That's how I stumbled on Sadko, directed by the Russian master of fairy tale films, Aleksandr Ptushko. Several years ago, my husband and I were working a difficult shift at Borders, and had to get up at GodAwful O'Clock in the morning (it was 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. – not my favorite time of the day). We had cable TV, and turned it on to watch the news. But we didn't have it tuned to the right station, and instead we ended up in the middle of a movie.
Granted, it's been ridiculed on Mystery Science Theater 2000. Not everyone who looks at Sadko will see its charm. To American eyes, it may look pretty corny. The dubbed version is BADLY dubbed, and many people don't like having to read subtitles. There's no CGI (since the movie was made many decades ago in Soviet Russia), and the leading lady is a little plump by modern standards.
When the movie was packaged for American audiences, they called him Sinbad, but Sadko is a way nicer guy. He is a musician who plays the gusli, but unfortunately also has political opinions. When he sees the suffering of the poor, he wants to do something about it. He doesn't totally succeed, but he gives it the ol' college try. He tries to find the Bird Of Happiness so he can take her home to Novgorod. What he finds is a far stranger, more dangerous creature, possibly a siren. She lulls people to sleep with her beautiful voice, so the bad guys can come and kill them. She belongs to the sultan, so I imagine she's fallen on hard times and is forced to work for her keep. She must spend her days sitting on her perch, in the darkness, contemplating the lost Golden Age. Sadko almost falls under her spell, but rouses himself at the last moment. He realizes he's been chasing a rainbow, so he decides to chase it home again.
His adventures aren't quite over. He still has to play his gusli for the Tsar and Tsarina of the Underwater Kingdom. When the undersea revelers make waves that threaten ships on the surface, Sadko breaks his gusli and escapes to find his true love in Novgorod.
In fairy tales, courage and love win the day. Sometimes a movie can capture that same magic. That's why I love Sadko, unreservedly.