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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Fantasy > Action > Fairy Tale > Myth > Magic > Counterculture > Politics > Wizards – 35th Anniversary Edition (1977/Fox Blu-ray)

Wizards – 35th Anniversary Edition (1977/Fox Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C     Film: B



The 1977 post-apocalyptic animated film, Wizards, was not an instant hit but has grown in status over the years garnering an above average ‘cult status.’


The film centers on the battle of two wizards, one who fights with the forces of industrial technology and the other with the powers and mysteries of magic.  Ralph Bakshi is the innovative mind behind Wizards and as writer, director, producer he is the real deal.  The PG film was the first animated venture for studio 20th Century Fox and made an acceptable (considering its limited release) $9 million in its original theatrical premiere.  Though Bakshi created the film based on old concept art he had drawn in high school, it was illustrator Ian Miller and comic book artist Mike Ploog who were hired to animate the film.


The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by nuclear war.  It has taken 2million years for the nuclear cloud to dissipate enough for the sun to shine down on earth again.  The world is not the same place it was now inhabited mostly by mutants and few remaining humans.  Fairies, elves, and dwarfs also rule the lands and are currently celebrating 3,000 years of peace.  A fairy queen named Delia has just given birth to two wizards one inherently good and the other quite evil.  Avatar is the good (human) wizard who helps his mother and uses his powers for good, Blackwolf (the dark wizard) however has evil ways and lets the days pass torturing animals and causing torment.  Eventually Delia dies leaving Avatar and Blackwolf to battle for their mother’s kingdom (Montagar).  Avatar is the victor, banishing Blackwolf who swears to return to reclaim the kingdom.


Blackwolf spends his time amassing an army and working with and restoring ancient technology.  Blackwolf has become the Fuhrer of the land of Scortch and sets out to reclaim Montagar as his own, but fails twice.  Blackwolf dreams of a world ruled only by mutants, using technology as his form of magic and after happening upon an ancient projector he makes it is weapon to strike fear into the world’s armies.  The projector showcases footage of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the atrocities they caused; using this footage in battle simultaneously inspires his mutant army and makes the elfin army crumble.  We then a ‘Lord of the Rings’ type fellowship form among the good/magical beings as they set out (right into dangers way) to stop Blackwolf.  It is an epic tale that works in many ways, but fails in others.


Bakshi’s original intention was to inspire children and to prove that he could produce PG animated films that held as much depth, knowledge, and detail as a live action film.  On some fronts The Wizards works in this way and in others it feels convoluted and pretentious.  Bakshi seems to have been very much inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series as there are many parallels; at its simplest levels Bakshi almost blatantly says magic/mysticism good…technology bad (or at least has inherent evils).  So on that level the message rings through loud and clear, but the use of Nazi footage and his take on Fascism (especially with the film being made in the 1970s) is a bit odd, convoluted, and hard to place, but a motif of counterculture cinema of the time.  I would venture to say Wizards is a great animated film that, when not taken as literal as even Bakshi would have intended, goes the distance.  It is nicely animated (though not up to Disney standards) and creates an inventive, magical world that I think would do even better if redone or re-explored today.  Bakshi always said Wizards was meant to be a trilogy and though no studio ever gave him the chance perhaps that time has come.


The technical features of this 35th anniversary Blu-ray set are nicely done and quite the upgrade from the DVD release.  Though no new extras are included here, the picture/sound upgrades are well worth a look.  The film has always been rougher and grittier than a Disney film (just based on how the animation was illustrated) so it is a bit harder to critique.  The picture is a 1.85 X 1 image that will probably never look better than it is here, even though that DVD still looked really good a few years ago when Fox issued it.  Wizards was a low budget film and in many ways it shows, though in others it is admirable that Bakshi got as much accomplished as he had.  Blacks aren’t very deep and the contrast could be better.  The colors are mostly vivid and vibrant though Bakshi seems to focus heavily on softer, browny hues (much like his Lord of the Rings animated film we covered from Warner elsewhere on this site).  This cult classic has a unique animation style to it and the end result here on Blu-ray has clean, crisp lines displaying the art wonderfully.  The sound is a front heavy presentation even with its new DTS-HD Master Audio track, most likely due to the film originally being produced in a simplistic mono track.  The sound will not knock fans socks off, but gets the job done in a crisp, clean, clear concise manner.  The track overall is tame only springing to life for the musical scores, which were very nicely produced.


Extras for this set were again ported over from the older DVD release and are all in standard definition.  What is included in this Blu-ray set is a nice 20 some page book that has rare concept art from Bakshi that is stunning; almost wish I had the originals framed on my wall.  The other extras are as follows:


Audio Commentary

A track that ONLY features Bakshi, but boy does he let his passion shine as he describes the film in gruesome detail, including but not limited to his hardships and inspirations along the way.

Ralph Bakshi: Wizard of Animation

Still Galleries



For more on the film, see our previous DVD coverage…




…plus our interview with its director, Ralph Bakshi, on the film and much more at this link:






-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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