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Blu-ray Review: WIZARDS

Joshua Brunsting

March 27th, 2012

When looking at animated films released on Blu-ray, an odd choice has recently been made - by Fox, no less.  WIZARDS, now on home video in honor of its 35 anniversary, is on a superficial level, not the first film you’d imagine coming out in HD.  Director Ralph Bakshi's film is a lesser-known piece of animation and in the grand scheme of his work is far from his best; as it was also Fox's first feature-length animated film, WIZARDS remains close to their heart. Thankfully, the studio has found this film important enough to bring back to home video. It looks absolutely gorgeous and is one of the most viscerally original pieces of animated film that you’ll find on the format.

WIZARDS is a shockingly complex little film, a deeply-rich bit of fantasy that follows two warring wizard brothers, one of whom was banished to Hell after losing to the other centuries prior. Living a more natural and "pagan" life, the winning brother is now under attack from his kin once again and must defend himself against the technology that he has perverted in his strive for control.  Toss in an affinity for Nazi ideals, leaders and propaganda, the film is a fantastical “what-if” that looks at the consequences of our dependence on technology and our love of using it to destroy our enemies.

Performance-wise, the film is fine and includes some solid voice work from the likes of Jesse Welles, Bob Holt and Richard Romanus.  It’s not a fantastic voice cast, but then again, this isn’t a film you’ll be listening to for the vocal performances. 

There are two things that pop out about WIZARDS: First, the film is intellectually bewildering inasmuch as its not subversive in its message. Rather, by featuring Nazi propaganda and archival footage, WIZARDS is completely up front. Second, with its almost blunt voice over, WIZARDS is a stimulating parable about the perversion of technology and how some things are just best left alone, out of the reach of man. The narrative sits on the surface of the film, and is entrancing enough to not feel cheap or manipulative in any way.

Bakshi’s design is also worth a mention;  though WIZARDS isn’t his best (this writer still believes that to be FRITZ THE CAT) it may be his most beautiful.  Featuring stark reds and blues, the color pops off the screen to effectively highlight inventive and original character design and visceral world-building.  With Bakshi’s patented buxom broads and bloody battles, you become so fervently immersed in this dark and brooding world that you never want to leave, despite having all the reason in the world to do so.  Brooding is actually the perfect way to describe the film; its constant sense of dread and doom is a constant presence that consistently pushes the darkly engaging narrative forward.

Featuring a glorious, top-notch package that includes a beautiful 24-page booklet with an introduction from Bakshi, additional artwork, and a look into the making of the film. The transfer itself is utterly gorgeous, though the sound is oddly mixed. As far as supplements, the DVD comes with an intriguing commentary with Bakshi as well as a documentary looking into his work.  Toss in a stills gallery and you’ve got a solid little release of one of the most original animated features from one of its most inventive creators. WIZARDS is a must-own release for animation fans, and one that should make for an interesting first-watch for many who have overlooked this little gem.

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