Two things I’m not proud of.
- I’ve never read Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ series.
Except for the first book. Which was OK and that was the revised and updated edition.
- I saw Highlander 2 at the movies and argued in its defence afterwards.
Two things I’m not proud of.
Wizards (1977) Director/Screenplay/Producer – Ralph Bakshi,
An illuminating history bearing on the everlasting struggle for world supremacy between the powers of Technology and Magic.
PLOT: It is two million years after civilisation has been devastated by a nuclear holocaust. The radiation has caused races of elves, dwarves and fairies to mutate. In the elvish kingdom of Morganthar, a queen gives birth to two sons who are psychic opposites of one another – the charming Avatar and the vile Blackwolf. Both become powerful wizards. Avatar becomes the ruler of Morganthar but Blackwolf reviles his name and chooses self-exile in the kingdom of Scortch, a nuclear wasteland. There he rallies the mutants and demons of the underworld under him, although they lack the volition and unison to be an army. However, after researching into history, Blackwolf discovers all about weapons of war and finds that he can unite the troops together around old film footage of Adolf Hitler.
Bob Holt – Avatar, an old but powerful wizard
Jesse Welles – Elinore, Avatar’s love interest
Richard Romanus – Weehawk, a noble elf warrior
David Proval – Necron 99/Peace, Blackwolf’s former minion. He is renamed Peace by Avatar.
Steve Gravers – Blackwolf, Avatar’s evil brother
James Connell – President
Mark Hamill – Sean, king of the mountain fairies
Susan Tyrrell – Narrator (uncredited)
Ralph Bakshi – Fritz/Lardbottom/Stormtrooper (uncredited)
Angelo Grisanti – Larry the Lizard (uncredited)
Ralph Bakshi is one of cinema history’s most tragic figures. Certainly the most tragic in animation. By which I mean that the financial success of his films fell short of his vision and genius for storytelling.
With grand vision hampered by a far less grand execution, projects like his Lord of the Rings film remain as cult-classics because of the vastness of the vison (and the vastness of the vision of the source material) that trying to make one film to encompass it all was impossible. Sir Peter Jackson made 6 films to tell the same story.
For me, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (1977) remains as the pinnacle of his creativity. An original story, a fantastic mashup of fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic adventure and ultimately, a war film.
The film opens with Susan Tyrell’s droning voice over. She was so unimpressed with the project that she asked to not be included on the film’s credits. However, her timelessly aged voice has always been one of the great features of the film and she has regretted her request ever since.
Some reviewers speak ill of Ms Tyrell’s voice over. To me it encompasses everything that the film is about. It’s a voice of an ancient Gaia – the Mother Earth spirit. A world that has been torn and burned and ravaged. Has been engulfed in an epic firestorm of nuclear weapons and has healed over millions of years. A world with scars and the weight of billions of years. That is the voice of Susan Tyrell. It is eerie, and ancient and spine-tinglingly good.
The soundtrack varies from 70’s guitar wa-waah to haunting electronic synth. It feels like a 1970’s rock opera overture through most of it. The overall sense of the music is a lyrical jazz, experimental rock n’ roll fusion.
Fox Studios refused Bakshi’s request for further funding, and the DIY nature of much of the animation is part of its unique charm. The rotoscoped battle scenes from classic films looked really good, so Bakshi decided there was no need to animate them further. He paid for the additional footage and animation out of his own pocket when the studio money ran out. George Lucas also asked for more money for Star Wars around the same time (they refused his request too).
Famous artists like Ian Miller contributed backdrop scenes, particularly for Black Wolf’s city and the more pastoral Montegar.
Historical allegory is the most important theme of this film. Twenty-five minutes in and the stage has been set with a direct metaphor for Nazi Germany’s rise in Nationalism and rebuilding of their war-machine in the 1930’s.
The chilling part is the scene where the elf veteran of the previous wars is chuckling about what useless troops Blackwolf has. His confidence is matched by his fellow troops, though the young soldier who has no experience is less than convinced. The scene that follows is one of the grimmest ever put to animation. It cements Wizards position as an adult animated film, not a family-friendly movie that you could let your kids watch.
Wizards has rightly become a cult classic. The initial box-office taking was small, but this is a film that is just as relevant now as it was 25 years ago.
Rating: #3 in my Top Five Films of All Time
The Nightrider. That is his name… the Nightrider… Remember him when you look at the night sky!
~ Toecutter “Mad Max”
In the small town where I was born and raised, on a dark and mountainous coast that would have made H.P. Lovecraft uneasy, we had one movie theatre, The Mayfair. Films were shown on Fridays and Saturdays each week, by the next week, it would be something else.
