I was very pleased with this set, and I am such a big fan of these films that I barely know where to start. Ray Harryhausen saw King Kong when he was a kid and was never the same again. He got into making stop-motion creatures, and before long he was asked to work in the motion picture "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms," and from there his career as an FX expert soared, gaining full creative control over the FX in the films he worked on. He inspired a generation of filmmakers, an impressive list which includes George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. When presenting Harryhausen with a special Academy Award, Tom Hanks said, "Lots of people say Casablanca or Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time...no way, it's Jason and the Argonauts!"
Harryhausen was getting tired of working on horror films. After wrecking a Hollywood nightclub, demolishing Manhattan and destroying London's Golden Gate Bridge with his lively monsters, he desired to turn his sights to fantasy. This began with "The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad," and followed with several other films that sparked a generation's imagination, amazed audiences by the astounding FX, and intrigued many young artists to seek jobs in movie special effects departments. His creations came alive in such a way that they literally seemed to have lives of their own, not just in crude movements but subtle reactions. It took an incredibly long time and a lot of hard work to pull this off, especially when bringing to life a seven-headed dragon, a six-armed statue, or seven sword-and-shield-wielding skeletons! What results is a delightful feast for the imagination that still packs a punch to this day.
"Jason and the Argonauts": A classic masterpiece of filmmaking and likely the best 'sword-and-sandal' movie of them all. A mythical adventure sees Jason on a quest for the Golden Fleece at "the end of the world," while the gods watch over his dangerous quest and toil with his efforts. Jason gathers the greatest crew that has ever been assembled, of which even Hercules is a member. After a spectacular run-in with the Titan, Kali--a gargantuan moving statue--they proceed onward to seek the advice of a blind seer, whom they must in turn rescue from his torturous Harpies. I don't want to spoil the fun, but it must be mentioned that this is the film that includes the daunting battle against the seven-headed Hydra and the spectacular battle against a small army of skeletons--one of the most unforgettable moments in cinema history!
"The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad": A young Sinbad works with a deceitful sorcerer to restore his beloved princess back to her full size, leading them to an island where lurks an angry Cyclops and a fierce dragon. More creatures await, but I don't want to spoil the fun. This is perhaps the most spirited film that Harryhausen ever worked on. It works as a light adventure story for children and adults alike, and is entertaining enough to still satisfy most audiences today.
"The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad": A darker Sinbad. The storyline relies more on human interaction than fight scenes and adventure, although it builds up to a series of visually spectacular monster encounters. John Phillip Law plays Sinbad this time, and his serious and very believable performance is the driving force of much of the story. I would not say that "Golden Voyage" is better or less great than "Seventh Voyage", only that it is a darker and more adult take. It is enjoyable as a more dramatic adventure than its predecessor. This time the journey is a quest for a magic fountain which contains "youth, a shield of darkness, and a crown of untold riches."
"Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger": Yet another actor and take on the character of Sinbad (this time he is more of a naturalist sailor than a carefree prince or a solemn thinker.) The scriptwriting is weaker than the previous films, and this creates a certain amount of disappointment. The film is nevertheless highly entertaining, and boasts even more creations of Harryhausen's than in previous films--which are even better than in "Golden Voyage." After the brother of the woman he intends to wed is turned into a baboon by an evil sorceress, Sinbad heads out to find an alchemist named Melanthius who can break the spell.
"The 3 Worlds Of Gulliver" is the weakest inclusion of this set. It is enjoyable for fans of the imagination, but features too few of Harryhausen's creations to have been a desired edition to the set. Obviously, "Clash of the Titans" would have complimented the rest of this collection perfectly. They regard "Titans" more highly than Harryhausen's other films, not because it was his last film and features his finest work, but because it was a big Hollywood production with well-known actors. Bah. It is a good film, but not as good as "Jason and the Argonauts" and of equal quality to the Sinbad films. What a shame that it was not included.
I strongly recommend this set for those who appreciate imaginative storytelling, real artistry and obviously for anyone who enjoys Harryhausen's timeless work. The set design is pretty nice, although I was a bit disappointed that the films are just stacked inside and are not held together by another to make them feel like they come together. But the sleeve does unfold to a visually satisfying stand, and it is a nice effect how the outer plastic of the case contains certain painted characters that of course disappear when you remove it to leave the simple design of the Cyclops. It actually looks far better in real life than when viewed as a picture on the screen.
So, treat yourself to this great sword-and-sandal collection! You won't be disappointed! (Just be sure to also nab up a copy of the 1981 "Clash of the Titans" to complete the collection!)