"I'll just get my gear."

Heavy Metal

Six months after AMERICAN POP we got another animated-feature-for-adults-with-a-rock-soundtrack. This entry in the ink, paint and rock ‘n roll mini-genre is not directly about the music, but heavily emphasizes its soundtrack, basing sequences around it not quite like FANTASIA, but not completely unlike it. And some of the visual subject matter definitely shares its DNA with the kind of stuff they put on the album covers for this kind of music.

HEAVY METAL was based on the comics anthology magazine Heavy Metal, which is an English translation of the French magazine Métal hurlant. If they had translated the title literally it would’ve been HOWLING METAL, so it would’ve sounded about fifteen to twenty times cooler, but I bet it wouldn’t have been turned into an animated feature with a soundtrack featuring Sammy Hagar, Nazareth and Black Sabbath. And Devo and Blue Öyster Cult and Cheap Trick and Journey and Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Nicks. And Riggs? Not the same one we’re thinking of, I don’t think. I don’t know who Riggs is. But he has a song on this.

The movie originates from Canada, specifically producer Ivan Reitman, whose directorial work STRIPES came out the same summer. He’d also produced serious genre movies SHIVERS, THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE and RABID, so this movie being much more of a sci-fi/fantasy/horror type deal than a comedy is not completely out of the blue for him. He’d also produced NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE, making him a pioneer of cinematic adaptations of magazine brand names. I wonder if he ever tried to do HIGHLIGHTS’ GOOFUS AND GALLANT? If not they must not have Highlights in Canada, because that’s just a no-brainer.

This strange movement of North American animation aimed at adults was a little bit before my time, and it fascinated me when I was growing up. It might be hard to imagine now, but there weren’t that many animated features back then. You had your Disney movies and your Don Bluth and other people imitating Disney movies. But “adult,” or even “not mainly for young kids” animation was uncommon enough that it had a real aura of mystery around it, to the point that I would try to watch pretty much anything that fit the category at all. We knew about anime (because of Star Blazers) and you could get a limited selection of titles from specialty catalogs. I saw all the Ralph Bakshi movies, which were the most interesting to me. HEAVY METAL was the most legendary one, partly because it was unattainable; just like AMERICAN POP, the music rights kept it off of home video. Eventually super rich Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman bought the magazine and got that all straightened out.

And believe me when I tell you that the movie’s notoriety in pop culture was erased pretty much the day it hit VHS in 1996. We’d been building it up in our mind all these years and then we saw what it actually was. I don’t really hear people discuss it anymore, and if they do it’s definitely not with the reverence that was once standard. So there’s something to be said for the mystery of the unknown. (Also I guess animation with boobs is no longer the precious commodity it was in those days.)

You could say AMERICAN POP was sort of an anthology format with its four generations, but HEAVY METAL is the more traditional version where it’s several unrelated short stories tied together with a wrap-around. Director Gerald Potterton, who had been an animator on YELLOW SUBMARINE, among other things, oversaw an army of segment directors including Jimmy T. Murakami (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, WHEN THE WIND BLOWS), John Bruno (the FX genius who later directed T2 3-D: BATTLE ACROSS TIME and VIRUS), Harold Whitaker, Jack Stokes (animation director on the live action PRINCE VALIANT), Julian Harris (overseas animation director, Capitol Critters), Paul Sabella (ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN 2), Barrie Nelson (“Ten: The Magic Number” on School House Rock), Pino Van Lamsweerde (CARE BEARS IN THE LAND WITHOUT FEELINGS) and John Halas (ANIMAL FARM).

This poor character “girl” does variations of this expression for most of her screen time.

In the spirit of the comics, the segments use a variety of visual styles, tones and genres. The unifying element is a glowing orb from the story “Grimaldi.” A guy named Grimaldi (Don Francks, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, JOHNNY MNEMONIC, Boba Fett on The Star Wars Holiday Special) comes home after the opening credits sequence “Soft Landing,” (written by Dan RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD O’Bannon!) in which he was an astronaut who descended from the space shuttle to earth in a Corvette. (?) He brings his daughter “girl” (Caroline Semple) the gift of this floating green sphere, which proceeds to melt him and introduce itself as “Loc-Nar” (uncredited Percy Rodrigues, narrator of CAPTAIN EO) and explain how it has spread death to many civilizations and worlds throughout time.

