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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode Guide: 411- The Magic Sword

Movie: (1962) A knight tries to save damsel from an evil sorcerer with the help of his magical foster mother.

First shown: 8/29/92
Opening: Joel fancies himself a caricature artist
Invention exchange: J&tB demonstrate their Big Gulp berets; The Mads have created designer bio-hazard absorbent throw pillows and Frank performs a one-act play to explain them
Host segment 1: J&tB present their commercial for Basil Rathbones for dogs
Host segment 2: Joel, Gypsy and Crow, in medieval costumes, present a pageant on life in the middle ages, but Tom ruins things
Host segment 3: Crow sings: “Estelle”
End: J&tB discuss words you can’t say on TV, Joel reads a letter, TV’s Frank’s not looking good
Stinger: Estelle’s two-headed assistant
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (172 votes, average: 4.28 out of 5)


• I agree with Joel (in the theater), Tom (in a host segment) and Paul (in the ACEG): this movie is not that bad for a Bert I. Gordon movie, which makes the whole affair more watchable. The riffing is decent and the host segments are fun. This one may not be great, but it’s very good.
• This episode was included in Shout! Factory’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XXVI.”
• RiffTrax has re-riffed this movie.
• In the opening bit, Trace and Kevin must have been crouching in front of the SOL set. Probably uncomfortable.
• That’s Maili Nurma, aka Vampira, as the enchantress/hag who tempts the Frenchman.
• Nice cartoon sound effect as the needle is removed from Frank’s neck.
• I love the phrase “criminally-priced spring water.” It hasn’t gone away.
• One thing I’ll say for about this episode, it answers at last the question of who Merritt Stone is … he’s the guy who plays “King Grady.”
• Callbacks: “Hey, it’s the Undersea Kingdom…” “I say it’s foggy!” (The Crawling Eye), “Ya got me!” (Catalina Caper), Crow imitates Del Moore from Catalina Caper, “I’m so sleepy I can barely keep awake!” (The Hercmeister) “Hikeeba” (Women of the Prehistoric Planet) and “…Happy king…” (Mr B Natural).
• Joel mentions a “Jane Fonda video.” It’s been decades since she’s made one, so a lot of people may not remember that Fonda was once the queen of exercise and fitness videos.
• Joel does another overt religious (or Biblical at least) riff: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
• As they head out of the theater toward segment 1, they start talking about the host segment they’re about to do. I like when they do that. Adds continuity.
• Great reference: “They’re packed with bits of Nigel Bruce!”
• Note the LOTR reference before LOTR references were commonplace.
• Crow’s song is easily a highlight, though I confess I like Tom’s list of people better looking than Estelle ever better. (However, hate to break it to Tom, but Jesus Jones is not a person.)
• Alas, Crow’s love was not to be. Estelle died in 1984.
• Joel mentions Ashwaubenon High, his alma mater.
• While reading the letter, Joel actually says “keep circulating the tapes.” I think it’s the only time he ever did that on the show.
• Poor Frank at the end — and, hey, didn’t something very similar happen to Dr. Erhardt?
• Cast and crew roundup: Of course, we’ve already suffered through Bert I. Gordon’s “King Dinosaur,” “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “Earth Vs. The Spider” and “War of the Colossal Beast.” In the future we’ll get “Tormented,” “Beginning of the End” and “Village of the Giants.” Scriptwriter Bernard Schoenfeld also wrote “The Space Children.” Cinematographer Paul Vogel also worked on “Village of the Giants.” Editor Harry Gerstad also worked on “Rocketship X-M.” Costume guy Oscar Rodriguez also worked on “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” and “The Phantom Planet.” Assistant director/production manager Herbert E. Mendelson also worked on “She Devil.” Art director Franz Bachelin worked on “Village of the Giants.” Set designer George R. Nelson worked on “Code Name: Diamond Head.” Score composer Richard Markowitz also worked on “Stranded in Space.” In front of the camera, Gary Lockwood has a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” role in “Kitten With A Whip.” Angelo Rossitto also appears in “The Corpse Vanishes.” And don’t get me started about Jack Kosslyn and Merritt Stone.
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Jim. Crist Ballas did the hair and makeup, the only episode he worked this season. “Ode on Estelle” was written and arranged by Mike and Paul. “Ammendment” is misspelled.
• Fave riff: “Just came to freak you out, baby…” Honorable mention: “Ga-nish!”

104 Replies to “Episode Guide: 411- The Magic Sword”

  1. Sitting Duck says:

    Anyone else find it vaguely creepy that Lockwood’s character was using that magic pool to watch the princess go skinny dipping?

