Ralph Bakshi. If you haven’t heard his name before then the chances are that you’re not a fan of Fritz The Cat or The Lord Of The Rings (both movies that he directed). I’ve yet to see the former movie but the latter film is one I have revisited a number of times, including right here at this festival, and I also managed to see the interesting, though hugely flawed, Cool World for the first time recently. Despite being rude and crude, there’s always something to Bakshi’s work that makes it worth at least one viewing.
Wizards is a tale of magic and machinery and war and death and more. It focuses on two brothers, the good Avatar (Bob Holt) and the very bad Blackwolf (Steve Gravers). Blackwolf wants to rule many lands and sends his army further afield to achieve this while Avatar travels to take a stand and put a stop to the destructive force that his brother has become.
Wizards isn’t a complete success, and it’s certainly not as good as the other Bakshi movies that I know of, but it doesn’t lack conviction and is a unique attempt to blend numerous ideas and styles into one grand comment on the damage caused by war and the power of propaganda. Moments of madcap humour sit alongside moments of wartime atrocities which sit alongside standard sword and sorcery fare. There are moments of almost Monty Python-esque absurdity that serve as a reminder that war is horrific and fatal and yet also absolutely ridiculous as a means to an end.
The film could have just as easily been called “Soldiers” but then I’m not sure that it would have worked so well. The fantasy element and the far-fetched premise allows Bakshi in his writer-director role to hammer home a number of pertinent observations that don’t always sit well with viewers when shown in an unfussy, realistic context.
I liked Wizards, there were moments in it that I loved, but I wouldn’t rush to rewatch it. The energy and creativity onscreen come at a price – a lack of cohesion, a rambling sense of ADD throughout and also the constant feeling while watching the movie that you should maybe be ingesting the same substances the makers of the film seemed to enjoy so much.
Wizards is screening at EIFF 2015 on 24th June as part of the Animation strand, which also features titles such as Fritz The Cat, Inside Out and The Lord Of The Rings (1978) among others.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: RALPH BAKSHI
STARS: BOB HOLT, STEVE GRAVERS, JESSE WELLES, RICHARD ROMANUS, DAVID PROVAL
RUNTIME: 80 MINS APPROX