Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Wizards (1977)

Ralph Bakshi’s 1977 animated fantasy gets a DVD and Blu-ray re-release from Fabulous Films.
The future. Way, way into the future. So far into the future the world has been destroyed by a nuclear apocalypse and evolved into the kind of place a sleep-deprived, caffeine and acid-fuelled J R R Tolkien might have dreamed up if he’d been an animator at the Filmation studios in the mid-1970s. 

A listless narration (from an uncredited Susan Tyrell) establishes, over what look like storyboards, a rather convoluted backstory that eventually gets us to the rather basic-looking animation that's going to tell a reasonable amount of our tale. I say reasonable because quite often it’s back to the storyboards and the spaced-out voiceover from Ms Tyrell who sounds as if she had to be poked with a stick at regular intervals to keep her going. 

          When it’s not that it’s rotoscoped stock footage of World War II, Cy Enfield’s ZULU (yes really) and I’m guessing other war movies, all rendered in such a way that it would work well as the Ludovico treatment in Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Who knows? Perhaps in the future that’s what this film will be used for.

The plot involves our team of heroes - bumbling “likeable” wizard Avatar, large-breasted skimpy costume-wearing fairy princess Elinore, heroic elf-like Weehawk and warrior villain Peace - travelling to defeat Avatar’s evil brother Blackwolf, who wants to enslave the world. Along the way they encounter various fairies, creatures, get into and out of scrapes, and you can probably guess the ending if you don’t want to sit through all the sanity-threatening rotoscope stuff. 

It’s not that WIZARDS is terrible, but it does all feel terribly amateur. If you cut out the storyboard and rotoscope stuff there’s not much actual animation. Probably the biggest problem, aside from the appallingly unfunny ‘comic relief’ is that (Weehawk being a noteable exception) all the voiceover artists perform as if they couldn’t care the slightest about what’s going on. Honestly, people react with more vigour when they receive their gas bill than the characters threatened with the extinction of their entire planet here. That, combined with the lacklustre visuals (some of the backgrounds are a few listless swipes of a pencil that haven’t even been coloured in) means that unless you have fond memories of this one, WIZARDS is strictly for students of the history of movie animation. 

Extras include a half-hour-plus interview with Bakshi, and he also supplies a feature-length commentary if you want to learn more about how the film ended up the way it is. 

Ralph Bakshi's WIZARDS is out from Fabulous Films on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 4th July 2016

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