Wizards, 35th Anniversary Edition, Blu-ray (1977/2011)
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Voiceovers: Mark Hamill, Bob Holt, Richard Romanus, Jesse Welles
Studio: 20th-Century Fox
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English or Spanish PCM Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary track by Ralph Bakshi, “Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard of Animation,” Stills gallery, TV spot and theatrical trailers, 24-p. hardback book packaging
Length: 81 minutes
I enjoyed Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, but don’t feel I missed anything by not seeing Wizards at the time of its original release. Bakshi had minimal backing from the same studio as George Lucas had for his initial Star Wars, although of course Lucas had a much larger budget. And both films premiered at about the same time. With the huge success of Star Wars, the studio put it into many of the theaters in which Wizards had been running. Star Wars’ Luke also did the voice for the elf warrior in Wizards.
The story line takes place thousands of years after the Earth has been consumed in an apocalypse. There are now two powers—one evil, living in a poisoned land, consisting of mutants and demons using technology against the other side, which consists of elves, fairies and other magical creatures of good. Two wizards born of the same mother rule the two halves and the evil one was beaten back in a great battle many years ago, but has since discovered some old Nazi film footage. He gets ideas from it for weapons against the good kingdom and also somehow projects the actual films in the sky to frighten and subdue his adversaries. A deadly robot mercenary sent by the evil wizard is involved; he is captured and re-trained by the good wizard—renamed Peace—and used to lead the wizard and Princess Elinore to the evil land of Scortch. Will the evil wizard Blackwolf be subdued again by the good wizard Avatar even though he’s old his powers are decreased? You ask.
Bakshi speaks in the extras of his beginnings in animation at TerryTunes, and how he wanted to do one family feature in animation which was free of the cloying stuff seen in Disney movies. However, he includes visuals that are far from family fare: the good wizard’s bountiful fairy princess sidekick whose scanty outfit is certainly over the top, plus a scene of a “mutant hookers row.” Plus some fairly corny Disney-style cute fairies. He also defends his practice of using many different styles of animation in Wizards, when in truth this occurred because he didn’t have enough money to do the entire film in cel animation. Still must credit Bakshi’s creativity in finding a way by converting old Nazi war films with high-contrast color video manipulation, and combining it with his sometimes-animated characters, plus using many sections of just two-tone drawings which don’t move at all, accompanied by a narrator explaining the story. Bakshi has said that Wizards is partially an allegory about the creation of Israel and the Holocaust, the Jews seeking a homeland, and the rise of fascism. There is a short song-and-dance bit by a pair of old bearded men in a supposed “religious” center invaded by bad mutants, which might disturb some but which I found hilarious in a rather sophomoric Mel Brooks style.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.