OMAR KHAYYAM – William Dieterle’s 1957 take on that Persian poet and philosopher Omar Khayyam is a childhood memory but looking at it again now it is a confused muddle and rather a plod for a ‘50s sword and sandal costumer. Cornel Wilde should be ideal as Omar but seems a bit subdued here, Debra Paget is his lost love, there are not that many harem ladies as the plot involves a cult of assassins (perhaps an earlier Taliban) led by Michael Rennie who have to be thwarted by our hero before he gets Debra at the end. Add in John Derek, Raymond Massey and Sebastian Cabot to flesh things out…. The score is by Victor Young and Yma Sumac is also on hand to warble a few ditties, but it could have been so much better.
The real doozy turns out to be SON OF SINBAD, one I had not seen previously. This is a Howard Hughes production from 1955 – though actually filmed in ’53 and as usual held up by Hughes while he tinkered with it. Here the girls are to the forefront and how, as the interesting comments on it on IMDB make clear, describing it as “a kids’ movie for dirty old men” and this priceless comment: “every stripper and burlesque queen in the greater L A area must have got a gig on this notorious desert romp”! Sinbad is cowboy star Dale Robertson (SITTING BULL, THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ) who looks odd in high-waisted harem pants and a turban but the real joy here is Vincent Price as, yes, Omar Khayyam which he plays in a very camp manner when not leering at the many harem babes. It all starts with Vincent as Omar looking for Sinbad as we stop for five minutes for an exotic dance, while Sinbad gets into the harem to see Lili St Cyr. Soon we get the 40 thieves who are the female descendants of the original 40 and we head off to the desert for some derring-do, with ample dances and slave girls en route. Things come a stop again before the end for a pole dance by Sinbad’s love Sally Forrest, quite expicit for the era. It is all great fun and I enjoyed it enormously. Directed by one Ted Tetzlaff, and with Mari Blanchard (who has the secret of early gunpowder which she has to be hypnotised to reveal) and Jay Novello and of course all those scanty dressed showgirls out in the desert! Victor Young again scores.
SIREN OF ATLANTIS. Is this not the film that movie critic Myron Breckinbridge (soon to be Myra) was able to travel through the television to enter the actual set of, as set out in Gore Vidal’s seminal novel? Oops, no it was not, that was “Siren of Babylon” – I better re-read my Gore. This one turns out to be a rather damp squib from 1949, we do not seen too much of Maria Montez (who comes across as very leaden here) and it is not in glowing Technicolor. I was expecting another COBRA WOMAN, but this is a painfully slow, rather stilted affair with two explorers finding the lost city of Atlantis somewhere under the Sahara, and finding it ruled by a mysterious queen who has a penchant for embalming her lovers and using them as ornamental statues in her gallery, until finally, she met a lover who could resist her charms. He is Montez’s husband Jean-Pierre Aumont, of the French Foreign Legion, who is found wandering in the desert and has a strange story to tell, and it seems history will repeat itself… Henry Daniell is as ever a lot of fun as the court librarian, with Dennis O’Keefe, and directed by one Gregg C Tallas.