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Film / Sinbad the Sailor

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"O Masters, O Noble Persons, O Brothers, know you that in the time of the Caliph Harun-Al-Rashid, there lived on the golden shore of Persia a man of adventure called Sinbad the Sailor. Strange and wondrous were the tales told of him and his voyages. But who, shall we surmise, gave him his immortality? Who, more than all other sons of Allah, spread glory to the name of Sinbad? Who else, O Brother, but — Sinbad the Sailor! Know me, O Brothers, for the truth of my words, and by the ears of the Prophet, every word I have spoken is truth!"

Sinbad the Sailor is a 1947 Technicolor fantasy-swashbuckler film from RKO, directed by Richard Wallace, and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Maureen O'Hara, Anthony Quinn, and Walter Slezak. It tells the tale of the "eighth" voyage of Sinbad the Sailor, wherein he discovers the lost treasure of Alexander the Great.

The film is notable for its lavish production values, including detailed paintings and models, and for its florid pseudo-Arabian dialogue. Fairbanks makes an over the top and highly acrobatic Sinbad and he looks very fine in his chest-baring shirts and poofy pants. Maureen O'Hara's Shireen is a fine addition to her gallery of haughty princesses and sword-wielding pirates, while Anthony Quinn's Emir Maffi of Daibul is a coldly menacing butcher. George Tobias's Abbu and Walter Slezak's Melik are quirkily amusing. The lush Romantic Hollywood-Arabian score is by Roy Webb.


Accompanied by his faithful and perennially panicked sidekick Abbu (George Tobias), Sinbad (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) salvages a luxuriously appointed ship called the Prince Ahmed, whose crew have all expired under decidedly questionable circumstances. On board Sinbad finds a stained glass window that exactly matches a medallion he has worn all his life and jumps to the conclusion that he is Prince Ahmed. "Are you sure?" Abbu asks. Sinbad isn't, but doesn't plan to letting that stop him from finding and claiming the treasure of Alexander the Great hidden on the island of Daryabar.

Unluckily for our hero he loses his new ship when he is unable to pay the docking fees at Basra. Tricky as ever, Sinbad does his best to frighten off the prospective bidders with tales of a curse. But one, a beautiful veiled woman (Maureen O'Hara), refuses to be frightened. She is Shireen, a princess of the Kurds who is clearly in the market for a rich and powerful husband. Her main prospect is the Emir of Daibul (Anthony Quinn), but she isn't averse to a better offer and takes rather a shine to 'Prince Ahmed'.

She tells Sinbad about the mysterious Jamal, an elusive and deadly figure also seeking the treasure of Daryabar, and that her Emir is interested as well. Sinbad acquires a new crew, including an additional comic relief Melik, an incompetent barber (Walter Slezak). Sailing to Daibul in search of the chart to the island, which he thinks is in Shireen's possession, Sinbad successfully penetrates the harem but, after a spectacular chase, is captured by the guards. Fortunately the Emir thinks "Prince Ahmed" has the chart and is all charm in an attempt to get it. Sinbad uses a magic trick to escape, carrying Shireen off with him. Back aboard the Prince Ahmed he discovers she does NOT have the chart and she discovers that not only doesn't he have it, but he isn't Prince Ahmed at all but Sinbad the Sailor — who, as it happens, has always impressed the heck out of her.

Melik the barber then reveals that he has seen the chart and memorized it — at the price of an all but broken head. They sail for Daryabar only to be overtaken and captured by the angry Emir. Jamal then reveals himself as a member of Sinbad's crew. A Mexican Standoff ensues; Jamal has the knowledge, Sinbad is presumably 'Prince Ahmed' and the Emir has his soldiers. It is resolved by a reluctant partnership in which each man schemes against the other two.

Daryabar turns out to be a dreadful place, a barren island surrounded by wrecked ships, but in its center stands a beautiful palace inhabited only by a old man, the Aga (Alan Napier) and a single servant. A sudden attack of conscience causes Sinbad to proclaim his true identity and warn the Aga not to give up his treasure but the gold means nothing to the old man and he calmly reveals the treasure overflowing from the vaults below in the basin of a fountain. Jamal and the Emir promptly turn on each other, giving the Aga an opportunity to rescue Sinbad — who really is his son — and Shireen. Together they retake the ship and kill the Emir with Greek Fire.

Presumably Sinbad and Shireen live happily ever after having discovered the truth about treasure; that it is to be found in the sky above, the open sea and a pair of bright eyes.

RKO had to scuttle its plan to present this film as a 1946 Christmas-season attraction when a strike at the Technicolor processing plant delayed the making of prints. Needing a black-and-white movie for its 1946 yuletide schedule, RKO chose a film destined to become a holiday perennial: Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.

