The past couple years have seen a sharp uptick in the number of Paul Naschy films getting Blu-ray upgrades, along with some that had never even seen the light of day on DVD in the States. (Such was the case with 1975’s The Werewolf and the Yeti, a.k.a. Night of the Howling Beast, put out as part of Scream Factory’s The Paul Naschy Collection II set last year.) So it seems like it’s only a matter of time before a company like Mondo Macabro or Scream Factory does the same for the elusive The Beast and the Magic Sword.
Made in 1983, the Spanish/Japanese co-production was Naschy’s last hurrah as Waldemar Daninsky — at least for the next 13 years — and found him sending the cursed Polish count to feudal Japan in search of a cure for his condition. As usual, how he came by it is completely different from how he got cursed in any of the previous installments, but Naschy (who wrote and directed) dispenses with the particulars rather quickly, so I will, too.
Back in 10th-century Germany, one of Waldemar’s heavily bearded ancestors (also played by Naschy) defeated a fierce Magyar warrior (who was said to be the devil, a shapeshifter, and a vampire) in single combat and was allowed to marry the king’s youngest daughter. Unfortunately, this pissed off the warrior’s mistress, a witch who puts a very specific and easily avoidable curse on his family since it only affects the seventh-born son and only if they’re born during the first night of the full moon. “The Daninskys will be a race of murderers, hated and persecuted forever!” the witch cries, not taking into account that they could simply stop having children when they get to six.
Anyway, when we pick up in the action in the late 16th century, Waldemar and the love of his life, Kinga (Beatriz Escudero), are in Toledo, Spain, consulting with Jewish occult expert Salom Yehuda (Conrado San Martín) and his blind niece Esther (Violeta Cela) when the townspeople denounce the lot of them for practicing witchcraft. Even worse, some of the locals decide to save the Grand Inquisitor a trip, throw some makeshift hoods on, and descend upon Salom’s home, mortally wounding him before Waldemar (still in human form) can fight them off. It is at this point that Salom sends them on to Kyoto, making Waldemar Esther’s protector in the bargain.
Once the action shifts to Japan (about 23 minutes in), things pick up considerably, especially in the werewolf attack/transformation department. (There are eight of them, but the first one doesn’t really count since it’s entirely shot from Waldemar’s point of view.) Curiously enough, we meet Kian (Shigeru Amachi), the man Waldemar is trying to find, before he does, and it is Kian who tracks the weary werewolf back to his den. Instead of turning him in to the authorities, Kian agrees to help him find a cure, but his first formula, which uses the leaves of a certain Tibetan snow flower, fails to do the trick. In desperation, Waldemar goes to sorceress Satomi (Junko Asahina), who gives him a potion and locks him in a chamber where he transforms in the most low-tech way possible (in the wake of The Howling and American Werewolf, I guess Naschy decided he just couldn’t compete on that level) and does battle with a tiger named Shere Khan. (This is the image that’s on the poster, so I’m glad the film delivers on the promise of a werewolf in paw-to-paw combat with a tiger.)
As for Satomi, she threatens to do nasty things to Kinga and Esther and keeps Waldemar at bay with a silver katana (the magic sword of the title), which Kian later retrieves so he can be put out of his misery. However, it’s up to Kian’s sister Akane (Yôko Fuji) to do the deed because the killing stroke has to be delivered by somebody who loves Waldemar or else it won’t take. Not that I really believe it will. I’ve seen enough of these pictures (ten of the eleven that are extant) to know a dead Waldemar Daninsky is only a few keystrokes away from getting resurrected at will. It’s the nature of the beast.