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Rock & Rule

Somehow HEAVY METAL was not Canada’s only rock-soundtrack-animated-fantasy-feature of the early ‘80s. ROCK & RULE (1983) combines the sci-fi/fantasy genre with a story about rock music, as the main characters are a band and the villain is (at least according to the opening text on the American version) a “legendary superocker.” The opening credits list all the bands on the soundtrack before the cast.

This was the first feature film from Toronto-based animation studio Nelvana Limited, who actually turned down an offer to animate HEAVY METAL because they’d been developing this since the late ‘70s. Previously they’d done TV specials like A Cosmic Christmas and The Devil and Daniel Mouse, but I know them for their weird, rubber animation on the Star Wars Holiday Special, which led to them doing the Ewoks and Droids cartoons.

ROCK & RULE takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where (again, according to the text in the American version, unexplained in the original) “The War was over” leaving only dogs, cats and rats alive, and “a long time ago” those evolved into “a new race of mutants.” In other words, it’s a “funny animal” cartoon, where humanoid animals rule the earth and either humans don’t exist or maybe they’re being milked on a dairy farm or something off camera.

The aforementioned superocker Mok (Don Francks, also in HEAVY METAL) – who gets to have both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop as his singing voice – has retired from music to spend more time with his computers “deciphering an ancient code which would unlock a doorway between this world and another dimension.” He’s practically given up looking for “a very special voice” with the exact right frequency to “bring [him] a powerful being from another die-mension” when he goes to talent night at Club Lars and sees Angel (Susan Roman, also also in HEAVY METAL), who has Debbie Harry as her singing voice, so he invites her to his mansion.

Angel’s sort of the Lauryn-Hill-in-the-Fugees of a band with her boyfriend/lead singer/guitarist/rat-person Omar, who was originally voiced by Greg Salata (GIRLS NITE OUT, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE), but he was redubbed with Paul Le Mat (AMERICAN GRAFFITI) in the American version. His singing voice is Robin Zander of Cheap Trick. He sits around acting jealous and making wise ass comments while Mok shows Angel around his mansion and tries to get her to sign a Faustian record contract. She turns him down since the rest of the band isn’t included but then I guess he kidnaps her or something because they’re at Carnegie Hall where she’s supposed to do a comeback concert with him which is actually the demon ritual or whatever but we see on the news that a power surge blew up Carnegie Hall?

Before that I want to say a bunch of stuff happens, but it feels more like nothing happens. There’s a weird disco scene set to “a special performance by Earth Wind & Fire” where the boys crawl around on the dance floor and funny stuff happens like there are nipples or a butt or a flasher. (This one is rated PG but occasionally seems to want in on that HEAVY METAL boner action.)

Catherine O’Hara (DICK TRACY) plays a character called “Aunt Edith” in one scene. She was still on SCTV at the time, but this was only her third movie, and the first of many voice acting roles.

If I had to choose a good scene for Mok, I would have to say it’s about an hour in when he finally sings a song, “My Name is Mok” by Lou Reed, because he struts around kinda like Bowie and there’s music video type imagery, so it seems to support that this super villain making evil speeches and stuff really did used to be a rock star, as they keep mentioning.

For the climax he has a giant concert at a power plant (no moment of silence for the lives lost at Carnegie Hall like a day ago) which involves Angel singing while bound up and Mok playing some kind of pipe organ thing that shoots lasers into a pentagram and summons the demon and then Angel and Omar sing her song and it sends the demon back. I guess, like Prince in PURPLE RAIN, Omar should’ve fuckin listened to the girl in the band whose song was obviously better than his. I read that in earlier drafts Mok turned Angel into a guitar and played her, which sounds more interesting, but not more interesting enough.

ROCK & RULE was directed by Nelvana co-founder Clive Smith, another YELLOW SUBMARINE animator (he also worked on the Beatles cartoon series). The screenplay is credited to Peter Sauder (Inspector Gadget, The Doodlebops) & John Halfpenny (one episode of Beetlejuice), story by Sauder & Patrick Loubert (125 ROOMS OF COMFORT), additional dialogue by Anna Bourque (Undercover Boss Canada), Greg Duffell (Intergalactic Thanksgiving), Larry Mollin (CHiPs, The New Gidget, WWE Smackdown), Deanne Stillman (Square Pegs) & David Young (Fraggle Rock, Mutant X). And look, animation – maybe even more than live action filmmaking – is a collaborative medium. Disney, Pixar and others have shown the value of teams of artists working together to pitch ideas and craft stories together. This seems like a different thing where you get that many people together to do their own parts of a vaguely defined half-premise that they either never finished fleshing out or completely lost track of.

