The Magic Sword (1962)
“SEE the Green Fire Demons! SEE the 25-Foot Tall Ogre! SEE the Beautiful Vampire Woman! SEE the Boiling Crater of Death!”
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Cast: Basil Rathbone, Estelle Winwood, Gary Lockwood
Synopsis: The son of a sorceress, armed with weapons, armour and six magically summoned knights, embarks on a quest to save a princess from a vengeful wizard.
Any movie which has characters called The Ogre, The Hag, Left Siamese Twin and Right Siamese Twin catches my attention straight away simply because you can be pretty sure you’re going to get something out of the ordinary. But, wait! This is a movie from the mind of Bert I. Gordon, the infamous Mr. B.I.G., producer and director of such ‘classics’ as Earth vs. the Spider, and Attack of the Puppet People (both 1958), which means it’s likely to be pretty rubbish, right? Well erm, no, actually. The Magic Sword isn’t what I’d describe as a good movie, but it’s watchable, is full of cheesy, kiddie-pleasing special effects, and runs for only 80 minutes.
In a story very loosely based on the legend of St. George and the Dragon, Gary Lockwood plays Sir George, the foster son of ancient white witch Sybil (Estelle Winwood) who uses his ability to see events from far away to spy on Princess Helene (Anne Helm) as she’s having a bath. Now, this might not seem like heroic behaviour, but I have to say that I can’t really blame him, because there’s much about young Miss Helm, a former squeeze of Elvis Presley, to admire. Acting talent isn’t one of those things, to be honest, but I somehow found myself not caring while watching her. Anyway, while tuning in one day, George sees the busty Princess being kidnapped and determines to rescue her.
The kidnapper of the Princess is the dastardly Lodac, played by the wonderful Basil Rathbone, who brings a touch of class even to cheaply produced kiddie-fodder like this. Lodac informs the Princess’s father that he has abducted her in revenge for the King killing his sister as a witch, and that he will feed her to his pet dragon the moment it gets hungry. Fortunately for the Princess, there’s a couple of luckless wenches ahead of her on the menu which will keep the dragon happy for a week, thus giving time for the King to put out a call for a knight to rescue her. Anyone attempting to do so, however, must overcome the seven curses of Lodac, which range from being squashed by the ogre to a severe case of sunburn.
A knight named Sir Branton (Liam Sullivan), who covets the Princess, puts himself forward for the job, and is a little peeved when young George shows up with six magically revived Princes in tow as well as a magic sword and shield. It was necessary for George to entomb his foster mother in a cellar in order to put himself forward for the quest which really doesn’t make a good impression at all but, trust me, he is shown in a better light once the quest begins — largely because Sir Branton is such a treacherous cad that it would be difficult for him not to.
The Magic Sword is the kind of movie that will evoke fond memories in the minds of those who saw it as a kid when it was first released. Critical faculties are virtually non-existent when you’re of a single-figure age, and I can imagine being entranced by all the cheesy special effects and rubber monsters as a kid. Hell, I quite enjoyed it as a fifty-one-year-old kid. It’s a piece of cheap-looking old tat, no doubt about it, but it has enough going for it to keep most viewers entertained if they’re not in too demanding a mood.
(Reviewed 26th August 2013)