Following the recent success of movies such as Conan the Barbarian and Beastmaster, two Brooklyn boys, Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, decided to team up on an animated tale of sword and sorcery. Fire & Ice is a movie that I used to watch on the VCR over and over again, pausing at the good parts — not those parts! I paused this movie so I could draw Darkwolf, the baddest warrior you’ve ever seen. I had notebooks filled with Darkwolf drawings, and he was the model for every D&D character I ever created. remember the Molly Hatchett album cover? Yeah, that’s him. He was like a cross between Conan and Batman.
Good grief, just look at that poster. Want to know what was banging around in my 12-year-old brain? This is it. Frank Frazetta was a god.
Upon the movie’s release, the New York Times wrote, “If you love comic books but can’t bear the unnecessary bother of turning pages, ‘Fire and Ice,’ which opened yesterday at the National theater, may be for you. It would help if you were a sex-obsessed 12-year old boy, but it isn’t essential.”
Okay, let’s get this out of the way at the start. This movie was released in 1983. Times were different back then. An apt title for this move today might be “Exploitation” or “Princess Teegra had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Teegra’s primary role is to run around and jiggle a lot, while wearing less than three square inches of sheer fabric. She is captured again and again, stripped, put in chains, and at one point, even put on a leash. I was 12. I liked this movie — we didn’t have the internet back then, so gimme a break.
The hero character, Larn, looked like Dar changed his name and walked off the set of Beastmaster. He was okay as a hero, but he’s no Darkwolf. Man, that Darkwolf…
No wheels were reinvented with this plot, but who came here for the plot? The real draw (get it?) of this movie is the animation style. The backgrounds are lush, beautiful oil paintings, and the characters were animated with the rotoscoping technique, which meant that live actors were filmed, and the action was traced and redrawn, resulting in fluid, realistic movements. Fun fact: Two of the background painters were James Gurney of Dinotopia fame, and Thomas Kinkade — yes, that Thomas Kinkade.
This video gives a fascinating look at how the rotoscoping technique and the rest of the animation was done. I love this stuff!
The animators used slow motion at a few particularly scary moments, which amplified the threat. You might see this effect in live action movies, but in animation, it looks amazing. This ain’t no Saturday morning cartoon! As a kid, I was on the edge of my seat — the danger felt so real, and the neanderthal bad guys were creepier than any other thug you could imagine. The fact they didn’t speak and just grunted was perfect, especially since the dialogue in this movie wasn’t all that great to begin with.
Fire & Ice has everything a sword and sorcery fan could ever want in a movie. Heck, there are even flying dinosaur riders, I mean come on! And the final aerial assault where Darkwolf jumps through the door with battle axe in hand… I need a cigarette.
If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre and haven’t seen this movie, go watch it! I doubt you’ll like it as much as I do (not possible) but I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing Darkwolf in action. And Teegra.
This summer, I am going back to the 70’s and 80’s with the Cool, Cool, Cool Summer 2019. Follow along and let me know if there’s something you think I should revisit.