Horseshoe Magazine

The Long-Form Journalism Source of the University of New Haven

Horseshoe Magazine

Horseshoe Magazine

Reading Odd Films: “Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights”

Photo courtesy of Pexels/Jay Johnson

Hello, and welcome to the fifth column of Reading Odd Films where I look at odd film adaptations of books, and today we’re looking at a film adaptation of the legend of Sinbad, “Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights”. Sinbad the Sailor first appeared in text in the seminal text of the Islamic Golden Age/14th century text “One Thousand and One Nights” (although Sinbad did not appear in editions of this book until the 1700s). “Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights” is an earnest but odd attempt to adapt the famous and well-adapted pirate to the silver screen. Richard Grieco, of 21 Jump Street fame as the titular role, Mickey Rooney as a chaotic good wizard, and Dante Basco (best known as Prince Zuko) as another Prince/ally to the hero.  


“Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights” has a production history just as odd and confusing as the movie itself. Originally shot in Jordan, then had to be moved to Bulgaria due to safety concerns and a horse dying on set. One of the actors, Dean Stockwell, from Quantum Leap, almost quit halfway through because the producers promised Cuban cigars and had to be begged to stay by said producers when he was not given them. Animal cruelty of horses and chickens and union violations from actors to the PAs were ripe in this 1999 film. 


“Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights”  has a similar framing narrative to “The Princess Bride” where a grandfather, tells telling his cynical grandson an epic tale. There is a twist, Anthony, the grandson, is occasionally pulled into the story as Sinbad because Richard Grieco couldn’t film some of the scenes;yes, that is the reason for the narrative choice. Within the tale of Sinbad that grandfather tells, a dying evil wizard named Bophisto, played by Dean Stockwell, is trying to gain immortality and control over the kingdom by having his minions find the golden key to  knowledge. 


Sinbad, despite being a sailor, is stuck in the desert; this is pointed out by Anthony and within the narrative of the story. The justification for this is that the desert is just a sea… of sand. That is the exact wording the movie uses. Sinbad’s girlfriend, Princess Shalazar, played by Lisa Ann Russell, is kidnapped by Bophisto’s minions. Nimbus, (played by Anthony De Longis. and the hammy Murki Khan, who mugs to the camera during the awesome intro credits sequence, dies tragically in a floating stone battle. With the help of the son of the Chinese Emperor Song, Prince Hong, played by Dante Bosco, Mickey Rooney as a wizard named Sage, and some guy named Keither, they go to rescue the princess. 


The “real-world” and the “Sinbad” story blend surprisingly well because this element was a last-minute addition. There are many creative scenes where villains come to grab Anthony in his living room and where grandfather and grandson are “watching” the story within the story. However, I can not say the same for the rest of the story structure; many scenes repeat the same point, but the characters act like this is the first time they hear the information. This is especially true for scenes with Mickey Rooney’s character, who gets to introduce himself to Sinbad twice. The first time is when he introduces himself to Sinbad and his crew, and the second is after Sinbad is injured and restored to health by Mickey Rooney. He  gives Sinbad a presentation of his tragic backstory of Sinbad’s parents murde rby Nimbus and his childhood romance with the princess.  


On the subject of the princess, she does admittedly put up a fight, she duels with Nimbus, but it’s not effective, despite her gumption. This makes Nimbus immediately fall in love with her. Which, considering that he is most likely twenty years older than her and wants to keep her as his slave, is a bit yucky-wucky. He even tries the whole “your boyfriend died and he wanted me to look after you trick”. 


I wish I could write down what happened during the last action scene, but that would require it to be somewhat comprehensible. There’s something with Dante Basco spin-kicking some guards and women trying a bunch of soldiers into dust? Sinbad eventually saves Shalazar, and they make out over Keither’s dying body. There’s a sword fight between Nimbus and Sinbad, and Nimbus dies on his own sword. Bohispto dies of an intense nosebleed, and all is well within the kingdom. But in the “real world”, there is a sequel baited with something jumping out at the grandfather and attacking him. The grandson tries to warn him, but it is of no use and the movie ends in a freeze frame. 


Of course, there never was a sequel, not that this film is an enjoyable watch.   


Unfortunately, there will be no sequel to this column for Horseshoe magazine either. I want to thank everyone who has read my little reviews up until now and all of the editors who make this column and magazine awesome and have supported my weird little movie reviews. I hope everyone has a wonderful summer and a great fall semester. Goodbye. 


If you want more, look up Jessie’s Thoughts on Substack and @jessie_movies on Instagram.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Horseshoe Magazine

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of New Haven. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Horseshoe Magazine

Comments (0)

All Horseshoe Magazine Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *