When I reviewed Paul Naschy’s 1983 film The Beast and the Magic Sword in 2018, I wrote that it was “only a matter of time before a company like Mondo Macabro or Scream Factory” got around to giving the film its first release in the States. As it turned out, Mondo Macabro was the one that stepped up, putting it out on Blu-ray in February in an edition that includes a variety of special features to please just about any Naschy fan.
In brief, The Beast and the Magic Sword finds Naschy’s signature werewolf character, Polish count Waldemar Daninsky, traveling to 16th-century Japan in search of a cure for his lycanthropy, which is the result of a curse placed on one of his ancestors by a witch. As Naschy points out in the 13-minute introduction included on the disc, this was his second Spanish/Japanese co-production following 1980’s Human Beasts and the one where he was given the largest canvas on which to paint Waldemar’s story. Calling it “a truly unique experience,” he relates how the Japanese crew went the extra mile for him, building sets and making props and costumes to match the era the story was set in (despite the fact that all of their standing sets, which he was perfectly willing to use, were from the following century) and even having a sword made with silver because that’s what the script specified. As a result, the attention to detail makes The Beast the most handsomely mounted entry in the series and the one Naschy was justifiably most proud of.
With a running time close to two hours, it’s also Waldemar’s longest screen adventure, giving NaschyCast hosts Rod Barrett and Troy Guinn ample time to provide a comprehensive commentary. After ten years of doing a podcast devoted to all things Naschy, they really know their stuff, and the enthusiasm they share for the man and his work comes through loud and clear. The same goes for Gavin Baddeley, author of the FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies, who contributes a 32-minute interview that puts Naschy’s entire career in perspective. Illustrated with clips from nearly all of Naschy’s werewolf films and trailers, this is an excellent primer for anyone who’s never seen one and is curious about where to start.
The last bonus feature on the disc is The Smile of the Wolf. Directed by Javier Perea, who was able to interview Naschy before his death in 2009, the 46-minute documentary covers his career, decade by decade, from the 1960s to the 2000s. If anybody can speak authoritatively about his work, it’s the man himself. This alone makes Mondo Macabro’s release worth a look, as is the fact that the remastered print looks amazing. Besides, where else are you going see a werewolf fight a Bengal tiger?