There’s no denying that legendary film director Bert I. Gordon has his followers. Many of his films are beloved classics amongst the sci-fi and horror community. Such titles as The Amazing Colossal Man, The Cyclops and Village of the Giants always get the proper amount of love. However, it’s no coincidence that many of his films also ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s a fine balancing act between good and bad when it comes to the films of Mister B.I.G. and there are times that balance is not always kept. Such is the case with The Magic Sword (1962).
Now, some people really love this film. Heck, even Joel and Servo over at MST3K thought it was pretty good. So, I’ll be up front and say that I know I’m going to upset some of you by stating I didn’t particularly care for The Magic Sword. The reasons are actually not because of the overall film itself. I thought it looked great for a low-budget fantasy and the story works rather well. The main problem I had was with the miscasting of Gary Lockwood and the phoned-in performance of Basil Rathbone. But, before I digress with those points, just what is The Magic Sword about?
It’s actually loosely based on medieval legend of Saint George and the Dragon. Images of George slaying a dragon have been passed down for generations in tall tales and historical artwork. The general idea of a dashing young knight off to slay the dragon and win the heart of a princess is a basic fantasy storyline. Here, we have young George (Gary Lockwood, 2001: A Space Odyssey) who is interested in the lovely Princess Helene (Anne Helm). However, since George has been raised by an old sorceress (Estelle Winwood), he must deem himself worthy of her hand. But before he can do so, she is kidnapped by the wizard Lodac (Basil Rathbone, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Son of Frankenstein). Lodac will feed her to a dragon unless someone comes to save her. Young George tricks his foster mother and takes a magical sword, a horse, a suit of armor and six magically frozen knights with him to the king. But the evil Sir Branton (Liam Sullivan) is not pleased as he wished to save the princess. But, could there be more intrigue behind this simple kidnapping?
On the surface, I did enjoy the overall fun factor of the film. With an obviously limited budget, Mister B.I.G. delivered what was essentially a fun children’s fantasy matinee flick. We even get a cameo appearance from TVs Vampira Maila Nurmi as both an old hag and a sorceress. However, as mentioned earlier, my biggest two problems with the film are with Lockwood and Rathbone.
I’ve never been a big fan of Gary Lockwood’s acting performances. They always come across as too wooden for me. I know that it is all a matter of taste. Many people hate Lee Majors for the same reason, yet I always enjoy his films and TV roles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get beyond how much I felt another young actor could have done so much more with the role. Then, we have Mr. Rathbone. I’ll admit anytime he is on screen, he usually brings the story to life. However, in this film, I just feel like he was walking through the role. I always visualize him as the strong lead in the Sherlock Holmes films or as the son of Dr. Frankenstein, so that’s probably a big problem right there.
The Magic Sword is a film I wish I had seen as a kid. I would probably have fond memories of it and those would help me get past my dislike for Gary Lockwood. That said, the big kid in me did enjoy the basic fantasy aspects of the story. On that note alone, I recommend it for a fun afternoon viewing. The film is readily available on DVD as well as YouTube. Check out the trailer to see how they dubbed Gary Lockwood’s voice. Then, watch the MST3K version while shopping for the real movie. Don’t let my harsh comments towards Gary Lockwood sway you away as you should definitely judge this movie for yourself.