Ralph Bakshi Mix-up

Bad ass elves and Dwarves before I found out about Warhammer.
Bad ass elves and Dwarves before I found out about the Warhammer games.

When I was a child, my father had me watch two of Ralph Bakshi‘s more famous works: Wizards and the Lord of the Rings.

I don’t think that we watched them back to back, but in my memory we had. For many years I believed that they were actually one big feature film.

It isn’t hard to understand why. Both are in the classic Bakshi style. Both had heavy VHS grainy-ness and muddy colors. Both used heavy roto-scoping. Both featured elves, dwarves, magical monsters and, of course, both featured a good wizard and a bad one.

My confusion was stemmed by the intro. In it, you see some fairy/elf lady has two children. A good one and a bad one.

Elf lady has twins that surprisingly didn't kill each other in utero.
Elf lady has twins that surprisingly didn’t kill each other in utero.

The good one was using magic for nice, fun and cool stuff. Everyone liked him and I totally thought that this was Gandalf! It makes sense: Hobbits seem to like him and he almost looked like a Hobbit as a kid. In my young mind, I thought that this was the reason why the Grey Wizard hung out in the Shire so often: Hobbits reminded him of his childhood.

Obviously good wizard kid who I thought was wee Gandalf.
Obviously good child who I thought was wee little kid Gandalf.

On the flip-side, the other twin was a creepy loner who liked to hurt animals and dressed all in black. Keep in mind that I saw this before my adolescent counter-culture angst phase. I recognized this guy not as a badass lone-wolf, but as a bad guy who spoiled nice fun things. The kind of kid who’d tell you Santa wasn’t real or deliberately break your favorite toys. Or just steal them.

I figured that this one became Saruman. His eyes are red and Saruman’s robes (in this cartoon, anyway) are red too.

Creepy loner who hated everyone. As a teen I would've probably been on his side.
Creepy loner who hated everyone. As a teen I would’ve probably been on his side.

So you can guess that things go badly once their mother dies. Suddenly the Bad wizard is free to mess around and cause trouble. The good brother calls him on this and they fight.

The inevitable battle between twins.
The inevitable battle between twins.

So anyway, the bad guy loses and runs off. I assumed that he made his own home where he slowly made his army of orcs and creepy rotoscoped soldiers.

Here is what the evil wizard’s home looks like in Wizards, and what Saruman’s home looks like in Lord of the Rings:

Easy to see why I thought that they were the same character...
Easy to see why I thought that they were the same character…

So anyway, years pass and I don’t really remember much else of Wizards except for bits and pieces. I do remember these two important characters who I assumed were the grown-up versions of the twins:

Saruman and Gandalf: Evil and Good twins. Makes sense? Sure!
Saruman and Gandalf: Evil and Good twins. Makes sense? Sure!

In Lord of the Rings, the audience never sees Sauron (unlike Peter Jackson’s films, in which you see physical Sauron and the glowing Eye). So I assumed that Saruman was THE villain.

Sadly, Bakshi’s film never really concluded, but Wizards did. Both films end in a big war and the good wizard defeats the bad. As a kid that’s how I though it ended: with Gandalf pulling out a Luger pistol and shooting Saruman (calling him a son of a bitch along the way).

If you really think about it, this combined version of the film sounds better that either of Bakshi’s works on their own, eh? I think so!

Another similarity: this guy was another Ringwraith (Black Rider), if you ask me.
Another similarity: this guy was another Ringwraith (Black Rider), if you ask me.

It’s amazing how a kid’s mind works. Some day, I’d love to actually take this story and write it up as a somewhat Cliché but classic tale. What do you think?

Oops, one more thing:

Funny enough, with all of my very specific, if cloudy, memories, I don’t recall having noticed Elinore the ridiculously over-sexy fairy babe. I think that I was just a little to young to care or remember. This was before I was able to notice Jessica Rabbit or other pretty cartoon girls.

More likely, my Dad probably just spared me the sight by fast-forwarded during her scenes!

