The Magic Sword

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Gary Lockwood plays St. George of dragon-slaying fame in the children's film The Magic Sword (1962). George is a young hero of royal blood, raised by an immortal kindly sorceress. He falls for Princess Helene (Anne Helm) & must save her from the evil wizard Lodac (Basil Rathbone).

The Magic SwordFrom his foster mother Sibyl, he gets a magic sword, magic armor, & magic horse to set forth on the Road of Seven Curses with true companions, & one furtive foe, to reach the evil wizard's castle.

All along the road George & his companions encoutner one "curse" after another, some scenes seeming almost to be precursors to Monty Python & the Holy Grail () in comic lunacy, though only some of it seems to have been intentionally funny.

Sibyl is played by memorable character actress Estelle Winwood. Her two-headed servant/s (Nick Bon Tempi & Paul Bon Tempi, whose bid for acting careers ended here) & her faithful chimpanzee provide the intended comic relief, in a role really no different than the one she played in Bewitched.

The road's first "curse" is a log-tossing wonderfully goofy giant ogre (Jack Kosslyn). This sequence has real childrens-book illustrative qualities to the staging. Indeed lots of the faux-medieval art design throughout the film is stunning, especially given the lack of budget.

The second "curse" faced by George & company is a s teaming swamp where Sir Branton (Liam Sullivan) proves his traitorousness at the pool of acid, though naive George did not detect the cause of his near-catastrophe. Sir Branton only pretends to be heroic, wanting the princess & the kingdom of her father (Merritt Stone) for himself, & in league with the evil magician.

Further encounters skip along the highway with variations of colorfulness & cliche. There's the curse of the burning heat. There's a hag who appears as a pretty maiden to seduce men to their doom.

The hag is played by Maila Nurmi, best known in the day as "Vampira," a 1950s late-night television horror film hostess who inspired the later Elvira character. Nurmi tried to sue Cassandra Peterson for mimicking her character, overlooking that she'd styled her character after Charles Addams' drawings of Morticia. The only surviving footage of Vampira in her prime as a late-night horror hostess is that which is spliced into Ed Wood's Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959).

In the course of these traps & betrayals, all of George's best companions are killed, but in a children's fantasy such things as death are not necessarily permanent.

Helene is one of several princesses slated to be fed to the two-headed dragon. George arrives & with some help from his foster mother & some tiny wee people freed from a bird cage, he slowly overcomes the sorcerer.

The climax is George's encounter with the fire-breathing dragon. This enormous puppet is a lovely thing, in the style of a Chinese dragon with an extra head.

In such a kiddy flick there's never any question but that a happy ending is in store for George & Helene. The cuteness of the sets makes it a sweet film right off the bat. The characters, good or evil, are full of conviction, & not even Basil seems embarrassed to have his career come to this pass; everyone is having a very good time bringing it all to life.

The overall campiness manages a twisted sort of hipness, & its a marvel to see what a fantasy film could do without a noticeable budget & long before the advent of CGI.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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