The place was old with leather seats and sculpted plaster sconces that spoke of a grander time.
The old theatre was my favourite place in the entire world. We didn’t have a TV, so films were a speedball directly into my eyeball and fevered imagination. It was here I walked out of The Wizard Of Oz and it stands as the one film I have never seen, and never will. Here’s why.
In August, 1977 we were living on a small farm, under the shadow of a mountain range, between the mountains and the sea. It was an alluvial flood plain, which meant that if there was a market for river smoothed grey rocks, we would have lived like kings. Most of the paddocks were more rocks than dirt and I remember spending many long hours loading them onto the tractor trailer and dumping them along a fenceline.
Early one morning that August, we were hit by a storm. Due to the shape of the land the wind would come down off the mountain like an X-Games skateboarder and we were at the bottom of the slope. Gusts would come through and tear roofs of houses, rip trees out of the ground, and 7 years later another storm of the same variety it tied 1 inch thick angle iron into knots.
Our car was crushed, trees came down on the house, and we spent weeks clearing fallen trees. I was five years old and it was my first experience with what we would now call PTSD.
A year or so later, we went to see The Wizard of Oz at the local movie theatre. They often played kids movies in matinee sessions. I vaguely remember getting to the bit where the tornado hit, and then I was outside. I have no idea what the rest of the film is about. I know there was a girl and red-shoes and witches and a road. I still can’t watch it.
The only other film that freaked me out as a child was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – and that was just the scene where they put the bug in Chekov’s ear. I went to the bathroom for that bit and then loved the rest of the movie.
The idea of restricted films was of course something we were in awe of as kids. R13 – cool… R16 ooohh… R18? What the hell could qualify for an R18 rating? Discussion suggested in a movie with an R18 rating, people actually died.
Along with the usual kids fare, I saw all three Star Wars movies in that theatre. The resounding shock I felt when Luke Skywalker’s parentage was announced resonates with me still. One of the great frustrations was when we were away the one weekend that the Mayfair was showing Battletruck, the Kiwi version of a Mad Max dystopian action movie.
My love affair with all things apocalyptic really started with that film. Having missed it the first time around, I got into see Mad Max instead. Then Mad Max 2 and later, in a much larger movie house in Christchurch, Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome.
What is it about the Mad Max franchise that completes me? I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps it is the fact that Max was never a good man. He was a driven, angry, killer. In D&D terms, his alignment was Chaotic Neutral. He looked out for himself and did what he had to, just to survive.
Sometimes he would do good, other times he would do evil – always looking out for number one and always surviving. I guess I felt a connection with his sheer grit and grimness. This was a man who knew pain. He knew misery and he kept going.
It’s not some boyish hero fantasy, I had shit going on that left me with an intense feeling of connection with the tortured soul of Max.
With Mad Max: Fury Road finally coming to theatres in 9 days’ time, I feel that I’m in a different place now. Calmer, less tortured and still completely mad for post-apocalyptic fiction. George Miller has an eye for the grand. His visions of barbaric wastelands have always been unlike anyone else.
The epic scale of the madness of the land and the people who have become savage and primitive in it, has always required a character like Max. If you fight fire with fire, you fight insanity with madness.
I’ve blogged before about my diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
It’s a contentious condition. Some believe it’s nothing more than an excuse for drug companies to medicate children.
Some research and the risk of losing my job sent me to a specialist who agreed with my doctor’s diagnosis and I’ve been on Ritalin since November 2014.
The difference is remarkable. I can focus now. I can do things. I am no longer like Ozymandias, in Watchmen watching all those televisions at the same time.
Ritalin is a stimulant, it’s an upper. It boosts your brain’s feel-good chemicals – which you would think is the last thing someone with hyperactivity issues would need. Right?
“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”
This story is true. The reason for telling it is the same as the reason for telling any story. It deserves to be remembered. I’m tellilng what I remember of it, though when it was told to me it took an entire afternoon and a battered leather satchel of black and white photographs to back it up.
It’s a long story – so I’ll make it short, for the Internet generation. Though I hope you get the gist.
“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.” ~ Ash, Alien
Two films defined big-budget sci-fi horror in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Alien (1979) and John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the 1951 film, “The Thing From Another World”, which was itself, loosely based on John W. Campbells’s story, “Who Goes There?”
Casting is storytelling
~ Joss Whedon
I signed an amendment to my book contracts with Permuted Press today, basically it just brings the contracts for the first two books into line with the other books I have contracted to them – they now own the movie rights to all Permuted published work.