Several years after wowing the world with his hugely successful, risqué animated classic for adults, an adaptation of R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, Ralph Bakshi brought us something a little more on the serious side — the deadly serious side. Though the title alone invokes nightmarish visions of old guys with beards in large, star-studded dunce caps, Wizards is actually an outlandish adventure set in a post-apocalyptic Earth — in a world full of humans, mutants, fairies, dwarves, goblins, elves, and who knows what else. Following the devastation of the planet, deadly radioactive clouds blurred the skies above — veils of death and decay that have taken two million years to clear for the current inhabitants of the planet to see the light of day.
And thus, begins our story — wherein we follow the lives of a friendly wizard named Avatar (shh, don’t tell James Cameron, or he might sue!) and his twin mutant brother, Blackwolf. Born to fairy queen Delia, the two lads grow up very differently — Avatar is a good boy, whereas Blackwolf is a sadistic little creep — eventually separating to either help or hinder the various species on the planet after their mother dies. Avatar works as a tutor, and is training the President’s daughter to be a fairy; Blackwolf becomes the dark ruler of Scortch — using his evil magic on an ancient film projector and reels of Nazi propaganda film to inspire his soldiers!
Yeah, like I said: this one’s a lot darker than Fritz the Cat. What’s odd, though, is that Bakshi sold this one as a family-friendly film!
Full of both violent imagery (rotoscoped live-action footage is used in conjunction with the animation), numerous sexual overtones (complete with female critters with lots of cleavage and skimpy outfits), and even the odd bit of profanity, you really have to wonder how this one managed to land a PG rating from the MPAA in 1977. Of course, they probably didn’t think about scrutinizing an animated flick: “Oh, it’s animated? It must be for children, then!” Well, let’s put it this way: like his previous work, Bakshi’s Wizards is one of those films that should result in a few slapped wrists for any parent that picks this one up thinking it’s more for the kiddies than them.
While it wasn’t Bakshi’s magnum opus, Wizards nevertheless had all of the elements needed to become a cult classic. Thirty-five years after its initial theatrical release, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings us a DigiBook Blu-ray release that — while not an eyesore — could have looked better. The print used here had its share of damage and defects, many of which have been carried over to this High-Definition presentation. A rather front-heavy DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is included here, as are Mono English and Spanish Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitles are included in English (SDH), Spanish, and French.
This “35th Anniversary Edition” release of Wizards also has a few extras with it — most of which have been ported over from the 2004 Standard-Def DVD. The recycled goods consist of an audio commentary with Mr. Bakshi himself, the featurette “Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard of Animation,” trailers for the film, and a still gallery. The only new bonus materials here are some previews for other Fox releases, and the 24-page full-color booklet that contains an essay on the film, a few notes from Ralph, and various sketches and artwork. Salvaged supplements or not, this is still the best Wizards has probably ever looked — and likely ever will, unless a millionaire fan somewhere pays for some extensive restoration his or herself someday.
So, until that far-off day breaks (and it might take a nuclear holocaust and two million years of radioactive clouds to get there), this release will more than suffice.