For example, it’s the McMuffin in a sort of tech-noir story called “Harry Canyon.” I can’t help but notice how much this one has in common with THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Alejandro Jodorowsky, who wrote many stories for Metal hurlant, felt THE FIFTH ELEMENT was a ripoff of The Incal, the series he did with Moebius. I’ve read that and I don’t think they’re very similar, but this is based on another story by Moebius (adapted by Daniel Goldberg & Len Blum of MEATBALLS & STRIPES) and it has this guy Harry Canyon (Richard Romanus, MEAN STREETS) who drives a cab (but not a flying one) in a futuristic city, and it’s rigged with various weapons to deal with thieves, and he rescues a young woman (Susan Roman, “Hammerman’s Would-Be Girlfriend,” Hammerman). She falls asleep in his car and the police won’t take her so he takes her to his apartment and they have sex and she’s gone in the morning.

It sticks with the noir vibe more than FIFTH ELEMENT does – a femme fatale, double crosses and light-hearted misogyny, and also the female character is just called “Girl” and seems like a walking sex doll, lacking the soul with which Milla Jovovich imbued Besson’s version of that type of character. But the visual details of the world are really cool – I love all the little dots and line work in the backgrounds, making every surface seem dirty and scummy.

The next one, “Den,” adapts the origin of a character that Bat Out of Hell cover artist Richard Corben created and chronicled from the ’70s through the ‘90s. John Candy (1941) voices a nerdy teenager who finds the Loc-Nar in the form of a meteorite, experiments with it and is transported to a wasteland planet where he grows into a naked bald muscleman called Den. It’s kind of a cool idea because it’s a regular person suddenly finding they are a hero in a barbarian fantasy novel – he sees a naked lady (Jackie Burroughs, THE DEAD ZONE, WILLARD) about to be sacrificed and rescues her. Turns out she’s in a similar situation – she used to be Katherine Wells from Gibraltar. They fly around together on giant bugs (hot) and battle with the Queen (Marilyn Lightstone, IRON EAGLE IV: ON THE ATTACK) and a twerpy immortal named Ard (Martin Lavut) who are trying to get the fucking Loc-Nar just like every other asshole in every story of this movie. Hasn’t anybody figured out that it just melts you? Trust me you don’t want this fucking thing.

The animators of “Den” definitely weren’t up to the task of consistently getting human anatomy right, but it’s still cool to see an attempt at this type of fantasy art in animation. Also it’s kinda funny to see a muscleman with Candy’s voice. But at this point in the movie you really realize that the embarrassing horniness of “Harry Canyon” was no fluke. That’s gonna be this whole movie. And horny is fine, it’s natural, but this is a transparently little-boy version of horny where every woman he meets immediately has sex with him and/or shows off her giant boobs that appear to be drawn by someone who has never seen real ones.

The next story is “Captain Sternn,” created by Bernie Wrightson, the co-creator of Swamp Thing. It’s a wacky comedy thing about a trial on a space station where Captain Lincoln F. Sternn (Eugene Levy, LIKE MIKE) – one of those parody super heroes with a double-sized square jaw – is charged with (and guilty of) “12 counts of murder in the first degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 counts of piracy in high space, 18 counts of fraud, 37 counts of rape, and one moving violation.” You know, a space scoundrel, exactly like Han Solo, and no different.

Sternn bribed some guy named Hanover Fiste (Rodger Bumpass, Squidward on Spongebob Squarepants) to lie on the stand, but he happened to pick up the Loc-Nar in marble form off the floor and it makes him sell out Sternn and then turn into a Hulk and attack him and start headbutting the space station to death.

“B-17” is another one written by O’Bannon that seems to have about a sentence worth of story: the Loc-Nar turns the dead crew of a bomber into skeleton zombies, and the pilot parachutes out but is attacked by more skeleton zombies. It’s got a cool art style with very detailed bomber animation that they rotoscoped from footage of a 10-foot model plane they made.

