The Magic Sword

September 10, 2013 at 12:00 am (8 Heads, Magic Sword) (, , , , , , )

The Magic Sword – 1962 – United States

The Magic Sword was produced/directed by Bert. I. Gordon, also known as Mr. B.I.G. for his proclivity toward giant monsters. Wondrous examples of his techniques include The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), and Village of the Giants (1965). The Magic Sword is based roughly on the legend of Saint George and the Dragon, plus a hodgepodge of other mythology.

When a beautiful princess is kidnapped by an evil wizard, George steals a magic steed, magic sword, and magic armor from his sorceress foster mother and sets off to the rescue. Accompanied by the knightly saints of France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Spain, he battles the wizard’s “seven curses”. These horrific challenges include a giant ogre, acidic marsh, ghoulish hag, cave of ghosts, and of course, a dragon.

Despite being targeted at children, The Magic Sword is a rousing adventure, mostly due to Mr. B.I.G.’s imaginative and abundant effects. Inventive use of mattes makes compellingly huge creatures, especially the two-headed fire-breathing dragon. The same trickery is employed for a race of miniature humanoids. But the numerous glowing and shimmering optical effects are just as cool, as George’s sword and armor radiate enchanted light. Counting all the wacky makeup to creates cone-heads, bird-men, conjoined twins, and ghosts, the effects are pretty much nonstop throughout.

Even disregarding the wild effects, The Magic Sword displays terrific production value. The colorful and cartoonish sets are appropriate, and the actors seem to enjoy themselves. Basil Rathbone is grimly maniacal as the evil wizard, and George’s sorceress mother is both sassy and doddering. A menagerie of live animals also makes an appearance, including horses, birds, a tarantula, a monkey, and a panther.

But more than anything, I like The Magic Sword’s playful humor, mocking its heroes and villains without sacrificing wonder or excitement. In one amusing scene, the French knight is seduced by an illusionary sexy dame, admitting afterward, “We Frenchmen have a weakness for beautiful women.” In another, George’s mother concocts a potion. As each new repulsive ingredient is added, another sound is layered on the groovy rhythmic soundtrack of taps, whooshes, clanks, and groans.

Ultimately, The Magic Sword is a great tale of chivalric fantasy, with no shortage of adventure, suspense, and wit. I have a special fondness for this film. Not only do I love Bert I. Gordon, but it was on the first episode I ever saw of the Svengoolie television show in Chicago.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. In most medieval depictions of St. George and the Dragon, the dragon is the size of a dog. Bert I. Gordon’s dragon is way better.


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