The cover of the script. Note the title.
Rare storyboard for the film. One of its kind still left.
Artist Javier Trujillo has done several projects with Paul Naschy.
Two are above. Trujillo is now working on a new Naschy project.
The Greek and then the Japanese videos.
By 1983, cinema was changing. There was less and less need for
the double-bill, and a foreign horror film like THE BEAST AND
THE MAGIC SWORD would find difficulty in being exhibited. Then,
too, it was not your typical horror film and took its time tell
its story. No more was this the era of the 1970s when the Spanish
horror boom was at its peak. Along with other creators, Paul Naschy
would find it more and more difficult to get the funding he needed.
Naschy kept on, trying his best to make a film that would have
some artistic merit, but also find a welcome reception in the
world and in the United States, which was always a standard for
a foreign film's success. THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD was never
dubbed or shown in theatres in America. It was even a stranger
in the land of American television. There was no American pressbook,
either. For a long time, the only way to see this film was through
dupey-looking videos sourced from either the Greek or Japanese
Then, in 2009, Vellavision distributed
a number of Naschy films on DVD and in proper aspect ratio (mostly).
Included was the first DVD of LA BESTIA Y LA ESPADA MAGICA. For
the first time we were able to see what is going on, the previous
video releases having been mediocre.
After LATIDOS DE PANICO, Naschy looked
to helm in Japan. His project was based on Kyoto, the Beast, an
outlaw who had done in various Japanese in the forest. When captured,
he had been punished with a hand-to-hand fight with a Bengal tiger.
He won. Taking that as a starting point, Naschy wrote a screenplay,
initially titled LA BESTIA Y LOS SAMURAIS. Takeda was very enthusiastic
about the project. Julia Saly, who was a partner with Naschy and
Takeda, had a contact in Japan that would be perfect for Japanese
role: Shigeru Amachi. (The timeline here is a little confusing.
Naschy states that he was at a party in Japan where Amachi and
Mifune were present. It is very possible that this party was after
Amachi was involved with the film, though the party seems to occur
before.) Amachi had a long list of acting credits in Japan, starting
in 1953, with many action films and historical period pieces.
A gentleman of the "old school," Amachi smoked cigarettes
with a holder and had a servant in tow, affectionately called
later by the Spanish that were filming, a "monkey."
Naschy was also looking for funding, and Amachi agreed and took
half of the film's financial responsibility and helped in other
ways. Through Amachi, the large studios of Toshiro Mifune were
used, including the actors and the surrounding scenery.
The filming presenting many headaches
and difficulties. One time, Amachi walked off the set, angry that
he was being shot for the back. Naschy, himself infuriated at
that point, wanted to cancel the entire film, as Amachi was critical
in its making. But Amachi came back and apologized for his behavior.
Another time, at a nighttime shoot, the actress Yoko Fuji was
required to lie down in boat, the temperature freezing at that
point. When he didn't need her, Naschy try to send her to her
dressing room to warm up until he needed her again. The Japanese
production manager contradicted this, saying that Fuji was a professional
and should stay in the boat. A row started between Naschy and
the man, but Naschy won in the end. Then there was the tiger scene,
one of the best in Naschy's filmography. After being told that
using a tiger would be impossible, Naschy heard that a tiger used
in the television show SANDOKAN was available, and it was this
tiger that fought Waldemar Daninsky after being fed 25 chickens
Though Naschy thought highly of the
Spanish male actors he was employing, veterans like Conrado San
Martin and Gerard Tichy, he was less enthusiastic about his Spanish
female leads: Violeta Cela and Beatriz Escadero.
Despite these difficulties and more,
Naschy was satisfied. As Naschy would say in the VIDEOOZE double-issue
devoted to him: "It was very interesting to film two worlds
so opposite and to make them coincide, since it is a voyage which
begins on this continent and ends in the Orient. This voyage gave
us the opportunity to learn the authentic origin of the legend
of Waldemar Daninsky, which is to say we begin in the time of
Otto the Great and finish up on the sixteenth century. Artistically
it is one of my best films."
There is no doubt that this film
is a major one from Paul Naschy. He worked with Japan and at Toshiro
Mifune studios, and continued to bridge the gap that existed,
cinematically, between Spain and Japan. But the film is too heavy-handed
at times. Perhaps it was the absence of Naschy's cinematopher,
or Naschy's own temperament that interpreted this as an "important"
film and therefore hampered him. Or Naschy played his role too
glum, with no presence of levity from him nor anyone else. At
times, particularly in the scenes that arise before Waldemar goes
to Japan, the film seems lifeless and going by route.
The framing of the picture is curious,
too. It seems full frame. Perhaps Naschy was going for a similarity
with Japanese films, something he admitted to in talking about
the pace of the film, but a full-frame shooting is a puzzlement,
though it is possible that the framing was compelled in trying
to get the film shown in a variety of venues.
THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD contains
some of the best sequences of any Waldemar Daninsky film, but
it is too long, though obviously deserving to be better known
and then appreciated for what it attempted to do.
During the first scene and the battle between
Irineus Daninsky and Bulcio, in the stand are seen, dressed of
the times, Naschy's wife, Elvira, and his two sons, Bruno and
The hara-kiri scene compelled applause from the
Japanese members of the crew. For Naschy this was another example
of Japan's fatalistic merging of honor and death.
At the wrap-up party, Naschy was forced to sing,
in Spanish, some of the classic songs of Spain. The sake may have
helped, but Naschy realized his voice was in no way a match for
Amachi, who sang several songs in wonderful voice,, including
the "Waldemar" one that appears at the end of the film.
Amachi passed away in 1985, a victim of a stroke
and still not seeing the distribution of his co-financed film
in Japan. For Naschy, this film was the last premiere that his
father, Enrique Molina, was able to attend before he passed away.
A sequel was considered but never made.
Sergio during the filming:
Sigheru Amachi Sings!
captures from Spain's Vellavision DVD of LA BESTIA Y LA ESPADA