Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Magic Sword (1962)

Bert I Gordon is one of my favorite filmmakers out there. I think what attracts me with his movies is that they can be very naive, very lighthearted... and still be have so disturbing details. In a way he was the only producer and director who made real fairy tales - adventures mixed with some nasty stuff that only real fairy tales have. The Magic Sword is at a first glance a typical kiddie fantasy movie, but it's really much more than that.

The evil (what else?) wizard Lodac (sounds like an anti-depressant, but is played by Basil Rathbone) kidnaps the princess Helene (Anne Helm) and the king sends Sir Branton (Liam Sullivan) to save her, with the promise that he can marry her and get half of the kingdom. But Sir George (Gary Lockwood), adopted by the sorceress Sybil (Estelle Winwood) also want's to marry her, because he's been watching her for a long time in secret. He brings with him six knights (one French, one Italian, one Spanish and so on) and joins Sir Branton in the quest.

They have seven days to reach Lodac's castle before he feeds the princess to the dragon, but the dangers are many. Seven days, seven curses!

I'm sure this would have been my favorite fantasy-movie ever if I saw it as a kid, and even now it impresses me. The story is not bad at all, and the script moves in good pace with enough twists and turns to keeps the audience interested for the whole time. The cinematography is wonderful and echoes the work of Mario Bava. Lots of colors, cool sets and a bunch of interesting characters. The "dark journey" (as they call it in the movie) is filled with cool dangers, and starts of with a very bizarre Ogre, who looks like it could have scared the shit out of children who saw it at the time it was released. It's not the only disturbing detail of the movie, we're treated to people transforming to skeletons, a very nasty witch, some kinda cave-demons/ghosts... and two not so scary dwarfs.

There's more adult themes than the eyes can see first in this movie, from dealing with death and love, a wizard more cynical than I've seen before, some sexual tension between the characters and some minor disturbing images. But still, this is a family movie, and one of the better in it's genre.

With eighty minutes in length, this is the perfect matinée movie. It never drags, it offers action and monsters, handsome people and some chills and thrills. The best actors are Basil Rathbone, as usual and a new personal favorite of mine, Liam Sullivan as the self-loving Sir Branton. It's worth every penny just to buy this movie only for his sake.


dfordoom said...

He's the guy who did Empire of the Ants, one of my favourite movies. It's just so camp, and Joan Collins is having so much fun. A very silly movie, but hugely enjoyable. So I'm prepared to give any of his other movies a go.

Anonymous said...

I did see this in theaters when it first came out (I was 11), and can assure you it did make an impression. I recently found the DVD at a store and have been enjoying getting reacquainted with it. Definitely a high point in Bert Gordon's filmography.

Anonymous said...

Also, unless memory deceives me, the ogre costume looks a lot like the Quasimodo make up in James Cagney's biopic on Lon Chaney, "Man of A Thousand Faces".