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Blu-ray Reviews

Wizards: 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 13 2012 - 10:04 AM

Ralph Bakshi certainly took the polar opposite approach to animation than the Walt Disney company was taking. Disney’s films were lush, impeccably animated, but in Bakshi’s view false and phony. When he set out to make his first animated family film, he wanted it grounded in real world realities of life and death, sexuality, and truth and lies. Wizards certainly stays true to Bakshi’s principles. It has all of the things he felt films should offer to young and old. But his storytelling is rather mundane; despite the blood and boobs, his narrative is sometimes derivative and predictable.



Wizards: 35th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by Ralph Bakshi

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 1977
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 81 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 English, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French

Region: A
MSRP: $ 19.99


Release Date: March 13, 2012

Review Date: March 13, 2012




The Film

3/5


After a global apocalypse and a couple of million years of recovery, the Earth has been regained by elves, fairies, and wizards. Unfortunately, they’re divided into two factions each led by wizarding brothers: Avatar (Bob Holt) controls the peace-loving bloc while Blackwolf (Steve Gravers) leads the mutant rebels. Happening upon remnants of previous Earth wars like tanks and artillery along with a movie projector with Nazi propaganda films, Blackwolf rouses the rebels into waging war against the peace-loving fairy world while Avatar, Princess Elinore (Jesse Welles), elf warrior Weehawk (Richard Romanus), and a robot assassin reprogrammed for good and renamed Peace (David Proval) make the trek to Blackwolf’s land Scortch in an attempt to stop his attack.


Made for a million dollars (a pittance compared to the budgets of Disney’s films of the era), Wizards takes all kinds of animation shortcuts, most of which work to its advantage giving it the look and feel of no other animated title. Often Bakshi utilizes stock footage for live action backgrounds, and there is a great deal of rotoscoping of  real war footage done to represent the battle scenes which he couldn’t afford to fully animate. The actual Nazi propaganda reels are, of course, disturbing, and become even more so as Bakshi’s animated mutants watch it and become as mesmerized by it as Germans at the time appeared to be. And some of the illustrated backgrounds in chiaroscuro have a kind of German expressionistic flavor that also aids greatly in establishing the film’s murky, menacing tone. Bakshi’s story of war and peace is nothing new, and main characters aren’t given enough development to get audiences strongly invested in their fates (one really wants to know much more of the personalities of Elinore and Weehawk). There’s certainly a lot of urban ambience built into his story and in casting his character voices. Lots of these elves and fairies seem to hail from Brooklyn and have a wisecracking, sardonic air that’s unlike mythical creatures in any other film, live action or animated. The climactic battle doesn’t go lightly on the blood and guts either, true again to Bakshi’s eternal quest for realism. But satirical stabs at religion and other established mores are rather hit-and-miss.


Oscar nominee Susan Tyrrell (unbilled) does the narration; it’s a relatively dry and scratchy but reasonably effective way of moving the story along, and it’s helpful since the film must resort on occasion to drawn panels for various scenes rather than utilizing full animation which the budget couldn’t allow. Strongest of the character voices is Richard Romanus as Weehawk. Frisky and determined, his voice acting only wants us to know more about this idiosyncratic character. Steve Gravers gives villain Blackwolf all of the calculated sneers and growls one would expect from a martinet ready to inflict his control on the known world. Bob Holt’s Avatar is full of folksy wisdom, but it’s hard to make a case for these two voices to be related, much less brothers. Far down the cast list is Mark Hamill playing one of the minor elves Sean who makes an early exit.



Video Quality

4/5


The 1.85:1 transfer is faithful to the film’s theatrical exhibition and is presented here in 1080p using the AVC codec. Color saturation levels are brash and heavily saturated, sometimes just to the point of blooming. The sharpness levels are excellent and blacks are truly black. Unfortunately, there is still a fair amount of dust specks that can be seen, and some of the live action footage used in backgrounds have scratches which are clearly visible. There are no banding problems with the transfer, but there appear to be occasional though relatively minor problems with false contouring. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.