“So Beautiful & So Dangerous” (written by Angus McKie from his comic) is about a meeting at the Pentagon interrupted by a UFO. It’s all men in the room except for this ridiculous sexy stenographer character Gloria (Alice Playten, LEGEND) who is wearing the glowing Loc-Nar as a necklace just below her (because this is the movie HEAVY METAL) prominently displayed cleavage…

…and it causes a doctor (Bumpass again) to attempt to rape her on the table but a tube sucks them into the flying saucer and blows her skirt up and the doctor turns out to be a robot and there’s another robot with John Candy’s voice and aliens with Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis (GROUNDHOG DAY)’s voices and the robot fucks the lady (consensually) and the aliens get high and crash the ship. See, “animation for adults” used to mean “animation for kids that they aren’t allowed to watch.”

The last and longest story, “Taarna,” is thankfully the best. Based on another Moebius story and at times closely mimicking his art style, it takes place in a world brought to war by the Loc-Nar hitting a mountain and causing it to erupt green lava. That inspires a cyborg guy to lead an attack on the city, which involves flying in on pterodactyls and just massacring the fuck out of everybody with every level of technology from axes to lasers. The scientists and statesmen and old guys in robes can’t fight back, but they have an ancient pact with a warrior race called Taarak. Con: they’re dead. Pro: maybe possibly according to rumor there is one left named Taarna.

So this robed figure who we gather is Taarna (no voice) is flying around on a bird thing in a really cool FX shot (some kind of rotoscoping) and then lands and steps out of the shadows and (record scratch) it’s a lady! Just kidding, obviously it’s a lady, because it’s HEAVY METAL, and obviously moments after she reveals herself she drops the robe and swims naked across a pool to kneel down in front of giant statue (of herself?) and pull out her costume – a black bikini with thigh-high boots and one red glove and shoulder pad. (Aeon Flux definitely considers her a fashion icon.) So, yes, she’s gonna wear clothes, but of course they’re gonna have her take her sweet time sexily putting each item on, with a sexy dissolve between each shot. The only thing missing is some Shannon-Tweed-movie-style saxophone, a major oversight in the otherwise great adventure score by Elmer fucking Bernstein (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN). Then Taarna holds up a sword and lightning strikes it and I honestly wonder if this inspired the powering up sequence in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Whether or not she’s the mother of He-Man, it should be said that she looks cool as fuck, and this segment has outstanding animation that really elevates the simple story.

Taarna does a little detective work first. She goes to a saloon where cyborg Devo are performing a song called “Through Being Cool.”

There’s this bit of song and some Black Sabbath, but “Taarna” puts more emphasis on the Bernstein score than the rock, which I think helps it to feel more cinematic than the others. Interestingly, Blue Öyster Cult were commissioned to make a song for this story, but the filmmakers decided not to use it because the lyrics were too literal about explaining the story. (The song is called “Vengeance (The Pact)” and they put it on their album Fire Of Unknown Origin.)

Anyway, at the bar she decapitates three dudes who hit on her and then gets a lead from the bartender without speaking a weird. Beat that, Obi Wan Kenobi. Later she gets caught in a net, gets strung up and whipped (naked, of course) and thrown in a pit (still naked of course), has a sword vs. sawblade-hand duel (clothed now), and punches the cyborg guy’s skull into green goo in front of like 150 of his guys. Beautiful. She’s gonna sacrifice herself by flying into the green volcano (a Taarnakian’s gotta do what a Taarnakian’s gotta do) and back in the wraparound story the little girl runs in terror as her house explodes (a model shot that they intended to rotoscope but didn’t have time but it’s okay it looks cool anyway) and then she turns into the new Taarna, the end, roll credits, more Devo.

A model named Carole Desbiens was rotoscoped as Taarna, but the drawing is much more stylized than in AMERICAN POP. It looks more like incredibly precise animation than tracing of live action. Taarna and her bird were the subject of the film’s poster, painted by Chris Achilleos, who also worked on the magazine and helped design the character for the movie. He’s connected to music in that he’d designed a controversial cover for Whitesnake’s Lovehunter. It shows a naked woman straddling a giant snake monster, so I think it was required by law that he work on HEAVY METAL a few years later.

I don’t think I can go as far as to say I’m a fan of HEAVY METAL. Like so many anthologies there’s the good one and a couple of okay ones and some kind of nothing ones and it ends up feeling like a clip show or, at best, a mix tape. Even the best one has its “let’s stop for a couple minutes to drool over giant boobs” parts, and the worst ones are full-on misogynistic. The most dimensional female character – well, I guess the most dimensional character – has no dialogue and wears a bikini and just flies around killing people.

