Film Review: The Sword and the Dragon (1956)

Also known as: Ilya Muromets (Soviet Union), The Epic Hero and the Beast (UK)
Release Date: September 16th, 1956 (Soviet Union)
Directed by: Aleksandr Ptushko
Written by: Mikhail Kochnev
Based on:  the byliny tales of the bogatyr Ilya Muromets
Music by: Igor Morozov
Cast: Boris Andreyev, Shukur Burkhanov, Andrei Abrikosov, Natalya Medvedeva, Yelena Myshkova

Mosfilm, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Ooh a real sepia tone has come over the crowd.” – Tom Servo, Mystery Science Theater 3000

The Sword and the Dragon is a film I probably wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

This is a Soviet fantasy film and for coming out of a communist country in the mid-1950s, the special effects are surprisingly good.

This isn’t a good movie per se but it does have an interesting visual and aesthetic flair. Some of the puppets used are ahead of their time and go to show that the people behind the film were able to accomplish a lot with what they had to work with. If anything, this film is a technical marvel.

Additionally, the style and art direction are fantastic, showcasing a lot of creativity.

The film is based off of a byliny tale, or poem, about the famous folklore character Ilya Muromets who likes to ride around and go on adventures, fighting mythological beasts. I’m not hugely familiar with the character, so I can’t say whether or not this is an accurate version of him. However, it is still fun and mostly engaging even if the story is a bit messy and disjointed.

The film is bizarre and surreal but anything featuring puppet squirrels beating on mushrooms like bongos is going to fit that bill. While it is far from perfection, The Sword and the Dragon has a charm and an awesomeness to it.

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