A new year, and a new string of bad medieval movies to review! As I made my way through Amazon Prime and Netflix, searching for swords, chivalry and valour, I came across this curious oldie: The Magic Sword (1962). I’d first started watching another, much newer, medieval film but it was so terrible I had to shut it off after twenty minutes. The Magic Sword looked like it was going in that direction for the first ten minutes, but then, it became so laughably bad, that it was good. I settled in and actually enjoyed the film, for all its cheesiness and camp.
The movie is utterly bizarre. Think I Dream of Jeannie, meets Star Trek (Shatner Trek), meets, Disney. It opens with a two-headed servant and a monkey dressed in clothes; which pretty much sets the tone of this movie. Just persevere through it, it gets worse (read: better).
The Magic Sword stars Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938, Tower of London 1939), as Lodac, the evil sorcerer who is bent on feeding damsels in distress to his hungry *mechanical* two-headed dragon. Enter George, played by Gary Lockwood (Perry Mason, They Came to Rob Las Vegas), our hero; a twenty year old prince, who is madly in love with beautiful princess Helene. He has been fostered by an elderly sorceress, Sybil, played by Estelle Linwood (Batman 1966/67, Camelot 1967) after his royal parents died of a plague when he was a baby. Princess Helene, played by Ann Helm (Nightmare in Wax 1969, The Manhunter 1974) is kidnapped by Lodac, in retaliation for his sister’s death at the hands of Helene’s father. He intends to feed Helene to the dragon in seven days. George, of course, wants to rescue his love, but Sybil is afraid he’s too young to fight a dragon. She shows him a magic sword, armour and a horse that can out run anything but says he will only get these items when he turns twenty one.
George tricks Sybil and takes the magical items along with six magical knights, all representing different countries, all with saint’s names: Sir Dennis of France, Sir Patrick of Ireland, Sir Anthony of Italy, Sir Ulrich of Germany, Sir Pedro of Spain, Sir James of Scotland. George, obviously with his red and white shield represents St. George of England. There are some pretty tragic accents happening in this bunch; they all apparently went to the Dick Van Dyke school of accents. George, meanwhile, sports a typical 1950s sounding American accent, but I’m relieved he wasn’t forced to attempt a bad British one. Accompanying them, is arrogant knight Sir Branton, who has also pledged to save Helene in exchange for her hand in marriage. The troupe have to defeat Lodac’s seven curses to rescue the princess. Unsurprisingly, the knights are throw-away characters as they get knocked off so that it’s just George and Sir Branton off to fight Lodac and his pet dragon.
The movie’s special effects are god-awful, but it was 1962, so I took that into account. The costumes are right out of a Halloween store or Disney theme park. The two-headed mechanical dragon looks like it could fight Motha, and I’ve seen better acting at a high school play.
So after saying all that, why did I like this movie, and why am I recommending you watch it? For one, it’s funny. There are bits of humour thrown in around Sybil’s character as a bumbling sorceress. George is so over the top as a hero, it’s comical. Lodac looks like a cross between Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company and Sinbad the sailor, in his muumuu and turban that it kind of makes anything supposedly scary and evil coming out of his mouth even funnier.
There are medieval movies that are terrible because they try to be authentic and completely fail. This movie is a fantasy and has fun poking fun at itself. Nothing in it is to be taken seriously; the acting is bad, the props are bad, and the costumes are bad, but it’s what gives it a certain charm. It’s got a definite B movie quality to it. The movie certainly wasn’t trying to win awards, but I liked that it wasn’t meant to be anything other than a corny medieval movie.
Also, it’s short. I don’t think I could sit through two hours of this, but at an hour and twenty minutes, it wasn’t too painful. The special effects and dragon are worth the watch for their awfulness. If you’re up for a good laugh, and in the mood for something medieval that doesn’t take itself seriously, try this movie out.