FILMS FROM THE VOID: Paul Naschy’s THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD makes its U.S. debut

For their latest batch of releases, world-spanning company Mondo Macabro presents the debut Blu-ray release – and first-ever US release – of director Paul Naschy’s The Beast And The Magic Sword. Long desired by fans of the Spanish director’s series of Waldemar Daninsky werewolf films, this 1983 horror fantasy is an absolute knockout of a release.

“THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD is the last great film from Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy. Although he would go on making and planning films until his death in 2009, he never again attempted the epic sweep and grandeur of this 10th entry into the saga of Waldemar Daninsky, a man afflicted by the curse of lycanthropy.

“In this film, we get for the first time an origin story of how the Daninsky curse began back in the 10th century. We then move forward to 16th century Japan where Daninsky has traveled in search of a cure to his affliction. Co-starring Japanese stage and screen veteran Shigeru Amachi, and shot in the studios of Toshiro Mifune, THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD is a highly successful and colorful melding of European werewolf legends and dark Japanese fantasy. It features a fight between werewolf and tiger, an evil scarlet-cloaked witch who imprisons Daninsky, a sword fight with a troupe of ghost samurai, and many other unforgettable scenes.”

If you’ve never seen a Naschy werewolf film, this might be the best one with which to start. Despite being the tenth in the series, they’re all so disparate that trying to make sense of continuity or plotlines is sure to drive a viewer mad. As stated in the plot summary on the back of Mondo Macabro’s Blu, this presents the origin story for Daninsky’s lycanthropic curse, courtesy of a witch’s curse in the 10th century.

That sets everything up in the movie’s opening scenes, with Naschy in essence creating a short which explains pretty much every film which has preceded it. The rest of the film, for the most part, takes place in Japan, wherein Waldemar Daninsky seeks to cure himself of the family curse. While the opening scenes of the film feature battling barbarians and a very atmospheric couple of scenes with the witch, Amese, the rest of The Beast And The Magic Sword takes Naschy’s werewolf and deposits him in Japan, allowing for samurai and magic and ghost samurai and lady ninja and a battle between a werewolf and a Bengal tiger.

If you thought Zombie‘s shark vs zombie fight was amazing, and the height of genre craziness, werewolf vs tiger is next-level shit. The film’s amazingly shot, with a surprisingly lucid and easy-to-follow storyline, but it’s scenes like this which really ramp it up from “not bad” to “must-see” territory. I watched it straight through, then immediately put it on again the following day to dig through all the extras. The hosts of Naschycast – Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn – provide an excellent commentary which not only comments on the action, but provide a sense of where The Beast And The Magic Sword falls with Naschy’s other work (spoiler: this is where the commentators feel the director’s career should have ended).

The Smile of the Wolf is a feature interview with the director and spans his entire career in chronological order, while an interview with author Gavin Badderley also digs into Naschy’s career, as well as the general state of werewolf films as a genre. The disc makes for a really solid weekend of viewing – one of those you want everyone to watch so you can dissect how cool the whole film is. While it’s from 1983, this film feels like it came straight out of the previous decade. There’s no attempt to cash in on the straight-to-video craze which was beginning to ramp up, with Naschy aiming to make a capital ‘M’ movie.

Worth noting is that Mondo Macabro tends to put our releases in pairs, and at the same time as The Beast And The Magic Sword, the company put out the 1977 Greek film, Dangerous Cargo, noted for starring Dallas‘ Deborah Shelton before she made it big. Despite a fun plot possibility – wherein a crew is unknowingly transporting a shipful of nitroglycerin when there’s a mutiny, and the captain’s wife must seduce and trick to get revenge for her husband’s death – it’s a real snoozer. There’s a lot of repetitive scenes, most of which are either dull or rape-adjacent, and the crew is a nasty bunch. Despite not even hitting the 90-minute mark, it feels like an eternity to watch. Dangerous Cargo is for genre completists only.

You can snag The Beast And The Magic Sword from Diabolik.

Nick Spacek
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