krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
My journey through the "Russo-Finnish troika" of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes continues. I suppose there's not a lot that seems "wintry" in "The Magic Voyage of Sinbad," and yet there still seems a very appropriate "seasonal" touch to its opening "host segment," where Gypsy and Crow are presenting "the Third Annual SOLtie Awards" and Crow just happens to win the "Best Performance By A Red Gumball Headed Looking Robot in a Funny Situation" "Golden Bone" Tom Servo had been expecting to be his... The movie, too, has its own definite peculiarities.

It's easy enough to imagine the people who dubbed and distributed this movie in North America deciding audiences would be suspicious of something that seemed too "Russo-Finnish" but concluding that everybody's heard of Sinbad, even if they might not be absolutely clear on the details... (Drawing on my own experience, I'm tempted to think of those anime series where all or at least the major people in the future were Japanese being converted into Saturday morning cartoons where everyone had North American names, just like "regular" science fiction...) In any case, a blond "Sinbad" returns to his onion-domed home city of "Cobusan" or "Copesan," the bits of the Sinbad story people actually remember mentioned in a quick voiceover, to find many people poor and miserable. After an encounter with the still-prosperous merchants, "Sinbad" retreats to the waterside ("Sinbad, the resentful sailor.") to play his harp. A water spirit emerges ("Um, Mr. Bad, the apartment next door has asked me to ask you to shut up!") and tells him to catch golden fish. "Sinbad" somehow manages to parlay this impending accomplishment into getting the keys to the merchants' warehouses, and stupendous revelry breaks out. Unfortunately (and just perhaps "surprisingly," what with the obvious thoughts inspired by when and where it was made), this stimulus package has only a brief effect, and then everyone seems more miserable than ever. The water spirit takes pity on "Sinbad" once more, though, and transforms the golden fish into huge piles of gold, which lets "Sinbad" recruit a crew by having them quaff strong drink and then stay on their feet ("The Alcoholic Voyage of Sinbad will be back after this.") to head off in search of the "bird of happiness."

After an encounter with unfriendly people who look sort of like Vikings, in which "Sinbad" collects an impressive white horse, the expedition reaches what actually looks like India, complete with enormous structures, a cast of thousands, and elephants. ("Well, this movie's turned expensive!") "Sinbad" plays a game of chess with large pieces to gain access to a faintly disturbing phoenix, but it seems better at putting people to sleep than making them happy. The expedition heads home, but a storm breaks out and it just so happens that this was because "Sinbad" didn't make the effort to stay on King Neptune's good side. To save his crew, "Sinbad" throws himself into the sea; his ships appear to be overwhelmed by the storm all the same. "Sinbad," though, untroubled by being underwater, reaches the court of King Neptune and entertains them with his harp as still more revelry breaks out. ("It started getting weird a little while ago, didn't it?") Eventually, the very same water spirit who helped him out in the first place manages to help him escape on a seahorse, and "Sinbad" returns to "Cobusan" or "Copesan" once more, his ships more or less miraculously returning as well (as the "riffers" once more find great glee in them being "failures"), and says that real happiness is to be found at home. An abrupt conclusion keeps us from questioning this too much.

I somehow seem to be enjoying Joel's half of the "Russo-Finnish troika" more than I remembered; it may have to do with watching straight through the episode so that things do have the chance to build instead of thinking the best way to find the time to see it was to just watch from "host segment" to "host segment." Wrapping up the whole experience, Joel produces a really pretty fun catfish puppet inspired by one of the many small surreal touches of King Neptune's court. Crow and Tom are initially amazed and come up with complicated ways for it to work. (One of those ways might just amount to "computer-generated imagery" nowadays, and yet somehow it's all too easy to imagine that being delivered with greater contempt than in the episode; still, it's good to have what might seem a historical perspective on "complicated special effects.") Eventually, though, it does freak them out.

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