Fire and Ice (1983) – Directed by Ralph Bakshi – Starring Susan Tyrrell, Maggie Roswell, William Ostrander, Stephen Mendel, and Steve Sandor.
Up until four days ago, I had never even heard of FIRE AND ICE despite the fact that it features the combined talents of Frank Frazetta, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Ralph Bakshi, the guy who created Dinotopia, and that painter who’s really famous in malls, Thomas Kincade. You’d think that such a collection would have put the film on my radar at some point, but nope – never heard of it, let alone seen it.
Now that I’ve seen it, I can see why. FIRE AND ICE is not memorable in any significant sense of the world. It’s certainly not a bad film – I watched it from start to finish and was only bored a few times – but there’s nothing here that stands out. The heroes and villains could be plucked from everything from Conan to He-Man, and while the characters are based on designs from Frazetta, they’re Bakshi interpretations of Frazetta characters. If you’re looking for a sword-and-sorcery film, FIRE AND ICE will not disappoint. Of course, it’s not likely to surprise or move you, either.
The best part of the film is watching the characters move. Bakshi employed rotoscoping on the film, meaning that live actors were filmed performing their scenes and then animators traced those images onto animation cells. It’s a really beautiful process – characters in FIRE AND ICE (could there be a more generic, forgettable title?) move with a fluidity that’s an pleasure to watch but after ten minutes or so you become used to it. It’s a really well done effect, however, and it gives the fight scenes a sense of realistic urgency and danger.
Here’s the trailer, which gives a pretty good indication about the characters’ motion:
The plot of FIRE AND ICE has the bad guys living in a place called Icepeak and the good guys living in a place called, I sh*t you not, Firekeep. Fire and ice, y’all. The evil prince Nekron is magically pushing glaciers (yes, big blocks of ice) south towards Firekeep. Nekron’s mom sends her army of sub-humans to kidnap the good princess Teegra, whom she wants to give her son so he can start making babies. That’s so like a mom. In the film’s funniest moment, the Queen presents the buxom, curvy, teeny-weeny bikini-clad Teegra to Nekron, and he’s like, “Um, no. Keep your skanks away from me.”
The protagonist is Larn, the only survivor of a glacier/sub-human attack. He goes to save Teegra and gets mixed up with a bunch of quick-hitting escapades involving various villains. The King of Firekeep eventually can’t take the pressure of the scary glaciers sitting right on his border and unleashes some lava to destroy the glacier. Then he-
Wait. Wait. Wait. The King of Firekeep has got lava at his disposal and he’s worried about a glacier?
During Larn’s quest to save Teegra, he teams up with Darkwolf, proving that 1983 was a really bad year for coming up with names that weren’t incredibly lame. Darkwolf is the bad-ass of the film and you know this because sometimes we see him in silhouette above the action. Plus, he wears a wolf carcass on his head. Bad. Ass.
You know how it ends – Darkwolf kills Nekron, Larn saves Teegra. Totally predictable, but again I’ll point out that it’s not bad. I’m a bit jaded in that the whole sword-and-sorcery genre has never been a favorite of mine, and FIRE AND ICE simply delivers the genre to you. The short escapades – the skeleton that talks to Larn, Teegra using her sexuality to escape the sub-humans, Teegra and Larn fighting the lake monster, Larn jumping off a massive cliff into the fog to escape some sub-humans, etc. – are the most intriguing part of the film. I’d have loved to see more space given to exploring the characters, but unfortunately pretty much everyone stays exactly how they are from start to finish, and the story never grips me to make me care about them.