Though it was primarily made for children, Bert I. Gordon’s The Magic Sword has enough in it for the grownups to enjoy too. The movie features everything you could ever want in a fantasy film including knights and ogres and wizards and even a dragon and while it was slightly juvenile at times, it managed to be a lot of fun. Most of that fun was fairly campy with the type of humour that was quite prevalent in the 1960s and could be seen on both the big and small screen in shows like Lost in Space or Bewitched though they would follow years later and have no bearing on this film whatsoever. Still, as dated as it was and though it made you groan more than laugh, you could not help but smile at the silliness of it all and it really was quite sill at times.
Gordon of course was known for making movies on the cheap and while they might have lacked in certain departments, they were almost always compelling and featured fairly decent special effects. Having brought a number of films to the big screen that featured size-changing men, women and creatures, Gordon would do the same with this film with a giant ogre and some tiny little prisoners of the evil wizard. From beginning to end, it is also a parade of bright and bold colour and whether you are five or thirty-five, you find yourself always looking at something, entranced by the spectacle of it all. Even when Gordon seemed to cut a couple of corners, specifically on the dragon, it did not look all that bad, conveying what it needed to without compromising the film. Sure, all of it was hokey but it was so enjoyable you could forgive it quite easily.
The story concerns a boy named George who is in love with the Princess Helene. Things would probably never work out between them as they are from different class’s altogether, but thanks to the wizard Lodac who has kidnapped her, it provides George with the perfect opportunity to rescue her and perhaps win her hand. He accompanies a bunch of knights to do so including the vile Sir Branton and along the way they encounter many trials they must overcome before facing down the evil wizard. It is a standard story if ever there were one, but Gordon does a good job of bringing it across from Bernard Schoenfeld’s script and while it could have done without a little here and there, manages to entertain the viewer completely.
What is quite surprising is that the movie stars Basil Rathbone as Lodac, an actor of such great calibre that you have to wonder just what it was that made him want to star in this picture. Suffice it to say, you could tell that the man had fun with the role as he hammed it up quite well. Also starring was Gary Lockwood as our hero Sir George, Anne Helm as Helene and Estelle Winwood as the comedic relief and Lodac’s opposite in magic. It was a strong cast, only hampered by the absurdity of it all and yet that is exactly what you have to accept if you are going to watch this film. This movie was not made for the average adult and yet, with Gordon’s name attached, you have to expect a certain amount of schlock. On the other hand, with Gordon’s name on the masthead you know exactly what you are getting and that it is always a promise of a good time.
3 out of 5