By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 15, 2012)
Wizards – Fox Blu-ray
Within the realm of animated films, Ralph Bakshi’s name may not be as universally recognizable (or revered) as Walt Disney or Studio Ghibli, but I would consider him no less of an important figure in the history of the genre. During his heyday (1972-1983) the director pumped out 8 full-length features (including Fritz the Cat, The Lord of the Rings and American Pop) using his signature blend of live-action, rotoscoping, and traditional cel animation.
While I grant it is not for all tastes, I’ve always had a particular soft spot for his 1977 film, Wizards. Tanking at the box office during its original theatrical run due to a combination of lackluster promotion by 20th Century Fox and an unfortunate proximity to the release of that same studio’s Star Wars (much to Bakshi’s chagrin, as he bitterly recounts on the commentary track) the film has nonetheless picked up a devoted cult following over the decades, thanks to home video.
It’s an elemental tale of two warring brothers, one good and one evil, who are both endowed with the magical powers of natural-born wizards. A familiar trope, to be sure, but Bakshi renders the story with originality, verve, and a fair amount of dark (and adult) humor (oh…and there’s a hot elf princess). Fox’s Blu-ray skimps on extras, but has outstanding picture and sound.