In a retrospective interview in FPS Magazine, Smith said:

I don’t think you could do a film like that again today, economically or just practically. We were terribly impractical. That’s probably what was one of the great things about it. Today, you wouldn’t embark on anything like this until you’d written a script and you’d spent five years bouncing the script around from one person to another and we’re getting it rewritten over here and rewritten over there and thrown away and then reinvented.

Yeah, that would’ve been a shame if they’d had to write a good script!

I’m sorry to say that I had a really hard time getting through this movie. On a technical level it’s obvious that a ton of work went into it. But the only nominal appeal of its story is “oh weird, some kind of futuristic rock thing,” and its characters sure don’t make up for that. I have no idea why this famous rock star Mok has turned into an evil scientist who wants to summon a demon for unknown reasons. Angel gets by on looks and a good theme song, but Omar is immediately unlikable and not in an interesting way. All we know about these lead characters is that they “want everything,” meaning fame, and they hump in a car at the beginning, but otherwise have no signs of chemistry. So I’m really not invested in the drama, but the comedy parts are worse – stuff like Mok’s henchmen “the rollerskating Sniffer brothers Toad, Sleazy and Zip,” who are dumb and get mad and bonk each other and stuff. Do you get it?

American distributors MGM/UA were probly silly in thinking they needed to make up a logical explanation for why these Canadians would make a movie about humanoid rat musicians. But also I see where they were coming from. Instead of a fictional world that we get thrown into and have to explore, it seems like a fictional world where nothing makes any sense but everybody involved assumed it did. And I guess I should face that I am just prejudiced against this animal people conceit, whether they’re mutants or just following in a long tradition of cartooning.

It’s subjective, obviously, but personally I just can’t stand looking at these fucking characters. A bunch of them just look like normal cartoon rats from a TV cartoon I wouldn’t watch, but Omar straight up grosses me out. They try to make him look dreamy from the front…

…but then he turns his head and he fucking looks like this:

Who wants to look at that!? Okay, I know this animal-human-hybrid style of cartooning has become fetishized by a certain community, and I do not wish to pass judgment on them. But purely aesthetically I really, really do not enjoy looking at these lines that these people have drawn, and I believe drawing humans with snouts should be illegal. Keep in mind, the phrase “cartoon human with snout” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution.

Mok is a much more interesting design and intentionally gross, and I’m not sure what type of animal he’s supposed to be. And Angel looks good. It helps that you hear Debbie Harry’s songs coming out of her, but it’s more important that they hide her pointy ears under her hair and just give her a little cat nose that can usually pass for a nose shadow. Also she plays keytar, and that’s kinda hot I guess.

What can I say about this movie that’s positive? The backgrounds are good, very detailed water color paintings, multi-plane photography adding dimension sometimes. The city is huge and futuristic and always spookily dark.

Mok has a car that looks like a precursor to the animated Batmobile. There’s some good animation of machinery. The part where Omar is rocking out is well animated, I assume from live action reference. I like the shots of post-nuke New York with Patricia Cullen (THE CARE BEARS MOVIE)’s synth score. The animation of the monster at the end is cool.

And Debbie Harry’s song “Angel’s Song” / “Send Love Through” is good. If they didn’t play it so many times I don’t know if I would’ve made it to the end. And man, somebody really fucked up because they never even released a soundtrack, they only had a promotional cassette for critics and then some of the songs were released by the individual artists in box sets and stuff years later. In 1989 Harry reworked “Angel’s Song” into “Maybe for Sure.”


(I actually prefer the movie version, so give them that at least.)

The aforementioned round table interview with 10 of the filmmakers is very informative about where they were coming from and makes me feel kinda bad about disliking the movie. They saw themselves as young rebels, mostly in their early twenties, dedicated to the studio more than home life. And animator Larry Jacobs says, “We were products of the ’60s, and we were anti-establishment, and here was a chance for us to recreate an establishment type of medium. And ROCK & RULE, it was so cool, it was going to be an adult piece of animation that the public hadn’t seen yet.” Asked if Ralph Bakshi’s films were an inspiration to them, he says “I think the stuff that we’d seen from Bakshi’s up to that point was like, oh, we can do better than this. So it was an encouragement on that level.”

(Agree to disagree!)

Though ROCK & RULE was a financial disaster for Nelvana, they managed to survive thanks to TV work including Strawberry Shortcake and the live action The Edison Twins, and then made the much more successful motion picture THE CARE BEARS MOVIE (1985). They did animated sequences for THE THREE AMIGOS and BURGLAR, and the cartoons of Beetlejuice and, most crucially, Free Willy.

