Seven minutes into Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, star Patrick Wayne is clashing swords with three insectoid Ghouls. They are spawns of a devilish witch, Zenobia (Margaret Whiting) who attempts to end Sinbad (Wayne) before his world crossing voyage can commence.
Commence his quest will… slowly. Eye of the Tiger is strangled by its pacing and familiarity with Golden Voyage. In each, a heroic crew charts their course toward certain doom, searching for a mythical item while chased by the film’s core human villain. Patches of masterwork stop motion oblige an audience who sat down for thrills, all in-between stretches of anemic dialog.
With some charisma, Sinbad would carry his feature. Wayne, strong-jawed and possessing his father’s physical screen presence, slumps through line delivery as an ultimately static hero. There is little effervescence to portray an excited and sure voyager, but rather someone smitten with the sight of princess Farah (Jane Seymour).
Zapped energy hoists much of the feature on Harryhausen’s steady hands, and in doing so, this fantastic escapism is salvaged from an unceremonious end. It is an animator’s grand touch which produces life in a baboon puppet. The simian was once a Prince, transformed to his current state by Zenobia. As opposed to an object utilized to grasp at thin plot threads, this baboon becomes cautiously, carefully animated. Peering into a mirror, the baboon begins to well up with tears, displaying humanity where a live creature would fail.
Eye of the Tiger eventually executes a bait-and-switch, with a horned Troglodyte peering down at female stars menacingly before being coined an ally. Trog carries the frightened stance of previous Harryhausen monsters, mirroring the Cyclops from 7th Voyage, before lowering a club and relenting. Turning heroic, the animator once again dons a war-like finale with Trog brandishing his weapon to combat a previously frozen saber-tooth cat.
Gifts keep coming, including a panicked and chaotic swat fest against an enlarged bee to a golden Minotaur. The latter is split between Harryhausen’s hallmark and suit actor Peter Mayhew shoved into a suit for long shots. Both styles are effectively melded through edits.
Columbia granted the film $7 million, gargantuan considering Harryhausen began under budgets barely eclipsing $200,000. Spending 18 months in animation, funds were certainly divid toward special effects. Captured on location in Spain, live action is often shamelessly and distractingly pieced together with studio green screens, continuity errors created from obvious body doubles. Disregard for cohesion in the narrative is inexcusable, at least until the next wonder of animation crosses the lens.
Twilight Time is responsible for issuing the film to Blu-ray, out of the hands of Sony. Prior to the onslaught of late second act and third act opticals, Eye of the Tiger is a challenger for the premiere catalog title on the format. For the late ’70s, cinematography slinks in close with remarkable adherence to focus. Fidelity is not only strong, it stands as some of the sharpest of the era. Resolution is rich and fine detail astutely portrayed.
Improving cinematic technique lessens grain, whether outside of visual effects or not. Encoding chomps on the source material invisibly, replicating a sense of film projection. Source grain never elevates to challenge this AVC work, remaining consistently intact. Or, it does pose a challenge, and compression routines shy away from making it obvious.
Splashes of color highlight costumes and set design, particularly aboard the ship. Costuming is lively with primaries and the natural energy of Eastmancolor is untouched on this disc. There is no sense of digital touch up or manipulation. Flesh tones are naturally subsided and where called upon, specific hues will prove striking. Likewise, black levels (even during day for night scenes) add punch.
Minimal print damage is left to only a handful of scratches, popping up for one frame then disappearing for good. This includes effects shots which through earlier processes were notoriously prone to damage. Progression of film technology is evident in this series by the rising clarity and visual quality of animation set pieces.
Of final note is the second half, burdened by a reliance on green screen effects. Notable halos are introduced by source elements, which is fine. But, it is a shame the earlier level of shockingly beautiful definition is sapped by these decisions. The switch in technique slowly erodes pristine clarity as Eye of the Tiger moves forward. The film does, however, remain eye catching for its color and lack of encoding faults.
DTS-HD adds some spice to what was once a mono presentation, boosted into the modern era of 5.1. No mono mixes are available, although an isolated score track will appease some. Otherwise, dialog is sharply resolved with only a tinge of aging. Roy Budd’s catching score is preserved cleanly with excellent swell into the surrounds. Stereos blare highs without distortion.
Positional work is quaint as to not rob the film of its intent, adding light spacing to bolster certain scenes. The enraged bee assault flips the buzzing outside of the center channel, tracking the insect as its dodges strikes. Collapsing icicles add something for the rears to handle during the finale, with minor LFE added to push weight into the low-end even if tightness is lost.
The above mentioned isolated score is a bonus highlight, followed by the vintage promo This is Dynamation, focused on 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The original theatrical trailer remains.