Film Music Review
The Sammy awards









21 Tracks (Playing Time = 70:20)

Album produced and assembled for BSX by Mike Joff.  Music composed and conducted by William Kraft.  Orchestrations by Angela Morley.  Music edited by Roy Prendergast and Curtis Roush.  Music mixed by Dan Wallin.  Digitally edited and mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland.  Album art direction by Mark Banning.

BSX Records 8926

Rating: ****

 Limited edition of 2000 units.

While the early 1980s seemed to be sounding the end of Disney animation styles, animator/directors like Ralph Bakshi were taking animated film to new levels artistically in films like WIZARDS and THE LORD OF THE RINGS.  Bakshi’s often fascinating color palettes and realistic drawings are still amazing to watch on the screen even if the film narratives themselves do not always flow as well.  Partially, one must suspend their expectations about storytelling to absorb the detailed scenes and landscapes in these films.  This is no particularly true for FIRE AND ICE (1983). 

For this film, Bakshi invited noted illustrator and artist Frank Frazetta to participate with Frazetta’s unique style being the inspiration for the character designs and landscapes in the film.  In many ways, the end result is like an illustrated comic book.  Against this imagery, animators worked to recreate realistic movement in characters that is quite remarkable.  Where the film fails perhaps is in its dialogue, which is fortunately sparse.  The story itself is fairly basic, a bit Conan-like perhaps.  It takes place as the “Ice Age” ends and an evil ice lord, Nekron, wages war against the fire lord Jarol whose daughter is abducted to try and bring an end to Jarol’s power.  He enlists the help of Larn, whose village is destroyed by Nekron’s minions at the beginning of the film, to help rescue his daughter.  To aid in creating the right atmosphere for the film, Bakshi turned to William Kraft, a noted timpanist (founder and director of the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble) and concert composer.  Kraft’s film work is rather sparse and this is the first of his scores to appear on disc.  His first score was for the low budget horror film PSYCHIC KILLER(1975) followed by AVALANCHE(1978).  He provided music for THE CHISHOLMS TV series and a score for the TV movie BILL(1981).  Some may recognize him for his conducting roles on Patrick Doyle scores in the early 1990s.  For FIRE AND ICE, Kraft was encouraged to draw a symphonic score that required thematic development to help overcome the lack of dialogue and to provide music that could pull the audience into the landscapes. 

The orchestral writing is certainly one of the score’s best assets that takes a variety of styles and melds them into a whole.  One has to get past the “Main Title” music a bit which takes its cues from JAWSand The Rite of Spring before launching into a bright fanfare.  This shifts into intense atmospheric clusters with a plaintive melodic idea.  Once these thematic threads are introduced, the score enters into another of its exciting action sequences with great asymmetrical rhythms and off-accents.  The harmonic structure tends to be in more open intervals here suggesting ancient modes while a variety of contemporary orchestral technique will remind listeners of Corigliano with suggestions of Stravinsky and primitivist aesthetics driving much of the score appropriately.  Kraft moves effortlessly from dense textures held together by short motivic ostinato patterns and intensified by shifting ideas throughout the the orchestra.  The result is an orchestral support that manages to pull the viewer into the film, though some may find that the score overwhelms the imagery at times.  The music also has moments of sensuality (“Meet Teegra” and “Teegra is Abducted”) and beauty (“Thoughts of Teegra”) in the moments that involve Teegra, Jarol’s daughter.  These provide nice contrasting material to some of the more brutal musical sequences.  One these, “Larn and Teegra,” is a mix of magic and playfulness with hints of danger intruding along the way.

FIRE AND ICE celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and a recent reissue of the film allows animated film buffs a chance to appreciate the attempt.  BSX’s release is intended to honor this score on its anniversary and many who inadvertently check out this film will find themselves wondering if a score release exists.  Fortunately, this limited edition is available for those who find the score for this film one of its additional highlights.  FIRE AND ICE is a great score that grabs its required temp-track influences (shifting from derivative to original very quickly) and moves them into fascinating orchestral realms that work quite well on its own making a fitting companion to fans of scores for KRULL and CONAN THE BARBARIAN.


—Steven A. Kennedy


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