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Wizards: 35th Anniversary Edition
Release Date(s)1977 (March 13, 2012)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox
I don't remember Wizards from its original release in 1977. It may or may not have played in Minnesota, where I was living at the time. In 1977, there were only two movies in the world as far as I was concerned: Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
Wizards didn't enter my consciousness until several years later. By then, it had started a new life as a perennial midnight movie favorite. I was instantly hooked by the extraordinary poster by William Stout. Even though I'd seen Ralph Bakshi's Lord Of The Rings by then, I'd never seen animation that looked quite like that. The poster promised something different, something transgressive, maybe even a little dangerous.
By the standards of most animated films, Wizards' mix of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, magic, varying styles and underground comics' influence is indeed a wild brew. But compared to most of Bakshi's other films, Wizards is one of his most accessible. Which is not to say that Wizards is for everybody. We're still talking about a cartoon that mixes elves and fairies with stock footage of Hitler and has some barbed commentary about technology, religion, fanaticism and war. But if you can get on Bakshi's wavelength, and you'll know early on if you can or you can't, there's a great deal to be enjoyed. Certainly no self-respecting science fiction, fantasy or animation fan can afford to not check this out.
Eureka Entertainment released Wizards as an all-region Blu-ray in the UK last year. Based on Bill's comments in his review of that disc, Fox's 35th Anniversary Edition appears to be basically the same. The picture quality is surprisingly good. It's rich, colorful, detailed, cinematic and a considerable improvement over the DVD. Audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD, which seems to be an upgrade over the UK version. It isn't particularly lively but the sound is open, clean and clear throughout.
Like the UK version and Fox's previous DVD, extras include an interesting commentary by Bakshi, the half-hour featurette Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard Of Animation (which is definitely worth checking out), extensive still galleries, two trailers and a TV spot. Bill's review mentions an isolated music/effects track on the UK version and that's not included here. But you do get nicer packaging if you opt for Fox's edition. The disc comes in a beautiful 24-page Digibook including design and concept art, liner notes, and a new introduction by Bakshi. It's probably not enough of an incentive to switch if you already have the UK disc but it's a nice reward for anyone who doesn't.
Whenever a somewhat obscure catalog title is released on Blu-ray in another region, it's tough to know what to do. There's certainly no guarantee that it'll be released in the US, so you begin doing research to find out if the disc will play over here, how much it'll cost including shipping, and no, really, will it play over here or not. I was frankly shocked when Fox announced this disc but I'm certainly glad they did. I hope it does well for them and encourages them to release more cult classics like this on Blu-ray.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke