The Sword and The Dragon (1956) – Aleksandr Ptushko

The next title in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies, as I continue to delve into Dragons and Dinosaurs, takes me to Russia, where the legendary hero Ilja Moromez (Boris Andreyev) is brought to life in the first Russian film to be shot and shown in Cinemacope.

It was released in ’56 in Russia, and then was picked up, dubbed in English, with lots of narration, and released Stateside in the 60s. The film, consequently, can be a little jarring for Western audiences, who are unfamiliar with the legends of the character.

The long and the short of the story, which should be epic, but that can’t really be said about a title that doesn’t run even an hour and a half, is that Ilja rises to protect his land, and its people from the invading hordes led by Kalin (Shukur Burkhanov).

His journeys lead him to clash with armies of great number, amongst them his kin, who he will won back, and also, as the film draws to a close, a giant three-headed fire-breathing dragon, because why not? And also this title would be absurdly out of place if it didn’t have a dragon or a dinosaur in it.

It’s an interesting looking film, and despite the life that Ilja leads, well, his clothes, and those of everyone featured in the film, are pretty clean, the world lacks a lived in look, even in the heat of battle.

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And I’m not quite sure what to make of the dragon.

It’s an interesting concept, it’s execution isn’t great, and it would seem to be more at home than in a Russian epic, which until that point had only delved lightly into the supernatural by restoring Ilja’s ability to walk, and a rather quick fight against a wind demon.

That being said, there are some pretty impressive shots, and tons of crowd scenes, the extras count in this film could easily be in the thousands. And all of it is done to bring this Russian legend to life.

A legend that I had never heard of, and one wonders if anyone outside of Russia had either. And consequently, it misses its mark a bit but not giving us something more steeped in the folklore and mythology of the character, and gone all out with a truly epic tale.

Still, there are some fun fights, some heinous baddies, and film featuring a three headed dragon can’t be all bad.

I will say this, this chapter in DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, is turning out to be a lot of fun. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy for yourself, and find something with giant fire-breathing creatures in it today.

And speaking of, one of my faves is coming up… stay tuned.

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