Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

With size-shifting jinn (genies) constantly being imprisoned in and released from lamps and bottles, Western interpretations of the Sinbad/Aladdin stories seem to have no problem accommodating shrunken people.  Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is very much a part of this trend, starting with The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and continuing through I Dream of Jeannie, featuring tiny women in varying degrees of peril.

Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) arrives in town to court Princess Farah (Jane Seymour (above; that’s her real hair)) and to witness the coronation of Farah’s brother Kassim.  Unfortunately, Zenobia (Margaret Whiting)—Farah’s and Kassim’s wicked step-mother and rumored sorceress—wants her son Rafi to be crowned Caliph and so has secretly cursed Kassim, transforming him into a baboon.  The deadline for crowning a new Caliph is seven months away, so Sinbad sails off with Farah and Kassim in search of the Greek scholar Melanthius (Patrick Troughton), who might know how to lift the curse.  Zenobia sets off in pursuit, oedipally dragging along Rafi, who might have more prudently been left behind to schmooze the court and establish his bona fides.

Sinbad and Farah pick up Melanthius and his daughter Dione (Taryn Power) and continue on to the legendary land of Hyperborea.  Zenobia can’t figure out their plan, so she decides to spy on them.  The key to the transformation curse is a potion (in dramatically limited supply), and Zenobia uses it to transform herself into a seagull and thus catch up with Sinbad’s ship.   Once aboard, she uses the potion to transform herself again into a four-inch-tall version of her normal human self (this isn’t the first Sinbad movie to feature a woman transformed into a bird transforming again into a tiny woman).  Why Zenobia couldn’t accomplish her espionage as a seagull or a rat is never explained, but I’m not gonna complain.

Zenobia infiltrates Melanthius’s cabin, where the Melanthius is studying his scrolls and Dione has been practicing writing with Kassim, who needs constant intellectual stimulation lest he become more bestial.  Recent poor behavior by Kassim have made his companions despair of his humanity, leading them to discount his alarm when he scents the tiny Zenobia creeping past his cage.

We haven’t gotten to the nude sunbathing scene in Hyperborea yet, but those flashing thighs were enough to convince me that Dione typically went commando.

Farah and Sinbad are apprehensive as to what even a tiny Zenobia might be capable of, but Melanthius and Dione are more sanguine about this opportunity to learn from the shrunken sorceress.

Dione is positively gleeful at the new discovery. I’m sure she has her own experiments in mind.

Melanthius, the old goat, convinces the others to leave him alone with the four-inch-tall woman for some enhanced interrogation. Note the disappointment on Dione’s face.

Melanthius’s traveling research materials apparently include a jar of poisonous wasps, and he threatens to let one share Zenobia’s jar.  High on his own cruelty, Melanthius then carelessly allows Zenobia to read his mind and learn their destination.  Then it’s her turn to be careless when she discovers that she has lost her locket containing the transformation potion, and, noting this, Melanthius somehow finds the shrunken locket in the corner of the cabin where she had been skulking.  He crowns his folly by administering the potion to one of the wasps, which grows to the size of a hawk and attacks him and the rest of the crew.  In the confusion, Zenobia escapes from the jar, uses the potion to return to seagull form, and flies away.

In many ways, the plot of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is a gender-swapped version of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.  Sinbad’s still in command, unfortunately; a ship commanded by Farah would have been awesome.  Since it’s the 70s, everyone has great hair, even the Troglodyte.  The novelization expands a bit on Melanthius’s interrogation of Zenobia.

Eye of the Tiger was released in 1977, coming on the heels of Jessica Lange’s debut in Rick Baker’s paw.  At the time, both films’ use of traveling-matte technology was cutting-edge, convincingly depicting physical interaction between characters of vastly different scales.  Such interaction was crucial to my young appreciation of the charms of holding a tiny woman wriggling in one’s fist.

Originally posted:  08 Apr 2016

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