Audio Quality

4/5


The film has been outfitted with a very effective DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix which gives great spread to the film’s unusual synthesized score by Andrew Belling and which takes great advantage of the .1 track to present system-threatening levels of deep bass. The sound effects are pretty much confined to the film’s front soundstage, and dialogue is easily discernible in the mix’s center channel. A Dolby Digital 1.0 English track is also available representing its theatrical presentation and is clear and clean.



Special Features

3/5


The audio commentary is contributed by writer-producer-director Ralph Bakshi. He’s full of stories about the production, but almost everything gets repeated in the making-of documentary and in the digibook text pages, and there are silences throughout.


All of the video features are in 480i.


“Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard of Animation” is a 34 ¼-minute interview with the director in which he recounts his wanting to make a family film after Fritz the Cat, tells his life story and how he came to be an animator at Terrytoons, offers his opinions on styles of animation, and introduces us to some of his key staff personnel.


There are two theatrical trailers which can be viewed separately or together and one TV spot.


A stills gallery is divided into twelve sections including sketches of various main and supporting characters, action sketches and environment backgrounds, and a series of lobby cards.


The disc comes in Digibook packaging which offers twenty-four pages of text, drawings, and stills from the movie.



In Conclusion

3/5 (not an average)


Wizards is one of the most unusual looking and sounding animated films ever made. Though the narrative of good versus evil is overly familiar, the unusual urbanity of the voice acting and use of atypical animated techniques suggesting an almost guerilla approach to animated filmmaking give the film a uniqueness that shouldn’t be missed.




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC



#2 of 13 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 13 2012 - 01:15 PM

Thanks Matt.  Here are some examples of the animation styles you mention:

#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 13 2012 - 02:19 PM

Thanks for adding those clips, Adam.

#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted March 14 2012 - 07:26 AM

I didn't realize this was coming out. Bakshi films are always dodgy quality wise, I do enjoy them though. I'll be picking this one up.

#5 of 13 OFFLINE   SeanAx

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Posted March 14 2012 - 10:50 AM

I saw this film when I was in the 8th grade. I thought it was the greatest and my friends and I went around doing some of the comedy bits from the film for weeks. ("Fritz. Fritz! They killed Fritz! They Fritz!!")

I still enjoy it, if only as an underground comic book sensibility from an era where such a thing was otherwise never seen on animated productions on TV or in the theaters. It's something unique, an indie animated feature, and while the technical quality is far below Disney quality of the era, the attitude and sensibility is distinctive.


I did a phone interview with Bakshi, now 73 years old, that is published on MSN right now.


http://social.entert...9d-8eaa2a28e022


What's not in the interview is the fun we had before getting to the questions.


The interview couldn't have gone better, even though it opened a little awkward. Bakshi, reading from what I assume was a call sheet, mispronounced my name: "Is this Seen"? "It's Sean," I correct him gingerly, and then added, "just like the elf that gets shot in "Wizards"." Before he can respond, he starts laughing, and then slips into hearty belly laughs before saying, "Ahh, you made my day. I'm sorry, how do you feel?"


I told him my story of seeing it in the eighth grade with my friends and it becoming our cult movie when I was thirteen. Here's a clip from the conversation that didn't make it to the published interview (but will likely get published in a longer version later).



Ralph Bakshi: How old are you now?


I am 48.


Holy shit. (and then another belly laugh)


I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel old.


Where did it all go?


Anyway, I just wanted to tell you what the film meant to me when I was growing up.


Thank you so much. You never know how anything is going to be received out there, you know. And I'm sorry I shot you.




Sean Axmaker
Videophiled, the home video column of Cinephiled (http://www.cinephiled.com/)
Editor of Parallax View (http://parallax-view.org)
Member of the Online Film Critics Society (http://www.rottentom...com/author-229/)

 


#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Jon Hertzberg

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Posted March 15 2012 - 02:46 AM

This is great, Sean. Thanks for sharing the interview outtake.