    “Hello, I’m French.”


  2. Brandon says:

    Was Jane Fonda dating Ted Turner at this time?


  3. Anita says:

    I was going to dub this one onto DVD last night, but my DVD recorder didn’t like the tape and refused to.


  4. Joey Stink Eye Smiles says:

    “They’re not dead, they’re metaphysically-challenged.”

    The “Estelle” song is my favorite song after “Patrick Swayze Christmas”. Very catchy.


  5. Skiptastic says:

    I’m sorry, but I gotta give it to Mr. I Gordon. This wasn’t really that bad of a movie, and I think the premise is actually pretty solid. It’s cheesy and sometimes poorly acted, but at least I’m not insulted by a bad interpretation of “beatniks” or just insultingly bad movie making that you got a lot of this season (Being From Another Planet, Monster A Go Go, Manos).

    I found this episode to be fun, and the beginning with Dr. F is just amazing. “NO!….wellll, okay.”


  6. Outer space says:

    Acctually this is the first of 4 richard keil mst movies


  7. Bobo "BuckDat" Briggs says:

    I agree with Skiptastic. It’s certainly a much more entertaining movie than Tormented for instance. I also have very fond memories of watching this episode with friends. My taped versions came from the syndicated run in Kansas City as well as a CC. I think the most prominent commercials were a Beverly Hills Cop showing locally and then tons of comercials on CC for the old video game, Zoop. Anyone remember Zoop? Highly touted as being addictive as crack.


  8. Bill says:

    I really like the fact that Tom cops to the idea that the movie was “actually pretty good.” I think that in later seasons, they latched onto the idea that the more they felt pained, the more the audience enjoyed it, so suddenly every film got the same groans of a Manos or Fu Manchu.


  9. Nutcase says:

    The best joke in this episode would have to be during the opening credits where Servo says “Dragon trainer? They’re kidding us, right?”


  10. GizmonicTemp says:

    This episode had 692 riffs over 1:13:15 of movie time for an RPM of 9.447. I don’t care where that ranks because I’m not to fond of this movie. From Estelle’s “flattering” costume, to Basil’s “I don’t care” performance, to a couple knights roasting alive, this is one frightening mama jama.

    However, Frank’s performance advertising the bio-hazard throw pillows and Joel drawing caricatures are two of my favorite series-wide moments.

    “Dr. Forrester, I love you.”


  11. skenderberg says:

    The Magic Sword is one of the few MST3K movies I watched as a child, before the advent of MST3K. It’s kind of fun, but makes no sense. The commentary doesn’t seem as quotable as other episodes either.

    Favorite riff, when Estelle shows Gary her ring of power, “My own mom just flipped me off.”


  12. RCFagnan says:

    I only saw this episode once, several years ago, but the one riff that really sticks with me (for some reason) is “This isn’t that bad.” “WHAT?” “Well, for a Bert I. Gordon movie, I mean.”


  13. fireballil says:

    Haven’t seen this one enough to give too many memories, but I do recall a goof from the Poopie! reel: In the intro segment, Crow flubbed his opening line, and Tom starts in on his line anyway.


  14. Ms. Mary says:

    Anne Helm, who played Princess Helene in this movie, is the former stepmom of a friend of mine, Will “the Thrill” Viharo.


  15. Darthdemona says:

    I really like this episode because I love fairy tales, fractured or otherwise. I don’t have one favorite riff, but I love the extended Price is Right riffing and the Princess Bride references.


  16. Sitting Duck says:

    Fireballil, it was actually Servo who flubbed the line and Crow who started in.

    “Serf’s up!”


  17. Diet Kolos says:

    Ga-nish! I love that, its so unexpexted!

    This movie really wasn’t that bad, and the inclusion of Joel and the bots adds to the fun.


  18. Kenotic says:

    I have to agree with Joel/Tom and the ACEG, this wasn’t a bad movie, and probably one of the most watchable ones they did. It’s Saturday afternoon discount kiddie fare, no doubt, but it’s fun (and cheesy, no doubt) which makes up for a lot. The three leads were great, and you can almost never say that about an MST3k movie.

    Fave riff: “Look, my own mom just gave me the finger.”


  19. Mark says:

    Favorite riff in this one is near the beginning when the two-headed lab assistant says “Sybil…” and one of the guys (Crow, IIRC) says “talk about the pot calling the kettle black”.