I mean, I like that character. But you’d think there’d be more.

But setting that stuff aside, I do like the vibe of this movie – the fantasy worlds, the mix of robots and swords and alien steeds, the varied animation (from slightly home made looking to very slick and impressive), even the dated choices of rock songs to set it all to. And I know the best animation is specifically imitating Moebius, but it’s a rare thrill to see an animated movie drawn in a style unlike any other animated movie you’ve seen. So I appreciate that about it.

According to Wikipedia, HEAVY METAL “was a financial success, grossing over $20 million on a $9 million budget,” and the soundtrack made it to #12 on the Billboard charts, with the single for the theme song “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” by Don Felder reaching #5 on the “Mainstream Rock” chart. And then the movie had that reign as a legendary cult movie with occasional midnight showings at places that would also play THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW or something.

19 years later Eastman produced HEAVY METAL 2000, which was one story animated in a more normal style, centering on a sexy space warrior voiced by and modeled and named after his wife Julie Strain. I did not rewatch it, but I did review it when it came out (I apologize to anyone who reads that) and was not impressed at the time. Since the world had changed, they paid for the video rights to the soundtrack upfront, and now you can pay three bucks to Amazon at any time and watch it complete with its songs by MDFMK and Insane Clown Posse with Twiztid. Even if you couldn’t, I doubt there’d be any legends about it. In a way that’s progress.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021 at 11:27 am and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Fantasy/Swords, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Heavy Metal”

  1. I just wanted to thank you again for reviewing these weird-ass movies. Some of of my main interests are pre-2000 animation, 1970s magazine cartooning and generic-ass rock music, so I could ramble like never before in response to these writings, but I’m sort of more interested in just seeing the directions that the outlawvern crew take their replies in.

    I like this movie because it means Bernie Wrightston, Richard Corben and Moebius got paid, which is more than I can say for the unconscionable pilfering of Wally Wood’s work in WIZARDS.

    Another thing about these movies that both rules and stinks is they do not make rock music look very good! They are sort of what I imagine Vern’s imaginary ROCKIN’ would be like. Also, it’s kinda weird that GET CRAZY isn’t animated.

    I wish National Lampoon had been given the animated anthology film treatment instead, with lush and thoughtful adaptations of Jeffery Catherine Jones and MK Brown.

  2. I think this is the first time anybody besides me has brought up the great GET CRAZY, far and away my pick for best rock n’ roll movie of all time.

  3. I wanted to rewatch that one again anyway. It’s been something like 20 years since the last time. I remember at first being a bit unsure about what the fuck that was, but then was charmed by its shameless trash factor. Even by 80s standards this is extreme low brow entertainment, but it knows it and doesn’t give a shit.

    My favourite story back then was DEN, mostly thanks to John Candy’s narration. A live action version of it would be a great Vin Diesel vehicle IMO, that would maybe make him flex his comedic acting muscles a bit, since he would have to play a teenage nerd pretending to be brave warrior.

  4. Prediction; this is all leading to Vern revealing he’s discovered a 35mm print of Hanna-Barbera’s very own “rock n roll Fantasia” the unreleased (except two or three TV screenings in Latin America) ROCK ODYSSEEY.

    I remember first hearing about HEAVY METAL in Leonard Maltin’s OF MICE AND MAGIC, one of the core books about American Animation, the second edition published in 1987, which has a brief and gloomy chapter about the (then) state of and future of the medium. I watched some of it on YouTube when that was more of a wild west. It wasn’t quite my bag.

  5. Hmm, I recall watching this a few times at friends’ houses in the early 80s. We all loved the cocaine scene and when the nerdy kid first becomes Den and says something about his pecker. Is it possible that it was on VHS in Canada at the time?

  6. Don’t know about VHS, but it was on Canadian TV constantly, and a common screening at repertory theatres. It was always strange hearing that it was this coveted holy grail in other countries.

    I think we’re at the point in the backlash where it’s very slightly better than its reputation. I like the “Harry Canyon” and “Taarna” segments despite all the pulpy nonsense. I go back and forth on “Den” — it would probably be insufferable without John Candy’s voice acting.

