Ask any kid today what a midnight movie is and they have no clue. The closest thing they have to one is the early opening of the most recent blockbuster film at midnight on Thursday night/Friday morning. They've never seen a movie that was specifically targeted for a midnight audience or one that ended up so. Midnight movies were the forerunner of cult classics and most of them became labeled as such. I think that's a sad thing for this generation. Midnight movies weren't just about seeing some truly original, sometimes twisted, sometimes ingenious films, it was about sitting in a darkened theater with a group of the most unusual people watching those films. Proof positive of this was THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (which I'll write about another time).
With the recent release to blu-ray of WIZARDS, I thought it was time to mention the Midnight Movie. As with the category of films I review now and then called Man Movies, I might have to revisit some of the classic Midnight Movies here as well like DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, REEFER MADNESS, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, THE GROOVE TUBE, KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and a few others. But on to WIZARDS.
If you don't know who Ralph Bakshi is then look into it. In a world where the only animated offerings we had for years was the Disney Studio, Bakshi shook up the status quo by taking animated offerings and making them for adults. While he started by working at the studio that made Mighty Mouse, he went on to notorious fame when he animated the underground comic FRITZ THE CAT. This celebration of all things counter culture from the sixties was rated X and included animated animals having sex and doing drugs. Bakshi then went on to make numerous other projects and is probably noted for being the first person to attempt to bring the LORD OF THE RINGS stories to the screen with his animated adaptation of the first book and half the second. But before that he made WIZARDS which gave him enough clout to do so.
WIZARDS tells the story of a post-apocalyptic Earth where man has used as many weapons as he had at his disposal to try and obliterate himself from the face of the Earth. With the destruction having disposed of so many, the older generations of fairies, elves and goblins rose once more to cover the planet. The most popular fairy goes to her home and gives birth to two brothers; one named Avatar is a delight in his mother's eyes, a magical wizard filled with goodness. The other brother, Blackwolf, is the exact opposite, a wizard who finds amusement in torturing animals and paying little mind to his mother.
With the passing of their mother, Blackwolf decides it is time to attack and attempt to rule the entire planet. A battle rages for days with Avatar overpowering Blackwolf and casting him to the forbidden lands. So opens the film which then brings us to the present with Avatar instructing Elinore, the fairy princess and daughter of the mayor. At the same time Blackwolf, having had his armies pressed back on more than one occasion has found a new secret weapon.
Digging beneath the fetid plains of the land he rules Blackwolf has discovered old technology, including the propaganda films of Hitler. Whereas his defeats in the past were the result of his goblins and trolls unable to focus on their tasks at hand, he uses this new tool to organized them and attack the elves and fairies. Initiating the attack he sends out three assassins, the worst of the lot a being called Nekron 99.
Nekron 99 finds his way to Avatar and attacks, killing the mayor in the process. One of the leaders of the elves, Weehawk, was trying to stop him but failed. He tells Avatar about what is going on and the three set out, along with a rehabilitated Nekron now called Peace, to find Blackwolf and end his attempt at tyrannizing the world for good.
The battle between good and evil, the face off between magic and technology, makes for an amazing original story. Bakshi not only invites us into another world, he makes it one that is a feast for the eyes. Combining the standard 2 dimensional animation of the past with rotoscoping backgrounds to make bold and powerful statements about propaganda, Bakshi created a new format of storytelling with this film.
In the extras here Bakshi tells about wanting to make a film for kids that didn't talk down to them the way he felt Disney films did. While true in some forms there will be parents afraid of letting their children see the bloodshed or nubile fairies that Bakshi fills the screen with. Then again perhaps today's children won't find either so shocking with the sights they see on screen these days. Still, I would recommend parents watch the film before showing it to their kids.
I was stunned by how beautiful this film looked and at the amount of humor as well as solid storytelling it displayed. It brought back fond memories of seeing it for the first time at a midnight screening. While most movie goers to these late shows went wasted to trip out on what the screen had to offer, I'd go straight to enjoy the film. The movie holds up well after all these years and is worth watching. I would highly recommend this as a blu-ray that should be included on your shelf.
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