HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still cannot forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore…. our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection.
The first of two our two Rewinds this week is a cult animated ‘Sword And Sorcery’ actioner which should appeal to fans of stuff like Conan The Barbarian.
HCF REWIND NO.53. FIRE AND ICE 
AVAILABLE ON DVD
DIRECTED BY: Ralph Bakshi
WRITTEN BY: Roy Thomas, Jerry Conway
STARRING: Randy Norton, Cynthia Leake, Steve Sandor, Sean Hannon
RUNNING TIME: 79 mins
From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana and her son, Nekron, send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator. After yet another town is destroyed, with only one person seemingly surviving, Larn, the kingdom of Firekeep is threatened. Nekron sends a delegation to Firekeep’s King Jarol to request his surrender, but this is a ruse orchestrated by Queen Juliana for Nekron’s sub-humans to kidnap Jarol’s daughter, Princess Teegra. Queen Juliana feels that Nekron should take a bride to produce an heir. However, Teegra escapes and encounters Larn, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep……..
As a young child I used to devour books, especially stories of heroes like Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and Robert E. Howards’s Conan. The fiction certainly fired my imagination, but do you know what the most appealing thing about these books was? It was their cover illustrations, those stunning pictures of rugged heroes, buxom women, weird monsters, gloomy backgrounds etc, which often didn’t have much to do with the actual content of the books but created their own great fantasy world, a world that seemed to have its own rules and consistency. All this art was by a guy called Frank Frazetta, one of the great fantasy artists whose paintings also graced album covers, calendars , comics and movie posters. Even if you haven’t heard of him, you would probably recognise one of his pictures almost immediately. He happened to work on several animated films though Fire And Ice remains the only one in which he has some creative control. It was a collaboration between him and Ralph Bakshi, the erratic but interesting animated film maker best known nowadays for the animated version of The Lord Of The Rings but who never matched the commercial success of this two adult-aimed productions Fritz The Cat and Heavy Traffic.
I remember not having heard of Fire And Ice back in 1983, despite being very much ‘into’ fantasy stuff at the time, which tells you that it had little publicity and made little money. I don’t why it has taken me up to now to actually see the movie, but then a film-crazy guy like me always has a list of films he wants to see that always just gets longer….and longer…longer! In any case, Fire And Ice is a lightning-paced, action-packed adventure that is rather lacking in terms of plot, but then isn’t that often the case with this kind of subject? Beginning in awesome fashion with a huge glacier advancing towards the village and small ice blocks falling on people, it then keeps up the pace as the thrills progress from an underwater escape from a giant octopus-type creature to a battle in fog where the combatants can hardly be seen, the film being almost constant movement from beginning to end. The climactic showdown is a little disappointing though; I rather expected more.
Typical of Bakshi’s work, the animation ranges from very good to rather poor, with one scene near the end involving lava looking really cheap and shoddy, as if they had just ran out money. The backgrounds throughout are nicely diverse and effectively evoked, Bakshi obviously knowing that simpler backdrops are often better because you concentrate more on the characters. Most of the folk in the film are evoked through ‘rotoscoping’, a technique Bakshi used a lot but even Disney employed sometimes, where scenes are shot in live action and then transferred to animation cels. For me this technique often results in some awkwardness but it really suits Fire And Ice, helping it really comes across as a series of Frazetta paintings come to life. Some have said that the fact that the sub-human minions that serve the evil Juliana are dark skinned means the film is a little racist, but in my opinion if you think that than you can say the same about the majority of screen fantasy, right down to The Lord Of The Rings. Bakshi himself made an anti-racist movie called Coonskin, which proves to me he was certainly not a racist, and Frazetta often depicted people of non-white origin with the same dignity he gave to his Caucasian heroes, so there!
What some may find a little worrying is the way the heroine Teegra is presented in a very sexual way, right from her very first scene where she poses in a way that almost seems to be asking us to be ‘turned on’ by this animated character, and, though [barely] clothed, she really may as well not be wearing any clothes at all! My feeling is that she is so much the archetypal fantasy female one shouldn’t take it too seriously, and in any case she’s certainly amongst the ‘hottest’ cartoon females, though I won’t carry on along this train of thought in case you think this writer is some kind of pervert with a fetish for cartoon women [you must admit, Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid were cute though], though I will tell you there is one scene….with her and another sexily drawn cartoon woman….that suggests lesbianism! Fire And Ice is not a particularly gory movie, but it is still more brutal than you may expect from a ‘PG’ rated cartoon, with much killing by axe, sword, spear etc, and the odd moment [one involving a black panther really took me by surprise]ensures that this is not really one for young kiddies. My major complaint about Fire And Ice extends to many ‘sword and sorcery’ screen tales; the storyline seems to have been dashed out with little thought. I don’t think it really exploits the idea of two worlds, one of ice, one of fire, coming together and clashing. I would actually like to see the proposed live action version, as I feel it could build on this one [though I’m not sure Robert Rodriguez is the man for the job]. This version is a lot of fun though, and never dull for a moment.