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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Art > Fantasy > Swords > Counterculture > Frazetta - Painting With Fire (Special Edition Set)

Frazetta – Painting With Fire (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



Frank Frazetta is pretty much to the world of illustration and comic book art in print Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Adventure genres in his time that Stanley Kubrick was to motion pictures at the same time.  Fortunately, he was just as influential and a terrific new documentary appropriately called Painting With Fire finally gives the legend his due.  The film shows his entire history and how his work rose to fame, prominence and profitability.  It still did not go as far as it should have in hitting the mainstream and it is a surprise it has not been blitzed upon the public today, but its sexual nature without being sleazy and its cutting-edge alternate radical look of savagery and nature is still too intense for the conservatively mainstream media.  The genius’ work still subversive to this day, just like Kubrick.


It turns out Frazetta was also a serious athlete and explains as his single regret that he did not go all the way to become a professional baseball player.  The irony is that he would not have been able to become such a hugely influential artist or as much of one had that happened, but he would probably have been more of a household name.  This would be likely to have happened sooner, but has not happened on the basis of his art even at the time of this posting.  Yet, anyone who reads books and can think for themselves likely has encountered his art or its serious influence in so many other artists in his wake, whether they realize it or not.  He was one of the great thinkers in illustration in the 20th Century and the 21st Century may finally catch up with him.


It is impressive that the diehard fan base and that of those in the know has slowly grown stronger and after watching this, you will be among them.  It would be easy to say the works are cinematic, but much harder to admit that they truly are as important as the works of Andy Warhol or more conventional artists.  The best way to express this is that they deconstruct the lies and false assumptions of the kind of narrative art they take on, then rebuild that narrative in a way far more vivid and three-dimensional than any artist before him.  On that basis alone, Painting With Fire could never be long enough and is a must see.  Fortunately, this DVD set expands on the main feature and is as impressive.


The letterboxed 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 image is not bad for the compilation nature of the program, but I wished this were letterboxed.  However, it looks good for how it represents his artwork.  Even the menus are nicely stylized in this form.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo mix is not that dynamic, but brings as much clarity to this program as possible.  DTS would not have made much of a difference here.  That makes the performance equal to anything you will see on TV unless an HD version is around.


Extras are many here and justify the two DVDs.  DVD 1 shows the behind-the-scenes of the making of the program, itself broken into twenty-six chapters.  DVD 2 has Frazetta now drawing with his other hand, a necessity after serious health problems and stunning in that he can draw as well and as distinctly with a hand he just started drawing with.  Deleted Scenes are broken into six chapters, while Outtakes is broken into eight.  A great stories section has seven chapters, while there are four sub-segments of a stills section.  Information on the Ralph Bakshi/Frazetta animated feature Fire & Ice (1983, on DVD from another company) is also included and makes one want to see that as well.


The interviews with Bakshi and John Milius, who directed the live-action Conan The Barbarian (1982) with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Frazetta style, are the most interesting.  Other friends and family have great stories, but theirs are especially interesting as they had the task of trying to film in his style.  It speaks of what everyone in the program is trying to do, finding ways to keep his work and legacy alive.  After watching all of this, you too will find it amazing that there has not been some explosive peak of Frazetta’s work that has made him a permanent Pop Culture Icon.  He is already a genius and Painting With Fire turns out to be the first step in accomplishing the recognition he deserves.  Nine out of ten artists would agree.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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