The Hedda Hopper Show — This Is Hollywood broadcast a 30-minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 29, 1947 with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Maureen O'Hara reprising their film roles.

Not to be confused with this most remarkable, extraordinary fellow.


  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Melik. After stunning his companions by nailing the steerman of the pursuing galley he shruggs and admits he did it by "Aiming at everyone but the steersman!"
  • Answer Cut: When Sinbad informs the look-out Yusuf that all ships have to fly colors, as it is "the law of the sea," Yusuf contemptuously asks, "What law is stronger than Strength?" Immediately the evil Emir's myna-bird swoops into shot, shrieking, "Jamal! Jamal!"
  • Arabian Nights: In all their Technicolor glory.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: The setting, which starts in 8th-9th century Basra, Iraq (probably in the month Sha'ban note  between 810 - 813 CE note , moves to Daibul (probably Dabhol (or Dabul) on the western coast of India), and ends somewhere to the south of there.
  • The Big Guy (Class 1): Yusuf
  • Blasphemous Boast: A downplayed example, when Sinbad reveals his true identity to Shireen; "There is no Allah but Allah, there is no Sinbad but Sinbad."
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: When Sinbad is told by the barber Melik that assassins are out to kill Prince Ahmed, he replies, "Why? I understand he's a splendid fellow!".
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Melik is bastinadoed; Jamal is threatened with the rack.
  • Costume Porn: Like they were going to waste Technicolor on a Dung Ages look?
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Abbu — or maybe he's just sensible.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Shireen, who is an interesting blend of ice and fire.
  • Double Aesop: Sinbad and Shireen discover they don't need treasure, just each other. Awwwww.
  • The Faceless: Jamal. "Faceless, formless, like a genie from a jug."
  • Fiery Redhead: Shireen, who'll "take some breaking to the bridle!"
  • Flynning: Fairbanks out-Flynns Flynn in the spectacular chase through Maffi's palace.
  • Framing Device: The opening and closing scenes of the movie show Sinbad regaling a skeptical audience of his adventures.
  • Gambit Pileup: Everybody in this film has got an agenda and is trying to use the other characters to achieve it.
  • A God Am I: Maffi starts to have these delusions, planning to seize "the power of the world" and referring to Sinbad as "quite a foolish little mortal."
  • Heroes Want Redheads: And so do villains.
  • Kill It with Fire: With Greek Fire, to be exact.
  • Large Ham: Chiefly Douglas Fairbanks' Sinbad, but Anthony Quinn's Maffi of Daibul runs him a close second.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Jamal and Maffi's respective fates, which each of them intended for the others.
  • MacGuffin: The information needed to find Daryabar. Sinbad thinks Shireen has it, Shireen and her Emir think "Prince Ahmed" has it; as it turns out, it's Jamal who has it.
  • Made a Slave: Abbu and Yusuf.
  • Mexican Standoff: After the Prince Ahmed is sunk, the three competitors for the treasure are forced to work together.
  • Might Makes Right: Invoked when one of Sinbad's crew notices that Maffi's ship flies no colors. When Sinbad protests that it is the law of the sea that all ships fly their colors, the crewman answers, "Law? What law is stronger than strength?"
  • The Mole: Maffi's "secret emissary" on Sinbad's ship.
  • The Münchausen: Sinbad tells the tale of his Second Voyage at the start of the movie, to listeners who have heard it all before:
    "All the seven voyages are multiplied, like seven echoes returning to the tongue of their master. And what astonishing voyages."
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Melik the Barber isn't as stupid as he chooses to appear.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The medallion.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Maffi gives Shireen a spectacular Gem-Encrusted gown.
  • Pirate: Maffi, according to Shireen.
  • Pirate Myna: Maffi's myna bird, later appropriated by Abbu, which has a tendency to break in with plot-appropriate exclamations.
  • Private Military Contractor: Muallin, who switches sides instantly as soon as someone has the upper hand over his former master.
  • Purple Prose: Nearly all the characters are prone to bursts of flowery Arabesque eloquence ("If I could pry Daryabar's secret from Prince Ahmed, I'd hold the Key of Keys!") — which leads to occasional, possibly intentional bathos when they return to Earth ("I could make Sheba look like a frump").
  • Retcon: Sinbad does this to the story of Aladdin.
  • The Reveal: Let's just say that Jamal's identity comes as quite a shock.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Sinbad and Shireen
  • Treasure Map: The chart.
  • Whammy Bid: With the twist that Sinbad has already discouraged any bidding on the Prince Ahmed by describing it as cursed.
  • Worth It: Why Jamal doesn't mind dying before Victory Becomes Boring.
    Jamal: So true it was that only one out of three could survive. But in no wise could you hurt me greatly. With nothing more to seek, possessions could become quite dreary. The quest of a lifetime — I won it. The wealth of the earth — I found it. No. I was not a failure.