Greetings, everyone, and welcome back. Every now and again I manage to come across something that has somehow slip under my radar, and I wonder to myself how the hell I never seemed to notice it before. Well that’s exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when I was on the edge of sleep and flipping through Tubi, coming across a fantastic little gem of sword and sorcery I think I remember glancing at a long time ago but had never really sat down and watched. I’m talking about 1983’s Fire and Ice, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
Fire and Ice is an animated release from film maker Ralph Bakshi, a director probably best known for bringing Fritz the Cat to life and being the first to try and adapt Lord of the Rings to the big screen. He typically uses a method called rotoscoping in all his animated features, and if you’re not familiar with the technique, it’s where live actors are filmed performing the sequences and then the footage is traced over an animated later on. Bakshi’s work has always been really hit or miss with me, with the aforementioned Fritz the Cat and Lord of the Rings just kind of blah. But I loved his films Wizards and American Pop, which I both highly recommend if you’ve never seen either. As I stared at the screen barely awake, I contemplated passing Fire and Ice by yet again, but then I saw two names attached that made me reconsider.
The first was Frank Frazetta, a fantastic old-school fantasy artist and writer in his own right. He’s best known for his novel covers from the 60s and 70s, with his most famous works probably being his Conan series and the badass Death Dealer painting and the books that followed. I was intrigued when I dug a little deeper and saw that he also shouldered creative duties with Bakshi on the film, as I’ve always really enjoyed his visuals and gritty style. The second name was Roy Thomas, an amazing comic writer that did Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan for Marvel and would later serve as that company’s chief editor. He penned the script which excited me even more, as the Conan comics are flipping amazing and Savage Sword takes it even further. So, seeing all this I willed myself from grogginess, clicking watch now and getting ready for some retro style fantasy action.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, Fire and Ice is a pure sword and sorcery adventure, with your typical young and grizzled warriors, evil wizard, and less than scantily clad female. The plot centers around the evil sorcerer Nekron attempting to conquer all the land, sending an assault of glaciers and his sub-human warriors to slaughter the people of the south from his citadel on Icepeak. Opposing him, is the honorable king of Firekeep, the ruler of a giant fortress built into the side of a volcano. Nekron wipes out the tribe of a young man named Larn, prompting the other set out towards Firekeep for aid. Meanwhile, Nekron’s mother kidnaps the king’s daughter, Teegra, intending her to be the bride of her son to produce him heirs. Teegra soon escapes her captors and is found by Larn, the two of them of course developing feelings for each other before she is promptly abducted again. Larn is then aided by the wandering barbarian, Darkwolf, the pair tracking Teegra and those who have taken her back towards Icepeak. It all culminates with Larn, Darkwolf, and their allies from Firekeep launching an all or nothing assault against the frozen citadel, with Larn swearing to rescue Teegra and Darkwolf looking to settle his own score with Nekron.
I’ll start by saying that the overall plot of Fire and Ice is serviceable if not predictable, being very much the product of the time and having a likewise tone to go with it. The male heroes are definitely given the spotlight here, with the female lead, Teegra, relegated to pretty much eye candy. The rhythm of her getting kidnapped, escaping, and then being captured again wears thin by the end, making you just wish the poor girl could catch a break. But the action is really good and often brutal and violent at times, which is just fine for anything sword and sorcery related. I have to admit that I did enjoy the characters of Darkwolf and the villain, Nekron, quite a bit, as the barbarian just hacks down anything in his path and the wizard is a psychotic megalomaniac who I couldn’t wait to see die by the finish. But our main protagonist, Larn, just kind of fizzled for me, which is sad because I wanted to root for him but didn’t care enough to get behind him.
As for the look of the film, I said earlier that it primarily uses rotoscoping, which a lot of animators look at as cheap when compared to more standard or traditional methods. But I have to say that the technique really lends itself quite well here, especially during the numerous action scenes, which traditional animation always seems to struggle with and make look clunky and forced. The characters all have a very fluid flow about them and to their movements, and couple that with Frazetta’s amazing hand painted backgrounds, and it’s a great visual style. The environments that we’re taken to are all done justice as well, with Larn’s home plains, the frigid peaks, and the fiery mountains all looking unique. The film really feels like an old school comic or novel cover thrown on the screen, which kept me entertained and helped me to overlook the shortcomings of the story.
So, in all, did I enjoy Fire an Ice? Yes, very much, but I already knew what kind of movie it was going to be going in. It’s definitely a niche film that I can’t recommend for everybody, as the rotoscoped animation may not be to everyone’s cup of tea and the plot is very 80s when it comes to action type flicks. The females are there to look pretty and be rescued, while the men run around with chests out and killing every bad guy they come across almost on sight. But if you enjoy old school fantasy or sword and sorcery like I do then check it out, some of the characters are pretty cool and the visuals are very different than what’s being produced today, in a good way.
In the end, Fire and Ice makes a respectable attempt to take the sword and sorcery genre seriously, and that’s refreshing considering how other films of its like drift toward b-movie crap real fast. It’s actually not a bad way to spend an hour and a half of an evening or late night, as there’s definitely much worse that’s out there that I won’t mention. Conquest, I’m staring in your direction. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this one, gang. Until next time, later.