Film Review: Wizards (1977)

Also known as: War Wizards (working title)
Release Date: January, 1977 (Avoriaz Fantadtic Film Festival – France)
Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Ralph Bakshi
Music by: Andrew Belling
Cast: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, Mark Hamill, Susan Tyrrell, Ralph Bakshi (uncredited)

Bakshi Productions, Dong Seo Animation, Twentieth Century Fox, 82 Minutes

Review:

“I’m too old for this sort of thing. Just wake me up when the planet’s destroyed.” – Avatar

This is a movie I first saw when I was really young and as a kid, I didn’t really understand it. As an adult, it’s still a pretty bonkers picture but I understand what’s happening in it a bit better.

I think fans of Ralph Bakshi’s work will greatly enjoy this, as it’s definitely one of his most unique and otherworldly films. It also mixes mediums and experiments with its visual style throughout the movie’s 82 minute duration.

Wizards isn’t just a straight up fantasy epic like you might expect if you’ve only seen Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings adaptation or Fire and Ice. This mixes fantasy and science fiction and it’s a real clash of magic versus technology.

Out of everything I’ve seen from Ralph Bakshi, this is his strangest film but it’s also damn cool and pretty original.

The actual plot could’ve been a bit better and finely tuned but you’re so captivated by the intense and alluring visuals that you find yourself in somewhat of a mesmerized daze. Wizards has a hypnotic quality about it and if you went frame-by-frame, you could be lost, analyzing all the artistic detail for days.

In fact, this has so much detail worked into every panel, I feel like you will just miss most of it, as the film flows pretty quickly from moment-to-moment.

I absolutely love the art in this. I don’t like to throw the word “awesome” around too carelessly because it means “to inspire (or cause) awe”. But this is visually awesome, as I had to pause certain parts to appreciate just the detail of the background illustrations.

Also, seeing this now, it brought me to a realization. Even though I didn’t understand the movie as a kid, it had an artistic impact on me. The reason I say that, is I remember a lot of the art I did in elementary school and my style reflects a lot of the things seen in this film, most specifically the buildings and architecture Baskshi used throughout the story.

The detail and look also reminds me of the architectural design and detail that Dave Sim and Gerhard (more effectively) used in the Cerebus the Aardvark comics.

Wizards is a really neat film. It’s not a great one, as an overall package, but the art, itself, makes watching it a really worthwhile experience.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Ralph Bakshi animated features, as well as the theatrical animated films of the era.

Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

Also known as: Universo en fantasía (original Spanish language title)
Release Date: July 29th, 1981 (premiere)
Directed by: Gerald Potterton
Written by: Daniel Goldberg
Based on: original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, Thomas Warkentin, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, various
Cast: Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon, Zal Yanovsky

Canadian Film Development Corporation, Guardian Trust Company, Columbia Pictures, 86 Minutes, 90 Minutes (premiere cut)

Review:

“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.” – Narrator

Fuck, this movie is so damn cool!

However, it does lack in the “heavy metal” department, as far as the music goes. That’s not to say the music is bad, this is just a lot less heavy than the title implies. Still, this developed a really strong cult following and for very good reason.

I love the rock and pop tunes in this, though. I mean, where else can you see a sword and sorcery story with sci-fi elements playout to a Devo song? Nowhere!

This entire movie is an animated anthology. The various segments were inspired by some of the stories and art that appeared in the pages of the Heavy Metal comic magazine. This is also a very adult cartoon, as it features nudity, sex and violence. There really isn’t anything here for kids but I saw it as a kid and it blew my mind. The ’80s were a different era, though. Kids today can’t watch Gremlins without needing the light on till they turn thirty.

Anyway, this was produced by Ivan Reitman and it featured a lot of his regular actors in voice roles. It’s kind of neat watching this for the first time in years and hearing John Candy, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. It almost needed Bill Murray in there to round it out but it was still pretty dope hearing these comedic legends voices pop up in something like this.

That being said, this is just a really unique experience and it still conjures up a sort of magical feeling when watching it.

Despite the action and violence, the film has a calming, chill vibe to it and I think that has a lot to do with its visual style, tone and the superb use of music to season the already flavorful meal.

Heavy Metal is a weirdly comforting movie that reminds me of a time when filmmakers were still daring and experimental and with that, often times gave us movies that were really interesting, wonderfully eccentric, bizarre and special.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other late ’70s and ’80s adult animated films.