Wednesday, January 29, 2014

From Women with Women for Women to Women (and Vincent Price)

"What have you gotten me into now?" - Omar Khayyam

"Heaven." - Sinbad the Sailor

Sinbad was referring to a, er, captivating 40 of the 127 beautiful, scantily clad women cast in Howard Hughes' 1955 film Son of Sinbad. Eminently pulpy, sometimes surprisingly sly, this movie is essentially a wonderfully ridiculous filmed burlesque show.

The story involves the son of the famous Sinbad who is also called Sinbad (Dale Robertson) making love to the Sultan's private harem, falling in love with one of the servant girls, rescuing a beautiful woman who knows the formula for Greek Fire (a real life ancient incendiary weapon), and falling in with the forty beautiful daughters of the famous forty thieves. Along the way, the film gives us four lengthy and impressive belly dances only slightly related to anything else that's going on.

The credited director is Ted Tetzlaff but, as usual, the touch of producer Howard Hughes is unmistakable.

The two big names who appear on screen were big for vastly different reasons.

Vincent Price plays the real life poet Omar Khayyam who's somehow become sidekick to the fictional Sinbad. He makes up some smooth lines for Sinbad to woo the ladies with, generally against his better judgment. Robertson is charismatic enough as Sinbad and shares a good rapport with Price but Price easily carries away this movie with a genuinely funny performance--on screens two years after his break-out horror movie performance in House of Wax. Though Son of Sinbad was actually made in 1953, its release delayed for concerns regarding the Hays Code, in large part due to the other big name in the cast, legendary striptease performer Lili St. Cyr.

She's good but actually not half as risqué as Sally Forrest as the serving girl and secret bandit Ameer who, in what I think we can call the film's climax, attempts to win Sinbad for herself wearing only what we can barely call a costume.

The film is essentially an unabashed adult indulgence and it maintains its charming enthusiasm for its entirety. The dancing is genuinely impressive, including this first dance from Turkish dancer Nejla Ates:

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