US Animated Movie, with some live-action and archive footage (1977). 20th Century-Fox/Bakshi Productions. Pr Ralph Bakshi. Dir Bakshi. Screenplay Bakshi. Voice actors James Connell (President), Steve Gravers (Blackwolf), Bob Holt (Avatar), David Proval (Peace), Richard Romanus (Weehawk), Jesse Welles (Elinore). 80 mins. Colour.
Two million years after nuclear war devastated the world, the bad (radioactive) areas are populated by mutants while the denizens of Faerie have regained their rightful heritage in the good areas. Delia, Queen of the Fairies, gives birth to Twins who, both destined to be Wizards, are polar opposites: Avatar is Good (> Good and Evil) and Blackwolf Evil. On Delia's death, years later, Blackwolf assumes he will inherit, but the brothers battle and he loses, fleeing to the heartlands of the mutants. There he revives the lost arts of technology and starts a war, which he loses, against the peace- and Magic-loving Elves and Fairies. A second time he calls up an army of beings from Hell, and is this time aided by his discovery of a secret weapon, a movie projector (described as a "dream machine"), with which he can project images of Hitler and the Third Reich to inspire his hordes and terrify his foes. Avatar, now an aged-hippy-type wizard, undertakes with Companions a Quest to destroy the projector and thus spare the world a renewed Holocaust. After various adventures – when already the Wild Hunt is over and the hordes of Hell are winning the Last Battle – the brothers face up for a magical confrontation. The projector is destroyed, the spectres from Hell evaporate, and the world is saved.
This short movie is full of riches; the plot is slightly ramshackle but driven well enough by the power of its Allegory and the occasional savagery of its Satire; it has much Humour, too, with nice touches of Parody (and a visual quote from Winsor McCay's Gertie ). The analogies with World War II are extended as far as showing divisive enmity among the various forces on the side of Good; the image of the swastika is everywhere; Demons are garbed as SS officers; and in the finale Blackwolf is identified overtly as a second Hitler. Yet the overall impression of W is of beauty. Clearly shot on a limited budget, it makes a strength out of limited-animation techniques. Much effort has been put into the backgrounds; the hand of Ian Miller, one of the artists involved, is distinctly recognizable. In memory W tends to be overshadowed by Bakshi's offering only a year later, the incoherent, rambling Lord of the Rings (1978); in truth W is, on a modest scale, a highly significant piece of cinematic fantasy (and of Technofantasy) – not to be equalled in its conceptual ambitions by Bakshi until Cool World (1992). [JG]