Director/Producer/Story – Bert I. Gordon, Screenplay – Bernard Schoenfield, Photography – Paul Vogel, Music – Richard Markowitz, Visual Effects – Bert I. & Flora Gordon, Special Effects – Milt Rice, Makeup – Dan Striepeke, Production Design – Franz Bachelin. Production Company – Bert I. Gordon/United Artists
Gary Lockwood (Sir George), Basil Rathbone (Lodac), Estelle Winwood (Sybil), Anne Helm (Princess Helene), Liam Sullivan (Sir Branton), Merritt Stone (The King), John Maudlin (Sir Patrick), Jacques Gallo (Sir Dennis), Leroy Johnson (Sir Ulrich), David Cross (Sir Pedro), Taldo Kenyon (Sir Anthony), Angus Duncan (Sir James), Maila Nurmi (The Hag)
Using his mother’s magic, George, the adopted son of the witch Sybil, gazes from afar upon and falls in love with the Princess Helene. George then sees Helene abducted by the sorcerer Lodac. The king announces that whoever rescues Helene will win her hand in marriage. George immediately defies his mother’s wishes and sets off to her rescue, along with the help of six knights he releases from petrification. However, the questors must brave the seven curses that Lodac has placed on them.
The Magic Sword is one of a number of films that attempted to capitalise on the success of Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). The 7th Voyage of Sinbad popularised a fad for Cinemascope swashbuckling and legendary/mythic adventures and was copied by a number of other films in the early 1960s. The surprise about The Magic Sword is that it was made by Bert I. Gordon, best known during the 1950s for giant bug and big and small people films like The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Earth vs the Spider (1958), Attack of the Puppet People (1958) and Village of the Giants (1965). Most of Bert I. Gordon’s films are fairly terrible and The Magic Sword is the only one of his films that gets good reviews by genre fans. (See below for Bert I. Gordon’s other films).
The Magic Sword may not be Mr B.I.G.’s best film – that is surely the outrageously perverse The Mad Bomber (1973) – but it is certainly the best budgeted. It was Gordon’s first film in colour. Gordon does an okay job. There is an okay score and the dragon effects at the climax are surprisingly good – a miracle if you compare them to the optically enlarged bugs that turn up in most of Bert I. Gordon’s other films.
Gordon has an interesting cast. He has brought in an aging Basil Rathbone; has Broadway grand dame Estelle Winwood, who rises to the occasion in a grandly flowery performance; and a young Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) fame who makes a colourless hero, even Maila Nurmi aka Vampira as a sorceress.
There are numerous fantastical elements – magicians and witches, hags, miniature people, ogres, beast transformations, hawk-faced people, a dragon, a gate-opening sword and a resurrected company of knights. Although Gordon tries hard, all the magic ultimately comes out as pedestrian rather than taking any flight of wonder. Still, The Magic Sword is one brief moment where Bert I. Gordon transcended his own mediocrity.
Bert I. Gordon’s other films are:– King Dinosaur (1955), The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Earth vs the Spider (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), another fantasy adventure with The Boy and the Pirates (1960), the ghost story Tormented (1960), Village of the Giants (1965), the psycho-thriller Picture Mommy Dead (1966), the occult film Necromancy (1972), The Mad Bomber (1973), The Food of the Gods (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977) and the witchcraft films The Coming/Burned at the Stake (1981) and Malediction/Satan’s Princess (1990), and Secrets of a Psychopath (2015).