  7. Pacman – I have read about that and want to see it, but no, I have not.

  8. Dang, I was hoping Vern was going to review THE PIXLEY-ASS FILE OF ONE OF THOSE TWO TV AIRINGS OF ROCK ODDESSY THAT WAS ON DAILYMOTION FOR A WHILE OR WHATEVER. Those character designs are something else, I feel like I watched a few indiscernible minutes of it at one point but as Future Vern could tell you, these rockin’, sci-fiin’ movies tend to run together a few weeks after you’ve watched them.

    Also I am real into the greatest hits of mainstream rock music and all, but dang, I sure wish some of the bands involved in these things had their cooler songs utilized. I actually like the showbiztasticly fake rock songs in HEY, GOOD LOOKIN’ more than I like most of the songs in these rock pictures, and, like, that’s coming from someone who loves to tell you the three good songs on every maligned record by a classic punk or new wave artist are or whatever. The unappreciated 80s Lou Reed song in the very Tashlin-ass GET CRAZY is a billion times better than “My Name is Mok”, from tomorrow’s selection.

    I wish high falutin’ cinema types would start saying “NWoFC” instead of “French New Wave”, the way those people with the many patches on their jacket call it “NWoBHM” instead of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. I tend to like the way metal-looking movie fans celebrate the art they enjoy more than the ones who wear fussy suits or whatever and are all slick and shit. Vern’s “PAULINE KAEL” shirt would look excellent if stitched amidst a plethora of Samson, Helloween, Girlschool, Raven and W.A.S.P. patches and a giant honkin’ Eddie backpatch.

    This movie should be called SOME PEOPLE ARE SO INTO A FEW SECONDS OF CARTOON BOOBS THAT THEY WON’T GET MAD IF YOU CALL SOMETHING HEAVY METAL AND THEN HAVE NOT-VERY-GOOD DEVO SONGS PLAYING IN IT INSTEAD OF ACTUAL HEAVY METAL. I should release a movie and call it something like BLUEGRASS, or like, PRE-WAR COUNTRY BLUES, or NOISE MUSIC or CHICAGO DRILL, and see if people don’t get ticked off by the Devo cover of, like, Don’t Be Cruel playing if there are a few seconds of stupid cartoon boobs here and there. People are stupid.

    I always thought a funny idea for a movie would be called THE ART GALLERY, and it would star a gang of well-meaning 80s party dudes who get trapped in a museum, maybe with like their queer lady friend who they don’t, like, make a plot point out of the sexuality of or whatever. Like kinda vaguely burn-out rocker types but very, very positive and socially-acceptable, there is a part at the beginning where you learn they have good manners and are considerate of others. Anyway so they like bring a keg and some joints and amps and instruments and shit to the art museum for some reason, but then they get locked in for some other reason. They’re all bummed out about having to wait in there overnight until they realize there are drawings and paintings of boobs everywhere, and for the rest of the movie it plays, like, Kix, Ratt and Jetboy songs while the camera zooms in on painted boobs and our hessian heroes high-five. They would be kind of like the hilariously friendly band from BEACHBALLS. The end of the movie is they learn about books of paintings and can’t believe it. (I know there is art of nude dudes too, but the joke of this movie is more how stupid it is when people are all happy about the art of boobs, and this movie would be a positivist satire of this truth.) Anyway, THE ART GALLERY, good idea for a movie if you ask me.

    I seem to remember reading that UCLA has footage from the weird unfinished earlier version of HEY, GOOD LOOKIN’ featuring The New York Dolls, which must be amazing.

  9. I don’t think I’ve seen this in its entirety, but the part I did see made me think, “what the fuck”. Then I thought “geez, dudes are embarrassing.”

  10. After caspering it yesterday, I had to my own surprise the same reaction that I had 20 years ago. I first really wanted to hate it in the beginning for several reasons, but then was won over by its shameless, yet heartfelt trashiness. That movie doesn’t give a shit about lowering the lowest low brow, but always in a “Hey, are you having fun?” way and never in an obnoxious “Are you squares offended yet, hahaha!?” shittiness. Sure, the movie is full of stuff that really hasn’t aged well and is now even more tasteless than it was 40 years ago, but it’s more interested in taking us on a fun (or “fun”) ride, than pushing buttons. If it succeeds, is up to the view, but even the segment with the robot and the secretary made me smile, because of how absurd it was to focus for 15 minutes on aliens doing drugs while a robot discusses his relationship with his human hook-up.