Are you kidding me? Oh Ralph, you dirty old man.
Are you kidding me? Oh Ralph, you dirty old man.

He-Man

This is the first article in a series about my nostalgia. Keeping it and capturing it for posterity.

I was born and raised in the 1980s. Like many kids of that era, I became obsessed with a few cartoons which were not much more than glorified toy commercials. The broad reach of their marketing touched our lives in countless ways: cereal, happy meals, beach blankets, big wheels and of course action figures. But we weren’t cynical about it: we loved it and gobbled it up with joy.

One of these venues that filled my young brain with feverish glee was He-Man (and the Masters of the Universe).

Man that cartoon was the greatest. I could have watched that show forever, much to the dismay of my parents. In retrospect those animated sound bytes were pretty terrible. At the time, though, this opening was the most goddamn epic thing ever:

I think that this was due to a few things: it was simplistic, powerful, catchy and fun. Animation every so often used this awesome glow effect that looked so neat: something which is sadly no longer used despite the age of digital supremacy.

Kid me with Heman sword & shield

I was a huge fan. I mean, look at the picture of me above. This kid was an avid fan in a matter-of-fact way, like enjoying Orange Crush and BBQ hot dogs  on a hot summer evening.

Kid me on horseback with Heman sword & shield

The cartoon was great: I admired He-Man, I laughed at Orko, and booed Skeletor and his goons and I had an innocent crush on the Sorceress (the kind of crush a 6 year old can have without really knowing it).

sorceress

Somehow my parents were able to buy me a ton of the toys despite financial duress. I still have no idea how they afforded all that plastic crap. Castle Grayskull was the pivotal center piece, however, and my mom always finds a chance to recount the story of its acquisition:

During the Christmas Season of 1984, Joel, his new baby sister and Mommy went to visit with Santa. We waited over an hour in line.  Joel was very shy so when we got to Santa, he shoved me with all his strength toward Santa and shouted “Remember!!!  Castle Greyskull!!!”  I was furious!

I waited over an hour holding  a three year old’s hand and carrying a four month old in a snuggly for him to refuse to talk to the jolly old fellow and shove me practically into Santa’s lap to act on his behalf  en proxy!

Joel is still alive today – angels must be watching over him!

Yeah.

I had so many of those toys but the most memorable ones were:

stinkor

Stinkor. He smelled like… Like… Well it was hard to describe. Kind of like mothballs crossed with insect repellant. Funny enough, he was a cool looking villain.

Mosquitor

Mosquitor. He was actually one of Hordak’s goons. He had a long mosquito like head and his chest had a transparent section through which you could see oozing blood if you pressed the button on his back. At the time, vampires scared the crap out of me. So much that this action figure was always kind of weird and dangerous to my mind. I’ll do a post on vampires later.

hemanbattledamage

Battle Damage He-Man. He had a shiny metal breastplate with a cool spinning symbol in the middle which revealed scarring and damage if you whacked it. I had a side obsession with knights at that time, so this figure stood out to me as well.

Tongue Lasher and King Hiss. I’m lumping these two together because they are kind of a lead-up to my next post. These guys were Serpent Men, which were a Thing for a while. I was never sure if they worked for Skeletor or if they were their own thing. Regardless they were so awesome to me. I was really into dinosaurs and all things reptilian as well.

Tunglashor

Tongue Lasher had these weird frog hands and a long plastic tongue that you could lengthen with a wheel in his back.

MOTU-BA-King_Hiss_ill

King Hiss, was a hideous snake monster in disguise. You could remove his body to reveal his true form. So cool and freaky.

My sister Amy and I used to make up such epic stories with all of these guys. We used to also cross over with all of her She-Ra figures too, but honestly the only interesting one was Cat-Ra because, well, villains are always more interesting than the good guys.

Especially when they had black hair and claws. Go figure.

So yeah! My next post will be about Masters of the Universe: the live action movie. Stay tuned! Please comment on your own memories of He-Man or She-Ra!