Stephen reviews: Wizards (1977)

wizards_1Starring Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, Susan Tyrrell, Mark Hamill

Directed by Ralph Bakshi


Wizards did pretty damn well at the box office for its first few weeks, and that was going head-to-head with Disney’s Fantasia. But it had the terrible misfortune of releasing just a few weeks before the premier of Star Wars (which is interesting since Mark Hamill also plays a minor character in Wizards). I’ll let you do your own research to find out which of those films got pulled from the theaters to make more showtimes available for the other. Since then, the film has developed a cult following, and I’ve been curious to see what was so special about it. It turns out that despite its obvious low budget, the film has a visual style like nothing else, and I can easily see why people became so enamored of it.

The story itself is nothing new, and it is very typical of an epic fantasy story. The good wizard Avatar is pitted against the evil wizard Blackwolf who has revived ancient war machines and is out to conquer the world. What sets Wizards apart is its use of varying art styles. The characters themselves look rather generic and ordinary, but the backgrounds vary greatly between locations and have some wildly contrasting styles to the character art. A lot of early rotoscoping is also used in this film, and not in the conventional way, either. The rotoscoping was drawn off stock footage in stark minimalist tone, and the film cuts back and forth between these stylized and mismatched animations with the more traditional line art. Straight live-action stock footage is also thrown about in the backgrounds and even spliced into the animation. The effect is truly bizarre, and if you’re into visually unique storytelling, then this is going to grab you and never let go.

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The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

Starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch, Marthe Villalonga

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Been wanting to see this restoration since it came out.


This may be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. Above all, I want to do justice to the film and to the memory of the Fightin’ First, the Big Red One. Like never before, after viewing Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, I feel that I grasp the immensity of their service in World War II and their contribution to the war effort. Viewing the film takes the audience on the journey with the soldiers, almost like an embedded reporter out to capture the reality of the situation. It is remarkable and somewhat unfathomable that with so much death surrounding them, these men were able to come out as survivors. The Big Red One is a film that creeps up on you in subtle ways and before you know it, you realize that you absolutely love it.

Sam Fuller brings distinct credibility to the film, himself a member of the Big Red One during the times covered in the film. The film forgoes a distinct plot and takes on an episodic format that plays out like a war diary. It’s rather ironic that this type of semi-fragmented film actually ends up packing in more narrative, character arcs and genuine excitement than most traditional films. After recently viewing Saving Private Ryan again, I was a bit worried about watching this so close after. Both films cover the Normandy beach invasion and have similar themes.

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