From the Vaults: Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards

This review was part of a “animated cult classics” month that I did a ways back, if case you were wondering about context.


Insano Post-Apocalyptic Science Fantasy with robots, elves, demons, and mutants.  This isn’t Gamma World, this is WIZARDS!

Welcome to the kickoff episode of retro animation month!  I am the ever hammy Doctor Necrotik!  Continuing the theme of lower budget trippy animated movies is another Ralph Bakshi review with his 1978 post apocalyptic/fantasy film, “Wizards.”

Wizards tells the tale of “the magic coming back” to Earth after human civilization bombs itself into oblivion centuries prior.  The technology of the ancients is both respected and feared by the new communities that have taken over.  The queen of the faire folk that have emerged on Earth after the end leaves her faerie land to give birth to two sons, Avatar and Blackwolf.  Avatar becomes the leader of one of these communities, and is deeply afraid of how technology can be used for evil.  However, his vile brother “Blackwolf” (sounds like the name of some public school mall-goth) is shoved to the wastes to rule over demons, monsters, and nuclear mutants.  However, he manages to excavate the ancient technology left behind with his magical might and crafts a great army (with the help of old propaganda movies).  Avatar is greatly dismayed by his ability to conjure hordes so quickly, so he sets off to gather forces to stop THE BAD GUY.  And his army consists of chainmail bikini babe and some plucky/annoying elf-halfling thing (Yeah, we’re screwed.) Along the way, they are stalked by a robotic assassin (who later says “Fuck war” and becomes a treehugger), who follows them into a faerie forest full of stereotypical tribal savages (Ah, pre-Political Correctness GONE MAD).  And yes, Mark Hamill plays one of the faeries (it even LOOKS like him!  Yikes.)  When Hamill’s faerie goes splat, Avatar and friends are put on trial and convince them that they’re innocent.  Instead of being executed, they’re poofed away with one step closer toward Blackwolf’s fortress of radioactive faux-Nazi badness.  During a night’s rest, Blackwolf launches a sneak attack, killing the robot as bikini elf lady becomes possessed and goes bonkers.  Despite this loss, they continue to reach the castle fortress, as Avatar’s recruits move out to combat the mutants and monsters in some trippy 70s Pink Floyd music video.  In the final face off, Avatar’s magic proves too weak, making him resort to the technology he fears…  a badass magnum revolver, blasting Blackwolf in the noggin.  The magic nazi projector is destroyed in the mess and the monsters say “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”  And so the day is saved thanks to Avatar.  Just kidding, it was thanks to Avatar’s technology anxiety!

One of the more prominent themes in this movie isn’t the dangers of exploiting technology, but the power of propaganda.  While the message isn’t quite there in the beginning, it becomes much more overt toward the end.  Blackwolf exploits the gullibility of every goblin, nuclear mutant, and alien being with his charismatic powers.  Eventually, he mobilizes toward conquest with the power of old nazi propaganda reels to rally his hordes!  It could be said that the message hits you over the head, but that explains itself.

The other theme is of course, technology.  The way the film portrays technology is totally neutral.  It does not hurt, the users of it cause it to hurt.  There is potential for technology to do great things by defining that technology, for good or evil.  Avatar fears technology falling into the wrong hands… and of course, it does.  And in the end, technology saves Avatar’s sorry ass.

So, how does this film hold up?  Fairly well.  The story’s kinda cheesy and feels like a mix of high fantasy antics mixed with post apocalyptic wasteland wandering.  The scene towards the end with the big battle is a trip to watch in its own right.  The jazzy sounding music in the background adds to it.  Some of the imagery is hilariously obvious, like Blackwolf sitting on a GIANT INVERTED SWASTIKA!  (Subtlety, what’s that?)  Plus, I’m a sucker for genre mashups, so naturally I’m intrigued.  Hell, I bet that Gamma World (released a year later), borrowed significantly from this movie!  I won’t deny that parts of the movie feel empty and slow.  Not to mention the characters don’t get too interesting.  All in all, I had tons of fun with this film and despite it’s faults, it was a trippy work of its time.


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