(Sorry. Long ago I decided it was important to make as many people as possible aware that there was once a FREE WILLY cartoon with a cyborg villain.)

Another of their live action productions was T and T starring Mr. T, so they can hold their heads high. These days they do Hotel Transylvania: The Series and Bubble Guppies, I guess. I don’t know if that means the establishment won, or what.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 5th, 2021 at 10:15 am and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Music, Reviews. 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.

25 Responses to “Rock & Rule”

  1. I can’t believe I’m the first commenter!

    Vern, as soon as you said you were going to explore the subgenre of 1980s animated rock movies I was excited because it meant you were going to review this cult classic.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like the movie but I’m glad you reviewed it. One thing I’ll say in it its defense is that I loved the gag where we know a character has died because the wheel on his roller skate stopped spinning. I also liked that Omar’s arrival at the end is blatantly framed as the closing act of a rock show, like this whole story was supposed to be TOMMY or something.

  2. I saw this on prime time Canadian TV as a little kid. Back then, any animated special was rare enough that it was an event. It didn’t entertain me, although I recognize I wasn’t in its target demo, and all that stuck is the novelty of cartoons using mild swears and a part where someone explains that “Evil spelled backwards is Live,” which blew my six-year-old mind.

  3. “…I believe drawing humans with snouts should be illegal. ”

    Tell that to Channing Tatum’s character in JUPITER ASCENDING! The ladies love him!

  4. I hadn’t heard of this movie until a bit more than 10 years ago, when my girlfriend mentioned how much she loved that movie as a kid. And coincidentally just a few months before that, it actually got a DVD release in Germany, so I blind bought it on her recommandation.

    It didn’t blew my mind or anything, but I also didn’t hate it. However, I was weirded out by how this movie really could never figure out its audience.

  5. All I remember from this movie on HBO as a kid was the main badguy has this like pet thing and he casually tosses it to its death and I was so fucking sad I turned the channel.

  6. Curt, I almost mentioned that roller skate part. I agree that it’s a good individual moment, but because it’s these characters whose purpose has been only terrible comedy and then all the sudden we’re supposed to be invested in one of them turning against his master in grief it feels completely unearned to me, and it feels like it never occurred to them that they should do anything to earn it.

    Sorry, though – I’m glad you get more out of it.

  7. I owned the comic book adaptation of this when I was a kid, which I believe had an article in the back about the making of it, including a lot of stuff about the soundtrack. Never seen the actual movie, though, and don’t really want to. The Iggy Pop song is now a bonus track on the reissue of his (not great) 1982 album Zombie Birdhouse.

  8. I’d actually been thinking about this movie recently because someone in a movie group on Facebook posted about it just yesterday. So for me it’s due for a rewatch. I have the DVD box set.

    Yeah it’s a messed-up movie, but to me that’s part of its charm. Today we’re used to carefully managed story arcs with the exact right amount of comic relief and sentimentality and so on. So I’m increasingly fascinated by the more loosey-goosey movies from an era when there seemed to be no agreed-upon rules.

    So I’m the exact opposite of the “I liked it as a horny teenager but now I realize it sucks” view that seems to be prevailing in the HEAVY METAL thread. I tried to watch HEAVY METAL on cable as a kid but the sexuality and sexism got to be too much for me and I turned it off. Then decades later I went to a revival screening of it, and by then I had the right nostalgia for that trashy 1970s/1980s album cover vibe, and despite its flaws I loved it.

  9. BTW, it’s weird how the thumbnails on the reviews for this, HEAVY METAL and AMERICA POP all look like they could be from the same movie.

  10. Kind of a failure, isn’t it? I appreciate the musical talent they were able to enlist, but if they’d gotten the same people about five years earlier I think the songs would have been more memorable.

    It’s amazing that they took Omar, an asshole from the film’s first minute who stays an asshole throughout, and made him the co-lead. I say co-lead advisedly — I think that guy in glasses who looks like a guinea pig with a man-bun might get more screen time — but that’s the role he’s filling in the narrative. It feels like the bits of the script with all the character development just never got animated. Major plot events go by in an eye-blink and I have to piece together what happened from expository dialogue three scenes later.

  11. I will say that in rockin’ and rulin’ defense, a lot of genre crap from this time makes zero sense if it involves drawings of any sort. Though I agree with Matthew B., I feel bad being angry at any of these things for a lack of novelistic storytelling or something. A more rockin’ FANTASIA would have been fine with me, which none of these things really are.

    You know what would have been good would have been if Robin Zander circa 1982 introduced a bunch of different shorts in different animator’s styles set to better songs than these ones, explaining cartoons to you with a big toothy smile and perfect feathered hair. I always forget how funny I used to find that Cheap Trick cover with the motorcycles, maybe he could vroom his ass onto screen with animated Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen. Maybe the Cow and Chicken dude who animated on HEAVY METAL coulda done that scene, I’d like to see his drawings of those two.

    Grim Natwick coulda animated a song from Lou Reed’s “The Blue Mask” or “Legendary Hearts”, Don Bluth coulda animation-directed some cool later Jimmy Destri song for the Blondie sequence or something, some unfilmable Astaire-ass “Here’s Looking At You”. I sure would like to see a heroic-yet-dippy, Bluth-designed drawing of smiling-ass Clem Burke. Even better, Bluth shoulda made a lushly animated, half-dollar, laserdisc-sourced Blondie arcade game! Debbie Harry rules, she has worked with Kermit, Cassavetes, Mike Chapman and Nelvana, not too shabby.

    The fact that there wasn’t some sort of “too wild and weird for MTV” touring roadshow Spike and Mike’s equivalent for music video is really too bad, I don’t think that cartoon boobs or rockingly-timed-animated-lasers or mousemen have to be signifiers of garbage. Something just a little more “Liquid Television” would have been nice to see, with the sort of scope and budget given to these movies where people swirl around with inaccurately-drawn rocketship guitars or whatever.

    I’m a fan of Grand Funk and Stevie Nicks, but to me Heavy Metal Magazine feels way more, I dunno, Robert Fripp.

    It is interesting to watch these artifacts from a time in which rock was both culturally omnipresent and totally misunderstood. Rock is not the main thing anymore, but people keep throwing money at it for no reason anyway, so hopefully we will see more elves flying around to Strange Magic or mice being angry at some fake-ass Lou Reed imitation of Tim Curry’s more-theatrical imitation of Lou Reed, or something. Despite all of my complaints, I hope that Lou watched this movie often. “MY name is Mok.”

    I wish this movie looked more like the Nelvana segment of The Star Wars Holiday Special. Good thing Peter Chung showed up and started making SCHIELE: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Aeon Flux is better than any of this crap.

  12. I always want to like this kind of thing but I never do. I look at the still frames and I think, “Wow, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, there’s no way a movie that looks like that could suck.” But then I see it and ugh. Nonstop tedium, animated at great time and expense at 24 frames a second. What a waste. And I think it all comes down to the script-writing process (or lack thereof) the producer or whatever was describing. Animation is made by animators, and when animators are given free range in the story department, they are automatically going to assume that the viewer is there for the quality of their animation, not the story. Which I believe is generally incorrect. Whether a film is live-action, hand-drawn, stop-motion, CGI, or fucking Kabuki theater, the average viewer is going to require the visuals to support story, not the other way around. I’m not saying the story needs to be some deep fuckin’ Pullitzer-worthy shit, but there needs to be SOMETHING there to hold onto, to care about, to be interested in the outcome of. This is not a rigid equation. The better the visuals, the less weight the story has to pull. DUMBO, for instance, is a masterpiece, even though it’s barely a story. But it hits the right emotional beats at just the right times to simulate the experience of having been told a story, and that works almost as well. But the animators of the period we’re discussing seem to see story as the unfortunate by-product of their awesome visuals, and then they’re surprised when nobody really connects to their work except other animation nerds. It’s like, I don’t know, avant-garde jazz or something. It is AMAZING that the players have worked so long and hard to develop their skills to the point where they can play music this technically complex, but unless you give me a recognizable melody to hold onto every now and then, I’m just gonna drift right the fuck off. It’s cool that you can play it at all but it’s not doing anything to connect to me as a listener.

    Most of you know that I am far from a Pixar fanatic, but I feel that the most important component of their success is not their visuals (which are great but not, to the layman, appreciably better than any of the other high end animation studios out there) but their stories, which get a lot of praise simply for not doing that bullshit “make it up as you go, who cares if it makes sense, look at these amazing painted backgrounds” crap that the Nelvana founder is talking about. Yes, you probably would not be allowed to make a movie that way anymore, and for once that’s a positive development. If animators want anyone to give a fuck about their years of hard work, they need someone around challenging them to create a story worthy of their visuals, one that will connect to the viewer’s soul and not just his eyeballs. Otherwise they might as well just sit in the dark doodling with their pencils in one hand and their dicks in the other.

  13. “Yeah, I’m into some pretty far-the-fuck-out-there shit. Ornette Coleman, Nelvana Cartoons.”

