Saturday, June 4, 2016

Fire & Ice: A Ralph Bakshi Masterpiece

          Fire and Ice, while on the surface your standard fare of good versus evil fantasy, but in terms of style and presentation it surpasses most of them by quite a bit. This was due to a lot to the partnership between Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, which culminated in a visually striking film.
By 1982, fantasy films had proven to be considerably successful at the box office, including The Beastmaster (to be a later blog) and Conan the Barbarian. Bakshi received $1.2 million to finance Fire and Ice from some of the same investors as American Pop, and 20th Century Fox agreed to distribute the film based upon the financial longevity of Wizards
Subhumans in Fire and Ice
          Bakshi hot off The Lord of the Rings (to a great disappointment to many the sequel was never completed) used many of the visual techniques and acting styles as he had done previously, especially with the race of Sub-Humans who work for the evil wizard. These are obviously orc equivalents, and they move and sound in a similar manner.  
          And since it would be a heavily action orientated film he decided to use rotoscoping again, as he had with Lord of the Rings, American Pop, and Wizards. Rotoscoping, for those who aren’t quite sure is an animation technique where animators trace over live footage, frame by frame. Originally, recorded live-action movie images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is referred to as a rotoscope. Although this device was eventually replaced by computers, the process is still referred to as rotoscoping. The technique is almost as old as cinema, invented in 1917 by Max Fleischer for a Koko the Clown cartoon. And while Bakshi didn’t invent it, he certainly popularized it, perhaps utilizing it more than anyone since Fleischer had.
          Over a thousand background paintings were done for the film, several by Franzetta himself. Two other notable artists on it were Thomas Kinkade (known as the "Painter of Light") and James Gurney, creator and painter of the popular "Dinotopia" series of illustrated novels. It was written by two veteran Conan comics writers, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway.  
Some critics claim that the plot was paper thin and added very little to the genre. And while I agree there isn’t much plot, I think time has proven that this film has had an impact- just not a world shattering one. People remember this film after they see it, even twenty years later bits and pieces of it stick out. Frazetta and Bakshi knew that the fantasy film genre depended more on visuals and atmosphere. And that is what they gave us in spades.
The plot from what there is: From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana and her son, Nekron send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator. Nekron sends a delegation to King Jarol in Firekeep to request his surrender, but this is a ruse orchestrated by Queen Juliana for Nekron’s sub-humans to kidnap Jarol’s voluptuous and always near naked daughter, Princess Teegra. Queen Juliana feels that Nekron should take a bride to produce an heir.
But Teegra makes an escape and comes upon Larn, a young warrior and the only survivor of a village razed by glaciers, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep. As Teegra is recaptured, Larn teams with the mysterious Darkwolf to save Teegra and then travel to Icepeak to stop Juliana. Darkwolf faces Nekron and kills him as Icepeak succumbs to lava released by King Jarol and is destroyed.
            The film finishes with Larn about to kill a beaten sub-human until Teegra stops him saying that "it's over" and embraces him. Darkwolf is seen atop a cliff; he watches the pair, smiles and then disappears. Teegra and Larn kiss as the credits roll.
          Again not the most original or ground breaking story, but the actions scenes are incredible. You will not forget them.
          The full film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!