On the hunt for something new to review for the column, I ended up watching several different things. Some I skipped through or quit entirely, but a couple I watched all the way to the end. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like either were serious wellsprings of content to talk about, so instead of doing a single-film review, I’m gonna do a double-feature of shorter ones, just to get my thoughts out there!

The first movie I watched was 1983’s Fire and Ice (no, not that Fire and Ice), an animated fantasy film best advertised as the lovechild of legends Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta. Now, I don’t mean it resembles their work… I mean those two are actually the ones who created it. Drawing character and world designs from Frazetta’s art, the pair collaborated (with Bakshi directing) to create a feature-length sword-and-sorcery animation, and honestly, the result is about exactly what you’d expect… sans a bit of Bakshi’s weirdness, maybe.

The painted backgrounds and animation are gorgeous, with the characters almost entirely rotoscoped for motion. I know some people aren’t crazy about rotoscoping, so if that isn’t your cup of tea Fire and Ice may look unpleasant to you, but I honestly love it. And… well, let’s just say Bakshi and Frazetta are both big fans of the female form.

Teegra with the most clothes she’ll ever have on. She only gets less from here on out.

Sadly, for all of its luster, this movie’s plot is as thin as its character backstories. Our villain is Nekron, a sniveling momma’s-boy with… ice… telekinesis…? who’s getting increasingly fed up with his mother’s velvet fist guiding his evil tyranny towards something resembling reason. The plot is basically “Nekron both exists and sucks,” and there is genuinely no more to it than that. He has his army of cavemen wipe out little villages and harass kingdoms as they desperately try to bid for peace, inevitably failing because Nekron just outright hates peace. Like, literally, the whole idea of it, he fuckin’ hates it.

Brought together by Nekron’s shenanigans are our stupid, sexy heroes — Larn, a young barbarian who’s village was ransacked; Princess Teegra, who is a princess and her name is Teegra; and DARKWOLF, who’s fucking awesome. He has a horse, and an axe, and he looks like Death Dealer fucked Rexxar, and he’s literally the only competent character despite barely being in the movie.

Darkwolf is so fucking cool holy SHIT.

This is the point where I run out of things to say about this movie. It has very little dialogue, and less character development. This follows the standard fantasy layout of “big fight, wander around, big fight, weird side-plot, big fight, wander around, boss fight, over” but at least we do get those bizarre little scenes here and there. Like a very molest-y witch and her giant son (?) who rescue Teegra after she gets captured for the second or third time (the 80’s, man). Or the random angry skeleton Larn encounters. Or the PTERODACTYLS.

Yeah, there are pterodactyls.

Anyway, it’s good. If you like fantasy and animation, you really can’t go wrong, and if your head whipped around when I said it was made by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, then you owe it to yourself to watch it. It’s very easy to find — being free on both YouTube and Tubi at the time of writing. Go take a look!

Fire and Ice gets an 8/10 from me; stupid movie, great fun.

Next we’re gonna move on to the second movie I watched, except that this isn’t exaaaaactly a movie — it’s a 2016 web-series that I happened to watch in one go, but it’s around an hour long, so I’m gonna count it. It’s called Dagger Kiss, and it’s the exact polar opposite of Fire and Ice (uhhhh… Earth and Air?). The mindless action is replaced almost exclusively by quiet conversation and plot, and the overwhelming masculinity is replaced by, well… Dagger Kiss is a fantasy movie created by and starring a lesbian (Tucky Williams) and centering around a lesbian relationship (two of them, actually).

Like this one!

Our story opens with Arden (Tucky herself) and her girlfriend Mia (played by Stoya) literally frolicking through an enchanted forest in beautiful dresses — curiously isolated from the rest of the world, and entirely immersed in one another. When the pair are attacked by strange brigands and briefly separated, Arden loses her goddamn shit and, in a flash, everyone dies… including Mia.

She, uh… doesn’t take it very well.

We move abruptly forward into the future, where Arden is running from/fighting off more seemingly random assholes, before getting an assist from a leather-clad beauty named Katia. The two form a temporary alliance, and… this is where shit starts to get really strange, because we learn shortly thereafter that we’re on Earth. Real, modern-day Earth. Or are we?

No, we are. But it turns out that Arden can travel back and forth between worlds at specific times, as can other denizens of her homeland. This a sign of this series’ deepest issue — it explains what’s happening only long after we’re already confused, and this is true of every bit of the plot. Arden’s strange death-powers, the dimensional travel, the people chasing after her; it’s all eventually explained, and all makes sense and is actually pretty cool. I just wish the timing had been a little smoother in making things click.

She’s firin’ her lazer!

There’s a lot to make up for this clumsiness, though — all the actors are several measures better than 90% of what I cover on this column, and it works very well with what is clearly a shoestring budget. While a few of its fantasy tropes may seem a bit derivative, they work nicely for what is ultimately a really short project, and it manages to balance a genuine fantasy storyline with the delightful romance that blooms between Arden and Katia. What Dagger Kiss really needed was a few more million dollars of budget dropped onto it, and to be about twice the length in order to give its handful of plotlines the space they deserved.

This can also be watched easily! You can (again, at the time of this writing) watch it on Amazon Prime, or for free on YouTube, so if you’re in the mood for something very unlike the usual fantasy fair and quite charming in its own way, take a look!

Dagger Kiss gets a 7/10 for me. I really did like it, but I don’t feel like it lived up to its own potential. I’d go apeshit for a sequel, though.

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