  20. Bob says:

    I LOVE this episode. The movie is mildly entertaining all on its own, it has good, name actors in it in really goofy parts and the job by Bert I. Gordon is certainly one of his more admirable ones. The movie was clearly aimed at a young audience and it’s good fantasy fun for all ages if you like a bit of sword-and-sorcery.

    There are a lot of jokes from the MST3K crew in this one and I think it’s a good, highly entertaining effort on their part as well. The sketch and song about Estelle Winwood is hilarious. This is another of those special episodes I can watch repeatedly in a short space of time and not get bored at all.

    One of my favorite riffs is: “Terry, the sensitive knight.” Joel’s delivery on that one slays me like I was the dragon at the end of the film!


  21. losingmydignity says:

    Like quite a few others posting, I watched this on tv as a child and have very fond memories of the film itself. After viewing it my sister and I ran outside and played out our own version of St. George and the Seven Curses. Good times, good times.
    It’s really one of the “better” films the Brains ever mocked. Of course it’s just as clumsy in its way as any B.I.G film with its stilted dialogue and “stagey” mis en scene, and goofy special effects. As an MST ep it’s just so so. I have to wonder though if this is truly a result of the quality of the film being, well, semi-decent (i.e. highly watchable if you are a 70’s seven year old) or something else. There’s a little bit of a magical chemical reaction between the Brains and certain films (and doesn’t happen with Magic Sword) that is really hard to pin point sometimes. I don’t really believe in the badder the better principle, so what is it? Something I often ponder (yes, folks, I have that much free time).
    There is one special moment in this ep for me. Joel references an old game I had as a child–Green Ghost. File this under: Why MST was Made for Me. I have never heard the game mentioned anywhere else, by anybody. Just love that. If you’re curious here’s some info. on the game and its rather ridiculous and elaborate rules (as kids we lost the instructions and made up our own rules, no less goofy and elaborate as the original ones.
    Ah, MST. Good times, good times.
    The game:

    The rules:


  22. Bob says:

    Funny that the Green Ghost game should be mentioned, because I also had a copy as a small child and had completely forgotten about it until it was mentioned on MST3K. It wasn’t the first or last time they mentioned something wonderful on the show that I’d forgotten about until they jogged my memory with an obscure joke or reference.

    Also, I don’t believe the comment above in the Episode Guide article on this movie about the Lord of the Rings reference applies to MST3K in that the show made LotR references frequently and often. Such references may not have been commonplace in the “mainstream”, but they were certainly commonplace among fantasy literature fans, D&D players, fantasy gamers of all types and the MST3K writers. I once even considered starting a log of all the LotR references in the show they seemed to be so common. Like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, LotR is one of those things that has a lot of fans in common with MST3K, including perhaps some of the show’s writers, and like Monty Python it was often referenced in jokes throughout the show’s history. Just one good example: Frodo and Tolkien are both mentioned in the Renaissance Festival punching bags sketch at the beginning of Giant Gila Monster.


  23. Sean74 says:

    This is a good-to-great episode for me, not a classic but not horrible either. the invention exchanges are clever (especially the Big-Gulp berets), the host segments are funny (Crow’s ode to Estelle Winwood is a fav moment of mine), and the overall riffing is above average. My fav riff is when Sir Branton’s head is mounted on the wall, Joel points out, “He was framed!”, as well as when Gary Lockwood saves the French knight from the hag, again you hear Joel say, “I know you’re French, but her?!”

    I was disappointed that they didn’t make more references to “2001: A Space Odyssey” because of Lockwood’s presence; the only mention I know of is when the doors to Estelle Winwood’s lair open, you here one of them say “Open the pod-bay doors, HAL!”


  24. MikeTheLibrarian says:

    I love that Crow reacts to his “brothers” in the movie when the vaguely crow-like monsters are on screen. I think that’s this one, anway…


  25. silent037bob says:

    An absolutely 5 star brilliant episode! :grin:

    “Where are you?”
    “Now I am over here drowning!”


  26. Uranium - 235 says:

    Hah! More Princess Bride!

    “My sweet Wesley will save me!”

    “Mawigge! Twoo wuv!”

    Glad to see they’re fans of the movie too :)


  27. Spector says:

    Not too bad,but for me this was a case of a movie actually being a decent “B” movie and thus hard for the Brains to really gain some decent traction with their riffing here. Sure, it has its moments, and it is of course coming from the insidious Bert I. Gordon, but of all the films he did which the Brains were able to turn into comic gold, this one wasn’t of the same cheesy caliber. It was actually, well, kinda decent, with some pretty neat special effects considering when it was made. And while Basil Rathbone was kinda femmy in this one he’s still a very watchable actor. An ok effort by the Brains but not really one that ranks amongst their better efforts.


