Ralph Bakshi is one of the unappreciated filmmakers who had
a large influence on movies. When
cartoons were though of as purely kiddie fare in the late 60's, Bakshi
different ideas and made a feature length animated movie based on R.
seminal character, Fritz the Cat.
Released in 1972, Fritz the Cat
just aimed at adults, kids could not see it.
It garnered an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of
but received a lot of acclaim when it was shown at Cannes.
Eventually the movie went on to gross $100 million and is the
successful independent film of all time.1
Bakshi went on to other projects and convinced the world
that animation wasn't just for kids. For
Wizards (1977), he
re-discovered rotoscoping, an old technique dating back to
the early days of film where the characters on live action film were
over and animated. This created
realistic movements and proportions and though Bakshi was criticized
rotoscoping scenes from Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander
Nevsky, the film became a cult classic.
He was behind the animated Lord of
the Rings movie, and in 1981 he released his best film, also
the woefully underrated American Pop.
This is a classic movie just waiting to
That brings us to Fire
and Ice (1983). With the success of
films like Conan the Barbarian
(1982) and Beastmaster (1982),
movies were hot. Bakshi had a brilliant
idea and teamed up with stellar artist Frank Frazetta to create a new
film. Based on character designs by
Frazetta and a script by comic scribes Roy Thomas (Conan
the Barbarian, The
Avengers) and Gerry Conway (Amazing
Spider-Man) the film had a lot going for it, but is largly
now. Happily, Blue Underground has
released this important film of Bakshi's on Blu-ray, and a nice looking
disc at that.
The plot is pretty simple and is explained in a voice
over. The evil magician Nekron lives in
the north and has the power to control a glacier, and is served by an
sub-human ape-creatures. Pushing the
glacier ever southward, Nekron and his army conquer village after
village. The survivors flee to the kingdom of Fire Keep
atop a system of active volcanoes. Fire
Keep is ruled by King Jarol, a kind man who accepts all refugees.
When Jarol refuses to surrender his kingdom to Nekron, the
evil army kidnaps the good king's daughter, Teegra, who just happens to
wearing a skimpy silk bra and panties which she wears for the rest of
film. On her journey back to Nekron,
Teegra manages to escape and meets Larn, a warrior who is the sole
his village. She then gets captured
again, escapes once more, get taken by a lesbian witch, re-kidnapped by
ape-man, brought before Nekron, escapes again, and frees the captured
Larn. But as this is going on, Nekron's
glacier and army have reached Fire Keep, and now it's a battle between
The story is obviously penned by comic book scribes.
It has the same pacing and excitement level as
a long comic book story. There are a lot
of cliff-hangers and the battles are frequent, just like a Marvel comic. Unfortunately that only partially works in
this film. While a battle every issue in
a comic is expected, having one every 5-10 minutes in a movie is a bit
much. The battles themselves are well
done and fun to watch, it's just that they pop up way too frequently. A side effect of this is that it causes the
rest of the plot to be a bit thin. There
isn't any characterization and there aren't really any twists or plot
developments after the opening narration save for the Teegra being
Even with the thin plot, the movie is enjoyable to watch
because of the animation. They are able
to do things with animation that wouldn't have been possible in a live
film when this was made. The undersea
octopus creature and the battle with the giant lizard come to mind. Not to mention having a giant glacier move
across the country side or having rivers of lava flow from giant craved
heads. Yeah, these could have been done
miniatures, but it would have stood out when compared to the rest of
film. As it is, the movie is much richer
because of the large scale visuals.
The most impressive thing about this movie is the fully
painted backgrounds. They are absolutely
gorgeous, really amazing looking. Since
they didn't have to be animated over and over, more detail could be
the backgrounds and that's what they did.
The forest scenes are rich with multiple shades of green and
wonderfully detailed moss covered trees.
These are like still life paintings with action taking place in
them. This attention to detail is
of the things that makes this such a unique film.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded disc presents the film with its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and looked very, very
good. The colors were bright and solid
and really helped to bring the movie to life.
The lava flow at the end was brilliant orange and you could
the heat coming off of it, while the forest scenes were filled with
shades of greens and browns. There
wasn't any banding either. The level of
detail was fine with the lines of the figures being tight.
The print was nice too; there were only a
couple of spots that showed up infrequently in the otherwise excellent
source. On the digital side things were
equally solid with no aliasing, something that often plagues animation,
blocking. Overall this is a very nice
One of the odd choices that were made was to include both a
DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and a Dolby TrueHD 7.1
track. I'm not sure why they put both on
disc. I viewed the film with the DTS-HD
track and spot checked the Dolby one and both sounded very good, and
equivalent, to me. The soundstage was
used fully for this mix, throwing sounds of battle and the roar of
creatures to all corners of the room.
There was a good amount of directionality too.
The audio was clean and clear with no
background noise or other common audio defects.
Blue Underground previously released this movie in 2005 as a
two-disc limited edition and then again in 2008 on one disc. Unfortunately this Blu-ray includes only the
bonus features found on the 2008 edition.
It's missing the feature-length documentary on Frank Frazetta, Frazetta:
Paintng with Fire. That's a
real disappointment. I would have much
preferred that they leave off one of the 7.1 audio tracks and include
even if it was only in 480p.
As it is this disc has some nice bonus material. The
most interesting extra was the audio
commentary by Ralph Bakshi himself along with Lance Laspina. Bakshi presents a lot of background
information on the genesis of the project, along with highlights of his
career. It's very interesting,
especially for someone who appreciates Bakshi's work.
of Fire and Ice (13 min.) has Bakshi relating what it took to get
made and released, along with some great information on how rotoscoping
actually accomplished. There's a lot of
duplication with the commentary track, but it's still worth watching.
Bakshi on Frazetta
(8 min) has the director talking about the contributions that Frank
made to the film and discusses his art, Sean
Hannon's Diary Notes (14 min) hah the actor who played Nekron
notes that he took while making the film.
The extras are wrapped up with a Behind the Scenes Photo
Gallery (13 min), a reel of pictures with
optional subtitles, and a copy of the theatrical trailer.
All in all this was a very nice set of
extras, I just wish the Frazetta docu was included too.
A visually impressive and beautiful film, Fire and Ice is
rather unique especially in this day of computer animation. The story is simple and uncluttered,
the dialog is kept to a minimum, but the production overcomes those
with imagination and creativity. This
Blu-ray disc looks and sounds very good too.
Bakshi fans should run out and buy this immediately, and for
and fantasy fans in general it comes recommended.
1) Gibson, Jon
McDonnell, Chris (2008). "Fritz the Cat". Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.