Two weeks before Star Wars opened, Fox unleashed a film they had officially given up on : Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.
According to the director, Ralph Bakshi, Fox studio head Alan Ladd Jr. Refused him the extra $50, 000 needed to complete the climactic battle scene claiming the film was ‘all over the place’ and ‘incomprehensible’. At first, this might sound harsh but given Ladd’s record as a studio head (Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner were all made under his watch) and Bakshi’s as director (Fritz the Cat, Cool World and that 1978 atrocity based on Lord of the Rings),
I’ll have to side with Ladd on that one, especially since revisiting the film on Fox’s new 35th Anniversary Edition of Wizards on Blu-ray. If the battle scenes were all Bakshi felt needed work, Ladd did well to pull the funding as the rest of the film -at best- lacks cohesion and -at worst- lacks animation.
As the movie begins, a narrator tells us how a chain of nuclear explosions that all started with five terrorists envelopped the Earth with a radioactive cloud for two million years. During that time, we are told, humanity either mutated into horrid creatures or reverted back to « the ancestors of man » : Elves, fairies and things that look like Hobbits but aren’t called that to avoid legal action.
All this is told to us in a series of still drawings whose quality far exceeds any animated segment in the film. And just when you start suspecting there’s not much animation going on, Bakshi uses tinted stock footage as background to provide some movement.
When the drawings do move, it’s bad news all around as the style takes a sheer drop in graphic quality (the drawings look traced) or just plain reverts to high contrasts scans of live action footage. This is the case for the climactic battle scene which is still the best sequence of the film.
Maybe Ladd should’ve pulled the money from the rest.
The transfer quality of this new Blu-ray release is fine. It really bring out every flake of dust, paint smear and crayon skid of this sloppy « cult classic » which DID go on to make nearly $10 million off its minuscule one-point-something million dollar budget.
Then again, this was the late 70s. You may have to recreate a certain blood chemistry to see what the cultists see in this one.
Wizards Blu-ray 35th Anniversary Edition features a 24-page book, director commentary with Ralph Bakshi, Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard of Animation, a stills gallery, and trailer