  11. To me (not an animation fan), this was just one of those psychedelic artifacts like THE WALL or EASY RIDER that stoners in the 90s had to pretend to like even though they’re boring as hell, but we were so starved for trippiness at the time that we just had to deal with it.

    I tried to get my hippie friends into actual straight-no-chaser weirdness in the form of B-horror and gonzo exploitation but they weren’t having it. That stuff doesn’t flatter their tastes the way they require. You need the patina of respectability that canon provides to interest a hippie. That’s why they all swore they were rebels and iconoclasts yet all liked the same five Rock & Roll Hall of Fame type bands. They all work at banks now.

  12. To me, these counterculture/big corporation crossovers have always been pretty fascinating. The poster proudly flaunts the name of Columbia Pictures in its tagline, yet I’m sure nobody at that company expected it to be a huge blockbuster for the ages, while at the same time they must have been sure that they tapped into a certain Zeitgeist, to justify the production and release under a major motion picture studio banner. And if you look at it, it’s underground enough to be called “underground”, yet still too much of a corporate sellout product to make the real underground scoff at it. Shit is complicated, but also that’s what makes its existence so interesting.

  13. Jimmy T. Murakami (Heavy Metal intro director) should have been working non-stop as a live-action director in the 1980s with Hollywood’s good and bad interest in Japan at the time. Ghost Warrior aka Swordkill is an obvious one he might have been able to elevate to a B+ picture if the industry only saw him as B movie director. I still don’t think Murakami should be listed online as an uncredited director on Humanoids from the Deep since James “Jimmy” Sbardellati (Deathstalker) took over directing (according to the DVD documentary) alongside Roger Corman when Barbara Peeters would not film the rape scenes by the creatures. Rankin-Bass (Stop-Motion Holiday Specials/Thundercats all animated in Japan) really could used him for their live-action Japanese co-production TV (The Last Dinosaur, The Bermuda Depths, and The Ivory Ape) and theatrical (The Bushido Blade) films. If he had worked more in live-action, Ninja Turtles 3 could have used him as well since former animation partner Fred Wolf was a major part in making TMNT popular and their company produced some of the later episodes in Ireland under Murakami’s supervision.

  14. Also, THE ART GALLERY is as much a satire on public-domain-sourced media as it is 80’s party and exploitation movies, if that makes sense.

    With very few exceptions, the metal/punk/new wave genres and indie/”elevated genre” comics have not been properly served by film, particularly animated film. There is a quietude that is almost lost in animating weird comic books, and there is a thrill that seems to be varnished over in the showbizizing of exciting rock music. This is strange, because music video has perfectly represented the beauty of rock and the potential of animation as a legitimate method of filmmaking about fifty billion times. Crap like HEAVY METAL is a prime example of the failures of the studio system, which is sort of a related topic to what Majestyk was saying. This weird example of cross-corporate synergy that ended up with “Eh, let the Canadians make the actual movie, I can’t tell you what a fuckin’ headache it was dealin’ wit’ Don Felder’s damn lawyers all day.” in terms of actual production is a perfect example of why the studio system sucks.

    Also, I genuinely love a lot of the people who worked on Howling Metal Magazine itself and much of the source material, and I love SCTV, and I am easily entertained, but yeah, this really just sort of is PSSSST THIS HAS BOOBS: THE MOVIE (FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW THAT IS A REGULAR THING IN THE WORLD OTHERWISE). How a 1981 Joe Flaherty/Dan O’Bannon/Bernie Wrightston/Richard Corben/Devo/Stevie Nicks/Zal Yanovsky/Cheap Trick movie ended up being kind of stupid, boring and corny is beyond me.

    Cheap Trick: The Official Band of The Movies are sure the official band of this genre, also being involved in the production of the mousetactular rocker and ruler that Vern will be reviewing soon.

    It’s good that there isn’t some crass adaptation of Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ amazing Lampoon and Heavy Metal works sullying up the evocative feel of her comics, but I wish that she had an easier life and was more recognized during her lifetime. (Or now, for that matter.) The Studio is the best – that’s one of my own “Real Justice League”s, of a very select few. I hope that Jeffrey Catherine Jones and Bernie Wrightston are reunited in Inky Geniuses’ Heaven, where the brush hairs never fray and good and perfect movie adaptations of their works can be screened if they ever feel like watching them.

