Wizards (1977)

Wizards (1977), written, produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi.


Avatar: All right, creep. Now, before I untie you, I wanna tell you a couple of things. And I want you to listen and listen carefully. This has been the biggest bummer of a trip I've ever been on. If you let me down or you hurt my friends, especially the broad, I got stuff planned for you that'll take 20 years to kill you.

Necron/Peace: No pain.

Avatar: And you'll be screaming for mercy in the first five seconds.

Necron/Peace: Peace wants love, wants free, will help.

Avatar: Look, just get us there, you got it?

Ten million years after the nuclear holocaust the world has gone back to nature: magic, elves and fairies have returned. Twin brother sorcerers battle for the world: Blackwolf has brought back ancient war-making technology and hypnotic propaganda (nazis, it's always nazis) and sends forth armies of mutants and demons. Avatar and friends pursue a quest into the heart of Scortch to destroy the center of the evil power.

It's combined comedy and brutality with a mixture of styles: Disney, Tolkien, Looney Toons, Keebler elves and Vaughn Bode. Good, rascally sorcerer Avatar is modeled on Peter Falk, although to me he seems more like WC Fields + Gandalf + Cheech Wizard. Assassin Necron-99 reminds me of Cobalt-60. Bakshi and Bode were pals.

It's simultaneously amazing and annoying, the infantile winged fairies being the most irritating aspect. Bakshi does not have a subtle imagination; he trowels on the sex, violence and message pretty thickly. I'm astonished he considers this a "family" picture. When asked at the time I said it was way too violent for children, but maybe things are different now. It's always been rated PG.

Nicely varied score.

Available on Blu-ray. My thumbnails are from the all-region import, but everyone says the US version is very similar. Isolated score. In the commentary track the director gives details on low-budget pre-CGI animation.

I wondered why he put in comical rabbis. He says that's how religion seemed to him as a kid: incomprehensible ritual accumulated over the centuries that goes on for hours during worship. It's the same in the far future.

For Bakshi, the magic vs propaganda/technology theme is a metaphor for animators vs studios.