-armed statue of the goddess Kali who, animated by the vile Koura's black magic, wields a flashing scimitar in each hand! (The fact that it is actually a statue of Shiva and not Kali diminishes its wonderfulness not one whit.) In the end the cosmic powers of Light and Darkness themselves clash at the Fountain of Destiny, with the balance of the universe at stake.
The previous film in the series was The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and the follow-up to this one was 1977's Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Though they are both worthy, neither quite matches the excitement of this one.