Bakshi's first foray into fantasy animation and the experience he needed to gain confidence for his vision of 'The Lord of the Rings'.
The story is simply about a post apocalyptic Earth where mutants live alongside new races of elves, dwarfs and fairies...yes. Two brother wizards battle each other, one on the side of the elves and dwarfs, the other with the mutants. They rage war to claim/save the Earth as you might have guessed.
This sure is a weird combination of ideas that's for sure, hand drawn animation of goblins, elves, wizards, knights, mutants etc...Rotoscoping used for many battle sequences which appear to show various winged demons, orcs/goblins, many more knights and various live action sequences taken from other films and historic footage.
The whole idea is the baddie wizard with his mutants discover ancient buried technology from our present day and use it against the good forces. This includes planes, tanks, machine guns and a film projector which projects footage of Hitler and his Nazi's. Certainly an odd inclusion for what was meant to be for youngsters as well as adults. Never the less this animated film shows how propaganda when used correctly can be devastating just as technology can be. There are a few allegories within this film which are quite clever and would clearly go over a kids head, I was never really sure who this film was really aimed at.
There are plenty of bloody moments throughout just like in Bakshi's 'LOTR', lots of creatures getting cut down with blades and shot to pieces by gunfire, even an arrow and meat cleaver to the head for two unlucky characters!. Add to this hookers that hang around in the streets of the evil wizards city of 'Scortch' and the good wizard 'Avatar' has a sidekick fairy in training called 'Elinore' who is dressed in a very skimpy breast revealing little number ('Jessica Rabbit' eat your heart out). Clearly for the adults and clearly Bakshi utilizing his skills from previous urban based animations.
A strange mix of different concepts but definitely no lack of imagination and flare. The animation is your typical 70's look which I'm OK with I guess, it does age somewhat naturally but reminds me of many tatty old foreign cartoons from my childhood which were slightly obscure. A strong colour palette much the same as 'LOTR' incorporating nice dark cloudy skies, bleak murky landscapes and some decrepit dusty old cityscape's set the scenes nicely. The blend of animated characters and rotoscope is fine but not as natural looking as the latter 'LOTR', this tends to look a bit crowbarred together, plus the animated characters look a tad too cartoonish in places.
Overall its hard not to compare to this to his other cult work, but the Tolkien adaptation probably wins due to the story for one and the fact visually its a more oiled machine. 'Wizards' is an interesting but not very novel idea about simple ways vs technology. All the archive footage from Nazi Germany is possibly not required along with the baddie characters having Swastika's on them, comes across more like a fascists wet dream from time to time.
I do like this film more for the artistic side really, the rest is somewhat dull with a lot of dialog that is uninspired. Some characters look really good like the thin soldiers wearing gas masks, whilst others look like something from a cheap kids flick. Certainly worth a watch but its nothing to rave about. A Bakshi oddity which remains a full cult with intriguing visuals but little else.