Cinophile: Fire And Ice

4 min read
3

Forget He-Man – This is the animated Conan…

Fire and Ice was a collaboration between Frank Baksi and Frank Frazetta. Bakshi was a famous counter-culture animator - the anti-Disney - whose most famous creations were Lord Of The Rings, Wizards and Fitz The Cat. Frazetta was a world-famous fantasy artist, renowned for his rich swords-and-sorcery paintings, which usually became covers on fantasy novels or magazines.
Fire and Ice was a collaboration between Frank Bakshi and Frank Frazetta. Bakshi was a famous counter-culture animator – the anti-Disney – whose most famous creations were Lord Of The Rings, Wizards and Fitz The Cat. Frazetta was a world-famous fantasy artist, renowned for his rich swords-and-sorcery paintings, which usually became covers on fantasy novels or magazines.

Have you heard of Frank Frazetta? Probably not – the legendary fantasy artist’s heyday was a few decades ago, though his work continues to ripple throughout all of the fantasy genre and beyond. It’s also fairly certain you’ve never heard of Ralph Bakshi either. A counter-culture animator from the Seventies, his most famous work was the 1978 adaptation of Lord Of The Rings. In 1982 these two creative forces joined to create a ‘swords and sorcery’ epic of note. They didn’t succeed at first, but time has been quite kind to Fire And Ice.

You can argue that after Robert E. Howard, who created Conan The Barbarian, Frazetta was the biggest influence on the ‘swords and sorcery’ genre. His depictions of barrel-chested warriors, voluptuous maidens, menacing sorcerers, arcane evils and ancient magics has been a template as much as J.R.R. Tolkien’s work has been for high fantasy. So when renegade animator and rotoscoping master Bakshi decided to use his works for a feature film, it must have been exciting news.

Fire and Ice bombed quite badly, making back half of its $1.2 million budget. It was a sharp blow for Ralph Bakshi, who was looking for another mainstream hit after Lord Of The Rings. It may have been because of that success that he decided to make this film more PG - contrary to the successful adults-only Heavy Metal. But Bakshi was probably weary - he practically invented adult-themed animations with works like Fitz The Cat and got a lot of grief for it, even being labeled a pornographer.
Fire and Ice bombed quite badly, making back half of its $1.2 million budget. It was a sharp blow for Ralph Bakshi, who was looking for another mainstream hit after Lord Of The Rings. It may have been because of that success that he decided to make this film more PG – contrary to the successful adults-only Heavy Metal. But Bakshi was probably weary – he practically invented adult-themed animations with works like Fitz The Cat and got a lot of grief for it, even being labelled a pornographer.

Alas, the result is proof of how you can do everything right, but trip over your own story. In some distant past, a sorcerer and his mother are conquering lands with their hordes of barbarians and a giant moving wall of ice. Their goal is to reach a southern kingdom, built around a volcano. If the flaw in this plan is obvious, you’re not the first to notice (but the characters don’t). In the meantime the princess of that volcanic kingdom is kidnapped. She escapes and eventually teams up with a dashing type (for a barbarian), who both then get help from another warrior barbarian that we’ll just call Wolfman. Good thing too, since the dashing barbarian isn’t exactly the best fighter. All of this happens presumably at a time of a great fabric shortage, which could explain why the bikini and loincloth were so popular…

Today Fire and Ice is a lot of fun to watch. Certainly nobody in 1983 would have been all that impressed: it must have felt achingly like an overlong He-Man cartoon, which had started a year previous, and had none of Heavy Metal or Conan’s gratuitous nudity and violence. Bakshi’s decision to skate closer to PG, combined with the silly story, probably sunk this.

Perhaps it’s the nostalgia for both the genre and a bygone era of animation, but today Fire and Ice feels more like a surprise treat in what you thought was an empty packet. The great animation, the over-the-top action scenes, Frazetta’s ideas in motion, lush backgrounds… it’s quite awesome.

P.S. This is probably grasping at straws, but George R.R.Martin’s fantasy epic Game Of Thrones is actually called ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and contains not only a giant wall of ice, but a mother-son pair of villains. It’s probably nothing…

And Lucius Malfoy isn’t the bad guy from Warlock

Legendary comic writer Roy Thomas delivered the surprisingly weak script. It’s surprisingly, as Thomas was responsible for reintroducing Conan in comic form to American audiences, decades after author Robert E. Howard created last Cimmerian. Thomas would do the same for another Howard creation, Red Sonya.
Legendary comic writer Roy Thomas delivered the surprisingly weak script. It’s surprising, as Thomas was responsible for reintroducing Conan in comic form to American audiences, decades after author Robert E. Howard created last Cimmerian. Thomas would do the same for another Howard creation, Red Sonja.

Best Scene: Anything with Wolfman aka. DarkWolf in it. Maybe its his Batman-esque headgear, dramatic belt or impressive broadaxe skills, but you can’t help but dig the guy.

Best Quote: If you’re gonna kill the Ice Lord, boy, you better learn to live with pain.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: March 31, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

Check Also

Mahershala Ali is tormented by the past in this new trailer for HBO’s True Detective season 3

True Detective is returning next month on HBO with yet another gripping story set to expos…