Any self-proclaimed lover of b-cinema has heard of Cannon Films, the studio equivalent of The Little Engine That Could. Their timeline is packed to the brim with action fests (American Ninja), trendy time capsules (Breakin’, Lambada, Rappin’), and more than a few sequels to previously esteemed franchises (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Superman IV – The Quest for Peace). With such a hefty amount of titles to choose from and aspirations loftier than most accredited companies, you’d think Cannon could pop out one or two decent films, but therein lies their genius. No amount of epic plotlines or glossed-over special effects could hide the fact that Cannon dealt with low budgets and bad actors, but it is their very attempt which makes their films a joy to watch.
Case in point, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, a movie so sloppy, confusing, and just plain dumb you can’t help but find yourself smiling. The fun starts immediately when the classic text crawl appears, rolling over what has to be the most embarrassing portrait of Edgar Allen Poe ever created. Seriously, the poor guy has his eyes crossed, so he comes off less like a literary genius (as the text would have you believe) and more like a simple doof who likes puppies and candy. The purpose of this crawl is to explain how Poe wrote the one thousand and second Arabian Night, which of course dealt with Sinbad and his continued adventures. From what follows, however, I highly doubt the movie is strictly based on the original source, as the plot is as clichéd and dumb as you can get.
But wait, why include one framework device when you can have two? Yes, as if the text crawl wasn’t enough, now we have to watch a mother trying to put her daughter to sleep. This scene is just insane to watch, as both actors have been dubbed so poorly it sounds like they’re both going into deep comas, and from this point on I knew what followed would be just as crazy if not more so. Assuredly enough, as the mother started telling the story of Sinbad (written by Edgar Allen Poe, if you recall), the film finally switched over to the star of the film: Lou Ferrigno. Yep, TV’s own Incredible Hulk plays the title sword-swinger, and while he certainly looks the part—coming off as more like an overcooked slab of beef than mere man—his acting skills are putrid when put to the test. Something tells me Ferrigno may have been dubbed as well, and if this is the case, I apologize to him for my egregious error. If this is not the case, however, than let me just say this: every line Ferrigno delivers is so blandly monotone you could put it on a CD and sell it in the new wave section of most stores. Just add some rain and wind effects and you have a sure-fire cure for insomnia.
Along with our intrepid and ceaselessly uninteresting hero there is a colorful crew of side characters, most of which are embarrassing to their respective peoples. There’s Poochie the Dwarf, the requisite comic relief who ends up being called The Midget when the final credits scroll. We also have The Cook, Poochie’s partner in relief; The Viking, who hits stuff with his hammer and not much else; Prince Ali, a generic ingénue who is in love with the generic Princess; and The Samurai, whose Technicolor robes seem to have been bought at a gay pride store rather than a period costume shop. Of course, being Asian, the Samurai is constantly quoting Confucius and having psychic revelations about his fellow sailors. So, to keep track: midgets, Norsemen, and Asians should all be humiliated right now.
With such amazing heroes, what villain could possibly challenge them? Why, none other than the hammy Jafar, who we are told time and time again is the single most evil man to ever be born in the history of the entire known universe. The evidence certainly upholds this claim, as Jafar is constantly rubbing his hands together, bulging his eyes out, and shouting lines with enough force to bring down small buildings. Unfortunately, over the course of the film Jafar becomes one of those supposedly funny villains, and any viewer will quickly learn his arsenal of dastardly tools is less than stellar. He throws zombies, slime monsters, Amazonian mind vampires (seriously), and about a dozen other forms of henchmen at Sinbad, and they all get resolutely beaten to smithereens.
Sinbad of the Seven Seas, despite being hopelessly silly, is also one of the most confusing movies I’ve seen in the past few months. The story sounds deceptively simple: Jafar kidnaps a Princess, transports some magical jewels to the most dangerous corners of the globe, and plans to force his hostage into loving him using a psychedelic mind control booth highly reminiscent of the pleasure machine from Barbarella. Things start to get tricky, however, when the movie can’t make up its mind about the rules of this game. First off, the narrator tells us Sinbad has “seven moons” to retrieve the jewels, but as she keeps describing the journey it’s obvious the big dope has been sailing for much more than a single week. Then there’s the matter of how many jewels actually exist. At any given point there were three, four, or even five, and different characters had their own wildly different tallies going on. The continuity errors just boggle the mind, but it helps make Sinbad a great movie for groups to tackle.
Make no mistake, this is a movie everyone must see if they are to pride themselves on seeing the worst of the worst. Along with a hacked-to-pieces script and copious amounts of bad dubbing, there are enough Z-grade special effects to keep you howling for hours. One sequence sees Sinbad conversing with rubber snakes like he’s their therapist. Using the Adam & Eve story he manages to “get on their level,” if you will, and the serpents allow themselves to be fashioned into a rope so Sinbad can escape a dungeon. Later on the bronze behemoth battles what is basically an immobile pile of snot, which we’re told to believe is the biggest challenge Sinbad has to face. There’s no end to the comedy, and for putting a smile on my face I give Cannon a hearty pat on the back. They may have failed completely in putting this together, but it’s still a kind of success in my book.