Wizards on Blu-ray

Monday, 04 July 2016 23:00 Written by 

Wizards - out now on Blu-ray“Wizards” is an animated fantasy film about an epic war between two wizard brothers. The battle takes place on an Earth that is still recovering from a global nuclear attack by terrorists two million years ago. On the good side is Avatar who marshals an army of fairies, elves and dwarves, whilst the evil opposition is led by a mutated, skeletal wizard called Blackwolf, whose forces include demons, mutants and robots.

Blackwolf (voiced by Steve Gravers – “The Car”) sends three assassins to kill all good believers in magic, but one of them – a gun-toting robot called Necron 99 (David Proval – “The Shawshank Redemption”) - is turned and decides to help Avatar (Bob Holt – “Gremlins”). The forces of good set out for Blackwolf’s castle in the land of Scortch, desperate to put an end to the evil wizard’s campaign before his reign of terror wipes out magic forever.

Bakshi uses a fascinating mixture of animation styles, including Disney-esque, traditionally hand-drawn characters, highly-detailed static backgrounds, live action backdrops and rotoscoped stock footage of battles from other films and news reels. Anybody familiar with the director’s animated “Lord of the Rings” feature from 1978 will be familiar with these techniques, and whilst they can be a bit jarring they kind of work in this crazy melting pot of characters and influences.

The animation is smooth and most of the characters have a lot of personality, though some of them are a little stereotypical, including the grumpy, bearded dwarf Avatar and his two main allies: Weehawk, a very sprightly elven warrior (Richard Romanus – “Mean Streets”), and Elinore, a buxom fairy queen (Jesse Welles – “Rhinestone”). Necron 99, who changes his name to Peace once he changes sides, is a more original and memorable creation, reminiscent of Bender from Futurama, only in a red combat hoody.

The voice acting is uniformly great. I especially liked a couple of morally dubious, gasmask-wearing soldiers on Blackwolf’s side who bicker and potter about like characters out of a Pink Panther cartoon rather than in the midst of a devastating war. Mark Hamill pops up to lend his vocal expertise as a fairy leader.

Composer Andrew Belling (“Laputa: Castle in the Sky”) provides a rich musical soundtrack that is quite similar to other fantasy movies of the era, conjuring up a sense of nostalgia.

Ultimately I found this movie to be entertaining and intriguing, even if it does not rise to the heights of Disney’s best output. It can also be quite disturbing in its repeated usage of Nazi and World War II footage. This may be a PG film but the stark anti-war message comes across loud and clear.

Special features include:

  • Brand new high-definition transfer
  • Feature-length audio commentary by director Ralph Bakshi
  • Isolated music and effects audio track
  • Ralph Bakshi: The wizard of animation featurette
  • Extensive stills gallery including conceptual drawings
  • Original Theatrical Trailers

Bakshi gives some interesting and honest information about the film, including that its original title was “War Wizards” until George Lucas asked if it could be renamed to avoid confusion with the imminent release of “Star Wars”!

The high-definition transfer is very sharp, giving the characters nice, clean outlines and really letting the detailed backdrops shine.

“Wizards” (1977) is out now, courtesy of Fabulous Film Ltd. The main feature has a running time of 81 minutes approx., carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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