  15. Also, THE ART GALLERY is as much a satire on public-domain-sourced media as it is 80’s party and exploitation movies, if that makes sense.

    With very few exceptions, the metal/punk/new wave genres and indie/”elevated genre” comics have not been properly served by film, particularly animated film. There is a quietude that is almost lost in animating weird comic books, and there is a thrill that seems to be varnished over in the showbizizing of exciting rock music. This is strange, because music video has perfectly represented the beauty of rock and the potential of animation as a legitimate method of filmmaking about fifty billion times. Crap like HEAVY METAL is a prime example of the failures of the studio system, which is sort of a related topic to what Majestyk was saying. This weird example of cross-corporate synergy that ended up with “Eh, let the Canadians make the actual movie, I can’t tell you what a fuckin’ headache it was dealin’ wit’ Don Felder’s damn lawyers all day.” in terms of actual production is a perfect example of why the studio system sucks.

    Also, I genuinely love a lot of the people who worked on Howling Metal Magazine itself and much of the source material, and I love SCTV, and I am easily entertained, but yeah, this really just sort of is PSSSST THIS HAS BOOBS: THE MOVIE (FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW THAT IS A REGULAR THING IN THE WORLD OTHERWISE). How a 1981 Joe Flaherty/Dan O’Bannon/Bernie Wrightston/Richard Corben/Devo/Stevie Nicks/Zal Yanovsky/B.Ö.C./Cheap Trick movie ended up being kind of stupid, boring and corny is beyond me.

    Cheap Trick: The Official Band of The Movies are sure the official band of this genre, also being involved in the production of the mousetactular rocker and ruler that Vern will be reviewing soon.

    It’s good that there isn’t some crass adaptation of Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ amazing Lampoon and Heavy Metal works sullying up the evocative feel of her comics, but I wish that she had an easier life and was more recognized during her lifetime. (Or now, for that matter.) The Studio is the best – that’s one of my own “Real Justice League”s, of a very select few. I hope that Jeffrey Catherine Jones and Bernie Wrightston are reunited in Inky Geniuses’ Heaven, where the brush hairs never fray and good and perfect movie adaptations of their works can be screened if they ever feel like watching them.

  16. Republican Cloth Coat

    March 4th, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    I can recall seeing this in the later 80’s. Maybe it was cut for Night Flight on USA? The highlight would be John Candy saying “I couldn’t believe it! I was getting dorked twice in the same day!” Hilarious, but, as you said, underwhelming.

  17. I like Vern’s duology of reviews for American Pop and Heavy Metal. If he’s got any more in the chamber, like Fire and Ice maybe, I’m all in.

    But as a movie, man I hate Heavy Metal. Admittedly, when I finally saw it I was too old. I was born in 73, so I was right in that sweet spot of this thing being sinful contraband when I was in my juvenile years, which made me want to watch it. I had a younger brother who saw it at a friend’s house and cried when he got home because he was freaked out by the casual violence and moral indifference of it (I’m paraphrasing his description, obviously). Cut to years later, I’m in a strange city, newly in law school looking for a movie to rent on a Saturday night and what’s that there? Hey, I’ll finally see Heavy Metal! Jee-Zuss I couldn’t believe how bad it was. Again, if I had hit it younger maybe I’d have a nostalgic soft spot, but that’s not how it crumbled. Super weird that this was an Ivan Reitner production, btw. He better hope this doesn’t draw too much retro attention or he might get cancelled.

  18. I had an older brother who saw it upon release, and he was savvy enough to know garbage when he saw it. But his negative recommendation in no way deterred young Johnny U from wanting to see that movie, especially when said bro acknowledged that there were indeed bare breasts. Thankfully, I never did see it — at least not until i caught enough bits and pieces on cable to confirm that it was a steaming pile. Even as a wee lad, though, my head spun at Sammy Hagar laying claim to heavy metal. I’m no metal head, and I wasn’t one in 1981 either, but c’mon, Sammy, you weren’t fooling anyone!