  28. This is one that I’ve only seen once and really want to see again. I remember it as being one of the more watchable films in that it actually had a plot.


  29. Rhys says:

    I remember Joel refered the the bald henchman as Peter Garret, a relatively obscure reference outside of australia.


  30. Dan in WI says:

    I don’t know what to say about this episode. It just doesn’t do much for me. And I’m not saying it is a bad episode. It just does nothing for me.

    Who knew Bert I Gordon also wrote and directed Russo-Finnish films?

    The line of the episode comes early on as Tom comments on Joel’s caricature. ”I wouldn’t pick up my worst enemy’s dog droppings with this stuff.”

    Joel’s invention is a little week but I do like Clayton’s. And it has real practical use was well. What if your annoying guest spills something really toxic like Mountain Dew? This invention will take care of it.

    Joel slaps the desk nowhere near the button for the opening movie sign much like early season 1.

    Favorite Riffs:
    Crow “By this time my lungs were burnt to a crisp.”

    Tom “That was a pretty interesting scene but one question. What just happened here?”


  31. stef says:

    I can never watch this film. How would you feel if an actor you really, really loved was on MST3K? Basil Rathbone was such an awesome guy! I don’t want to hear the guys riff on him!:^(


  32. Travis says:

    Wow, I had just about erased those annoying Becks Sail Away commercials until you mentioned them. Damn those were freaking annoying…


  33. robot rump! says:

    not as bad a film as the rest of Gordon’s work. fro me the highlight is during Crow’s ‘Ode to Estelle’
    Joel “..and with your love it may not matter..”
    Tom “..But can she control her bladder?”

    say, now that i think about it, what WAS the deal with Gary Lockwood’s character? he has a powerful witch/mom, a magic horse, sword and armor. he has 6-7 euros running around taking a bullet for him and in the end he STILL needs the help of snap, crackle and pop to escape!?!
    hmm… forget what i said earlier. “shame on you Burt I Gordon.”


  34. pondoscp says:

    Robots who cross dress as dogs and the cats who love them:

    Love Frank’s bit during the invention exchange in this episode


  35. ServoTron3000 says:

    Favorite riff:

    When the hero is battling the 3 headed dragon monster

    Crow: If this were a Japanese movie, the entire film would be about that monster.


  36. Sitting Duck says:

    On a related topic, any word on if and when Rifftrax will have a DVD release of their live riffing of Jack the Giant Killer?


  37. JimmyBruce says:



  38. Stressfactor says:

    @ Stef,

    Well, at least I don’t recall the guys riffing *on* Basil Rathbone all that much. The ‘dog biscuit’ bit was really just a good-natured poke at his name — they don’t really take pokes at his acting ability. Contrast that with what the guys did to Timothy VanPatten and Lee VanCleef in the two “Master Ninja” movies. Now there the guys really tear up both actors’ acting abilities.

    I give the guys credit — they tend to realize when you’ve got good actors in a bad movie and when you’ve got bad actors in a bad movie and they tailor their riffs to fit the situation.

    As for THIS movie….

    I have to say this is one of those rare (so far) occasions where I like the theatre riffing a *lot* better than I liked the host segment. Sorry, but it’s true. The riffing on the movie really made me laugh out loud. The most the host segments got out of me was a smile.

    There was even an “Ooooo” riff on this one — when Crow says “Do you call a hag who hangs out with hags a ‘hag-hag’?” That one was skating a little close to the edge of ‘not making it past the censors’ I thought.


  39. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Did this one remind anyone else of Rifftrax’s “Jack the Giant-Killer”? Or vice versa?

    #1: Well, remember, George had presumably been using the pool to look in on anywhere he wanted since childhood, so he probably literally didn’t know the meaning of the word “privacy.” It’s like, how much restraint are we really prepared to believe that teenage Clark Kent imposed upon using his x-ray vision? Creepy is as creepy does.

    So, given the environment that George grew up in, did he turn out badly or about as well as could be expected? I liked the matter-of-fact weirdness of Chez Cybil. A two-headed assistant? Out of nowhere, a chimpanzee? Sure, why not? Seems like there should have been more Endora jokes, though.

