Fire and Ice is a fantasy released in 1983 by Ralph Bakshi, creator of such cult classics as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Wizards and most notably, the failed 1978 telling of The Lord of the Rings. For trivia buffs, Bakshi wrote, directed and produced the classic Spiderman cartoon series, in addition to early Marvel staples such as The Hulk, Iron Man and Sub Mariner.
Bakshi teams with the legendary Frank Frazetta and the prolific writing duo of Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas to create a Conanesque tale of sword and sorcery. Fire and Ice is the story of evil ice-mage Nekron, his equally scheming mother Juliana, and their plot to enslave the world by forcing an ice-age on its inhabitants. Standing in their way is Fire Keep, ruled by the benevolent King Jarol, his son Taro, lithesome daughter Teegra, Larn, lone survivor of a village destroyed by the unrelenting approach of the ice-monoliths, and a mysterious warrior called Darkwolf.
Featuring a bevy of unknowns, save for 'B' actor Steve Sandor, Fire and Ice is shot using Bakshi's trademark rotoscope technique. The actors are filmed in live action, and then each cell is painstakingly traced to produce a style of animation that is surprisingly fluid. Finally, the animated characters are set against lush Frazetta-like backgrounds. While it sounds good, in reality rotoscoping lacks any form of shadowing, and the end result has animated characters looking totally detached from their surroundings.
The storyline by Thomas and Conway is pedestrian at best, with the only interesting twist involving Darkwolf and Juliana, strangely removed from the final product. Still, it serves to move the film along to its inevitable happy ending and features the requisite themes of destruction, revenge, quest and saving the scantily-clad princess. The DVD comes with some good extras, most notably a short documentary on the making of the film, and an interview with Ralph Bakshi discussing his relationship with Frazetta. There's a fun bit titled Sean Hannon's Diary. It's rather amusing to listen to him wax enthusiastic for his 'big break'. After checking The IMDB, I found Hannon (who played Nekron) managed one more role, the 'Large Creature' in a forgettable film called Escapes. Fame is fleeting.
The second DVD could be considered half of a 'double dip'. It is essentially material gleaned from the recently released Frazetta biography Painting With Fire. This makes the Fire and Ice: Limited Edition DVD especially attractive for those without that excellent biography in their collection. It provides great insight into Frazetta's illustrious career, including his darker moments and his struggle as a recovering stroke victim.
The DVD transfer by Blue Underground is excellent, though occasional artefacts will tend to annoy. However, the colours are crisp and vibrant, a nice improvement over the out-of-print VHS version.
Fire and Ice, though flawed, has achieved cult status over the years. This new Limited Edition is definitely recommended to fans of sword and sorcery, Ralph Bakshi, the curious, and last but not least, the amazing Frank Frazetta.