  19. Saw this one on the big screen, too. It was basically the culmination of the cultural zeitgeist of the time: Stoners + D&D + Music + Boobs = Heavy Metal. It didn’t need to be much more than that, since animation aimed not at kids was still an iffy proposition. But if you get a wide enough swath of music (DEVO and Cheap Trick? And BOC???), throw in bawdy, drug-related humor, D&D monsters and, yes, boobs, then you were at least going to make your budget back.

    What can I say? It was a weird era. The ’70s weren’t quite dead yet, and still had enough juice to squeeze out one last Summer of freaky weirdness. A year later and Valley Girl and Fast Times at Ridgemont High would take over the screens and the ’80s would be in full force.

  20. Vern, do you intend to review the METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES tv show? Not that it’s great or anything but there’s a couple of episodes with various combinations of Scott Adkins/MJW/Darren Shahlavi. Also, Rutger Hauer and David Belle.

  21. It won’t be part of this series (it doesn’t have rock songs in it, does it?) but I should definitely get on that, despite the mixed things I’ve always heard.

  22. Adkins Undisputed

    March 5th, 2021 at 10:48 am

    I may be biased (I am) but Adkins episodes of Metal Hurlant are both a ton of fun

  23. I don’t remember any rock songs in METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES, but I guess you could headbang/air guitar to the opening theme.
    The quality varies between “pretty dumb” and “dumb but fun”, the twists are silly and/or predictable, but I have a soft spot for it. I like that it’s kind of all over the place, one episode will have space gladiators and then it will be about the wild westor a 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE type of story or killing young Hitler or unfreezing Walt Disney in the distant future, and I like that it stars martial arts dudes, parkour dudes, the horny idiot from the French version of “Joe Millionaire”, but also Dominique Pinon and Eriq Ebouaney and Rutger Hauer and Michael Biehn. Also, Kelly Brook as a space bounty hunter. It’s probably wrong but I have a soft spot for Kelly Brook as a space bounty hunter.

  24. And then the movie had that reign as a legendary cult movie with occasional midnight showings at places that would also play THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW or something.

    At least in my neck of the woods in 1987-1988, HEAVY METAL was a more-than-occasional midnight movie. An AMCplex, of all places, in a mall a not-far-drive for me and my high school friends, had both HM and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE show as midnight offerings Fridays and Saturdays. (Friends who went to see one of those movies often ran into other friends there to see the other.)

    It popped up enough times on cable (HBO and Cinemax specifically) that the first time I saw it as an impressionable mid-80s teen was by accident, tuning in by chance at the start of the B-17 sequence. I’d read about it and knew it by reputation but it was only looking at TV Guide that I realized, huh, I was watching HEAVY METAL.

    I recall a night a few years later, in ’90, ’91 when starting at midnight Cinemax ran A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and then HEAVY METAL, and I had a few friends who set their VCRs to get both (I set mine on super-long-play to get Cammell & Roeg’s PERFORMANCE after – that tape was supercharged with cultish energies).

    It was never a lost movie, per se (and I know you’re not making that argument) – I think part of the cult mystique around it happened because it was available enough to generate solid word-of-mouth notoriety.

  25. I fondly remember seeing this upon its brief 1996 rerelease in theaters at a mainstream theater in downtown Portland. A couple of leather clad dudes down in front were brazenly cracking beers and smoking pot throughout! I remain impressed that they didn’t get thrown out. Closest I’ve come to the 42nd street grindhouses that I’ve read about….

  26. Where I live they STILL do Rocky Horror midnight shows, I think every weekend (not right now of course but in The Before Times). A few years back I was driving through the marking lot of the old timey theatre and was like what the hell is going on here, a bunch of teens dressed up…then I realized what the deal was. Can’t believe it’s still going!

    Interesting about this movie what’s people’s favorite stories. Weirdly the consensus here seems to be different than I always thought, with my buddies and in general. Den is good enough but the last story, I thought no one really cared for it…too long and just straightforward so it’s kinda dull. Me, I like the first story best (the film noir one) and I always thought everyone’s fav was the B-52. That one’s mine.

    I never cared for this movie a whole lot overall though. It’s okay, perfectly fine.

  27. The soundtrack for this was very cool. My sophomore year in college (1983) I had a roommate who had the vinyl and I dubbed a cassette off his copy. Good thing I did as this took forever and a day to hit CD. My suspicion at the time was that this was an early case of music clearance issues and they had to get new permission from all the artists involved to re-release in the new format.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>