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The Magic Sword (1962)

The Magic Sword (1962)
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Estelle Winwood, Gary Lockwood, Anne Helm,
Liam Sullivan
Public Domain

A lot of people are probably familiar with THE MAGIC SWORD from its roasting on "Mystery Science Theater 3000." I like MST3K, but this was another occasion when they got it completely wrong. THE MAGIC SWORD is a 1962 fantasy/adventure aimed at kids, and is one of Bert I. Gordon's best movies. In fact, I'd rank it right up there along with FOOD OF THE GOODS in terms of sheer entertainment value.

A long time ago, in a magical kingdom far, far away, and orphaned prince named George learns that the lovely Princess Helene (Anne Helm) has been kidnapped. The culprit is Lodac (Basil Rathbone), an evil wizard with a pet dragon and a chip on his shoulder. George is determined to rescue Helene, but it won't be easy. To reach Lodac's stronghold, George will need to survive the "seven curses" which protect the wizard from harm. Luckily for George, his stepmom happens to be a good witch who gives George the fastest horse on the world, an international crew of knights bound to serve George, and the magic sword of the title.

The movie certainly has its flaws. It's very cheap and has a hokey story. Some of the acting is less than Oscar caliber, and the sets appear to be made mostly of cardboard. However, the movie's greatest strength is the wild and inventive imagination of Bert I. Gordon. While Gordon's effects straddle the line between silly and unconvincing, they are a lot of fun to look at.  For THE MAGIC SWORD, Gordon went all-out. There are giant ogres, foggy and deadly swamps, pinheaded henchmen, tiny people, dragons, and more. Maila "Vampira" Nuirmi plays a deadly hag (you won't recognize her because she is disguised in heavy makeup), and Angelo Rossitto (FREAKS) appears as one of Lodac's minions.

The film's leads, Gary Lockwood (also in Kubrick's 2001) as George and Anne Helm as Princess Helene are decent, but are consistently upstaged by a pair of legitimately great actors: Estelle Winwood and Basil Rathbone. Winwood, as the slightly daffy, but powerful, good witch Sybil gives a lighthearted comic performance that seems like it could have been an inspiration for the series "Bewitched." Rathbone, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying himself as the evil wizard andall-around bad guy Lodac. This was made during Rathbone's late career anything-for-money stage. So while it was just another paycheck for Rathbone, he still manages to turn in a memorable performance as the film's heel.

I'm a little shocked to see that this movie has a 4.0 rating at IMDB. I think the critics, like MST3K, are missing the point. THE MAGIC SWORD is a light, fun, and colorful kid's movie that isn't intended to be treated so seriously. Over fifty years after it's initial release, it still has the power to deliver goofy thrills to kids of all ages.

THE MAGIC SWORD is in the public domain, so a lot of ugly versions are circulating out there. However, if you want to see the best quality version, I highly recommend seeking out the MGM disc. It's the best looking version we'll probably ever get for this movie.

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