    In an odd and sudden bit of rationality, when Holo-Princess addresses George by name, it actually occurs to him to wonder how she KNEW his name, because despite him being insanely in love with her, they’d never met. That’s the sort of attention to detail you just don’t find in most obsessive stalkers who build up imaginary romances between themselves and their unknowing surveillance subjects…


  40. Fred Burroughs says:

    My dad remembers seeing this in the theater, and it is passably good in some respects. (I was impressed with the tiny people in the cage effects.) The swamp scene where they lose a few knights, though, lost me. As in many MST movies, a few shrubs and a hot tub with some dry ice = scary evil deathtrap! (See: Prehistoric Women) How hard is it to walk around? And George is devastated when he loses his best friends whom he just met yesterday. The goofiness of the Estelle/Rathbone rivalry and the simple ‘save the princess’ plot make it good fodder for MST treatment, I think. I don’t remember them making any Star Trek jokes (Gary was in the first aired episode of ST, IIRC) but not many 2001 Kubrick jokes either. (one?)

    I think they get around the creepy peeping angle by explaining that George is very naive and has never really left the house. He redeems himself by killing the monster. But who wouldn’t become obsessed with a woman you watch bathe every day? Creepy to the max. Did he watch her go to the bathroom too?


  41. Kenneth Morgan says:

    #39 (touches no one’s life…)

    Remind me of it? They’re almost the same movie. They’d make a great double-feature.


  42. Cheapskate Crow says:

    Does anyone else’s copy have the horribly annoying Comedy Central News Bites crawling across the bottom of the screen? I thought of TV networks doing annoying pop up promos for shows while shows are still going on as a recent phenomenon but apparently it has been going on for 20 years now. I love Frank’s one act play, especially the Charles in Charge line. I had to air that show as a TV master control operator so I have a lot of hate built up when that name is mentioned.
    As for the movie, I need to finish it and have only watched up to the first host segment but for me it lives up to the high standards of season 4 so far. Definitely Basil Rathbone at a low point in his career.


  43. Sharktopus says:

    I found myself thinking, “This doesn’t feel like a B.I.G. movie.” Then Estelle transformed into a giant cat. Ah, NOW it’s a B.I.G. movie.

    Is there a fairy tale precedent that I’ve missed for evil sorcerers abducting princesses, or are Jack The Giant Killer and The Magic Sword just another case of Hollywood developing similar movies at the same time? Or were Mr BIG and Nathan Juran having lunch every day: “A giant grasshopper? Yeah, well I got a giant MANTIS!” “Okay, then. How about a whole SWARM of giant grasshoppers? Beat that!”


  44. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    #43: Well, both films WERE released in the same year, 1962. Maybe there are more by other directors?


  45. Manny Sanguillen says:

    I’ve had a strong dislike for Jane Fonda ever since 1992 when the camera kept showing her doing the ‘tomahawk chop’ in the playoffs between the Pirates & Braves. (The Pirates clinched defeat from the jaws of victory in the final inning due to manager Jim Leyland taking out Doug Drabek and bringing in a pitcher who had given up a home run to the batter he was about to face in his only previous at bat against him. Yes, I blame Leyland and nobody else for that bonehead move.)

    I put off watching this episode for the longest time so I was happily surprised to find that its a pretty good episode. I think ‘Tormented’ was the best Bert I Gordon movie, but this is a close second.


  46. Raptorial Talon says:

    I found an old VHS copy of this movie at a pawn shop/restaurant in a tourist town in South Dakota, just a year or two after seeing the episode. It was only $2, so I bought it just for the hell of it. Weird coincidences are worth commemorating . . .

    And, while I know it’s been used in other episodes, this episode was my first introduction to the immortal, ever-usable line: “Bite me, it’s fun!”


  47. tinaw says:

    I thought I was the only one who recognized Vampira’s real name in the credits. I was disappointed that J&TB didn’t make reference to it at all. Then I realized that “Maila Nurmi” might not have been so readily associated with “Vampira” at that time. She sued Cassandra Peterson and got a decision on March 31, 1989. Hmmm . . . perhaps it wasn’t big news for them.


  48. Big61al says:

    Missed riff – Maila Nurmi – when the old hag was on-screen they could have said “Vampira hasn’t aged very well”
    To the mods….YAY spell check! Thank you.


  49. John R. Ellis says:

    I think the riffing on this one was pretty good. True, it was more exagerrating the elements already there than ripping it to bits, but that made for a nice change of pace.

    I still crack up so hard at Joel’s reaction to the horse. “He’s SWELL!”


  50. Stressfactor says:

    P.S., I forgot to mention that Sampo’s “Honorable mention” riff for this one was one of my faves for the episode as well. I liked how the show often went back and forth with the level of self-awareness of the bots. Sometimes, like here, they seem to be aware that they’re actually robot puppets, but other times they seem totally oblivious to the reality.

    It’s kind of like hot-and-cold-running metatext.


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