I saw this film when I was in the 8th grade. I thought it was the greatest and my friends and I went around doing some of the comedy bits from the film for weeks. ("Fritz. Fritz! They killed Fritz! They Fritz!!")  I still enjoy it, if only as an underground comic book sensibility from an era where such a thing was otherwise never seen on animated productions on TV or in the theaters. It's something unique, an indie animated feature, and while the technical quality is far below Disney quality of the era, the attitude and sensibility is distinctive. I did a phone interview with Bakshi, now 73 years old, that is published on MSN right now. http://social.entert...9d-8eaa2a28e022 What's not in the interview is the fun we had before getting to the questions.  The interview couldn't have gone better, even though it opened a little awkward. Bakshi, reading from what I assume was a call sheet, mispronounced my name: "Is this Seen"? "It's Sean," I correct him gingerly, and then added, "just like the elf that gets shot in "Wizards"." Before he can respond, he starts laughing, and then slips into hearty belly laughs before saying, "Ahh, you made my day. I'm sorry, how do you feel?" I told him my story of seeing it in the eighth grade with my friends and it becoming our cult movie when I was thirteen. Here's a clip from the conversation that didn't make it to the published interview (but will likely get published in a longer version later). Ralph Bakshi: How old are you now? I am 48. Holy shit. (and then another belly laugh) I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel old. Where did it all go? Anyway, I just wanted to tell you what the film meant to me when I was growing up. Thank you so much. You never know how anything is going to be received out there, you know. And I'm sorry I shot you.



#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Jon Hertzberg

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Posted March 15 2012 - 02:52 AM

The new disc doesn't include the music / effects track that the Eureka Blu-ray does so I'm glad I picked that one up when it came out, although the Digibook would be nice to have. That UK disc is region free and about half the price of the Fox disc, by the way.

#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Jon Hertzberg

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Posted March 15 2012 - 02:52 AM

double post.

#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted March 15 2012 - 03:42 AM

I really wish I could say that I liked the film when I saw it, but all it ever did was confirm to me that Bakshi was a hack with even less storytelling sense than Don Bluth. I will give the man credit that he was inventive at getting around his budget limitations; although, his workarounds could hardly be qualified as animation. About the only thing I did like that he did was "Fritz the Cat" and wouldn't you know it....Crumb, the originator of Fritz, hated it. The last Bakshi film I watched was "Cool World". After that abortion, I basically swore off of ever wasting any more of my life watching a Bakshi film; the only exception, being the aforementioned Fritz.
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Jon Hertzberg

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Posted March 15 2012 - 07:28 AM

The last Bakshi film I watched was "Cool World". After that abortion, I basically swore off of ever wasting any more of my life watching a Bakshi film; the only exception, being the aforementioned Fritz.

You know that COOL WORLD, like so many Bakshi films, was taken out of his hands and re-written and re-edited so that it could be released as a PG-13 film instead of its intended R rating, right? Producer Frank Mancuso had the script completely re-written without Bakshi's knowledge or consent so to lay this "abortion" completely at Bakshi's feet is unjustified to say the least. Star Kim Basinger (who Bakshi did not want) also took it on herself to rewrite her part and Bakshi was threatened with a lawsuit if he didn't complete the film. Things were heated enough that Bakshi punched out producer Mancuso. You can read about it here.

#11 of 13 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted March 15 2012 - 08:41 AM

Wizards is a film I've never had a desire to see. From everything I've read about it, it equates technology with war and evil, and promotes mysticism as that which is "good". That doesn't sit well with me.

#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Jon Hertzberg

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Posted March 15 2012 - 09:37 AM

Wizards is a film I've never had a desire to see. From everything I've read about it, it equates technology with war and evil, and promotes mysticism as that which is "good". That doesn't sit well with me.

Don't know that it's that dogmatic or to be taken so seriously or rigidly. It's fantasy. The main evil in the film, period, is the brand of hatred and genocide promoted by Hitler and recycled by the villain in WIZARDS. It's 80 minutes of your time and what's of more interest, to me anyway, is the film's style, artwork, design, music, and Bakshi's Brooklyn streetwise attitude and sense of humor that he somehow makes fit into a fantasy narrative about wizards and elves.

#13 of 13 OFFLINE   Bob Cashill

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Posted March 15 2012 - 09:47 AM

Looking forward to seeing WIZARDS. I have to say for all the indignities COOL WORLD suffered to make it more ROGER RABBIT-y I still sort of liked it, 20 years ago anyway.





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