Saturday, April 1, 2017

#2,329. Fire and Ice (1983)

Directed By: Ralph Bakshi

Starring: Randy Norton, Cynthia Leake, Steve Sandor

Tag line: "The end of mankind as we know it"

Trivia: Over a thousand background paintings were done for this film

Having already directed Wizards and The Lord of the Rings, Ralph Bakshi once again returned to the realm of fantasy with 1983’s Fire and Ice, and with a little help from his friends created an amazing world chock full of magic, violence, and thrills aplenty.

Queen Juliana (voiced by Susan Tyrrell) and her son Nekron (Stephen Mendel) are the evil rulers of the northern kingdom of Icepeak, and have been slowly advancing southward in an attempt to conquer the entire region. 

Their main adversary is King Jarol (Leo Gordon) of Firekeep, who has refused to surrender. Hoping to weaken Jarol’s resolve, Queen Juliana sends her subhuman army to kidnap Jarol’s only daughter Teegra (Maggie Roswell), who, if all goes according to plan, will eventually become Nekron’s bride!

But before the subhumans can return to Icepeak with their captive, Teegra escapes, and during her travels encounters a warrior named Larn (William Ostrander), whose entire village was destroyed by Nekron’s army. 

Larn promises to help Teegra make her way home, but there are many dangers ahead of them, and the subhumans are very close behind… 

To assist with the overall look of Fire and Ice, Bakshi joined forces with artist Frank Frazetta, a specialist in the sci-fi and fantasy genres whose work has appeared in a variety of comic books and even a few album covers (he also dabbled in movie posters; it was Frazetta who designed the awesome poster for Clint Eastwood’s 1977 film The Gauntlet). Along with his work as Costume Designer, Frazetta was a producer on Fire and Ice, and even helped Bakshi flesh out the film’s very colorful characters.

In addition to Frazetta’s artistic involvement, the script for Fire and Ice was penned by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, both of whom had written for Marvel comics (it was Thomas who introduced Conan the Barbarian to American readers). The contributions of these three, along with Bakshi’s patented rotoscoping technique (the action was first shot with real actors in black & white, then traced over by the animators), resulted in what I consider to be one of the most imaginative animated films to emerge from the 1980s.

Unfortunately, audiences at the time didn’t see things my way; budgeted at $1.2 million, Fire and Ice took in a measly $760,000 at the U.S. Box Office. It’s a shame, really, because Fire and Ice features such a rich universe that it could have easily spawned a series of films. 

Alas, it wasn’t to be, but at least we have this movie to enjoy over and over again.  Filled with wonder and excitement, Fire and Ice is, hand-down, my favorite Ralph Bakshi picture.

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