    Just kidding, Majestyk, except I’m not, because I agree with you. Besides those disparate forms of media both being nerd favorites and total room clearers, what you are saying is generally accurate in terms of potential for enjoyability. I like some very abstract forms of art, but what you are saying is true. Unfortunately, not everybody is Jack Kirby, Max Fleischer, John Coltrane or Albert Ayler. It is more of a chore searching out good comics, animation and experimental music than it is searching out good narrative movies or traditional songwriting, because the popular formats will draw the greatest number of practitioners. I am a cartoonist, and there are about zero good comic books and cartoons. It’s dumb.

    However, we are here in the Land of the DTV Action Appreciators, those who wake up in the morning saying their mantra, I Am Open To Hearing My Fellow Human Being Express Their View That That Some Full Moon Movies Are Good. Just because people who do scribblin’ for a livin’ are a bunch of no-story-thinkin’-of nerds doesn’t mean their sketchy asses aren’t worth the thankless and fun process of trying to appreciate.

    It is also strange that this Quadrilogy of Rocksicals are all garbage, because basically all good classic animated shorts are perfectly correlated structured-improvisations between cartoonists and musicians working together. The song may not be, I dunno, something awesome like Blondie’s Heart of Glass, Bob Seger’s Katmandu, Cheap Trick’s Hot Love, Earth Wind and Fire’s Shining Star or Lou Reed’s Shooting Star, but it could very well be something awesome like Olive Oyl’s A Clean Shaven Man or Popeye’s I’m The King of the Mardi Gras. Structured, plotless improvisation that accomplishes the same emotional beats as story (as you’ve wisely pointed out is an important format that can exist) can be found in animation, but yeah, it sure was not in this era, in this corner of the world. Maybe all the good people were busy trying to think of and then animate moments of interest around Richard Williams’ pain-in-the-keister love of checkerboards in perspective for these few years in the early 80s, and they couldn’t find anybody good to animate around John Candy cavortin’ around or Robin Zander the Mouse singing power ballads to Debbie Harry the Mouse.

    Also maybe this movie is somebody’s favorite thing ever, if so good for them. It would rule if somebody was really into power pop and had extremely refined taste in it, and you’d be like how’d you get into this sort of thing, and they’d be all, “uh, I learned about it because of this movie ROCK N RULE, yeah I know, it’s with, like, Robin Zander and Debbie Harry as cartoon mice, it’s embarrassing but I was really into it. So now years later I’m reissuing these glam and bubblegum publishing songwriter’s demos, and I have this bowl cut”, or whatever.

    I do think that a lot of it has to do with cartoons and shit being less socially accepted back then, and I think that the kids of tomorrow being educated by YouTube tutorials and general Nerd Normalization is going to make our current “golden age of animation” look like a total joke by comparison.

    Let’s just hope there’s still something vaguely resembling good rock music then. Here’s hoping cultural wavelengths align properly so that we can bask in a feature-length rockinmation in the future that both actually rocks and actually rules. What I am saying is that yes, I would like to see Richard Edson in a supporting role as the paternal lead in GUMBY MEETS JUDY JETSON, featuring music by Laurie Anderson.

  14. Some abstraction is great. When everything is laid out too cleanly, there isn’t much for the audience’s imagination to chew on. But total abstraction is an acquired taste that few have the inclination to acquire. Representational art is a part of the human animal’s DNA; abstract art is quite a bit less intuitive. (Early humans weren’t drawing squiggles on their cave walls meant to symbolize their emotional state, after all; they were drawing the real things their fellow cavemen/audience encountered every day) So it stands to reason that the more abstract you want to go, the smaller the audience you can expect your art to reach. And that’s great! Go ahead and make art for an audience of one (yourself) if that is your bliss. But if you want to spend millions of dollars and get a bunch of major record labels and superstar recording artists involved, like these animation studios did, chances are you harbor the ambition to achieve some level of mainstream acceptance. And that’s not gonna happen unless you deign to lower yourself to the purely representational.

    I mean, sometimes I can appreciate a purely aesthetic/sensory approach when it’s in the form I like to call “the lava lamp movie.” This is the type of film that strives to put you in a trance-like state with its sights and sounds, thus bypassing your logic functions. I have an entire shelf of Herzog, for instance. (In contrast, I don’t care for David Lynch, because he feints at making lava lamp movies but then teases you with just enough narrative to make you think it’s all going somewhere, only to pull the football away at the last minute. I think this approach is neither fish nor fowl and ends up detracting from both the traditional narrative elements AND the lava lamp elements. I rarelty get anything out of his work except a vague feeling of being toyed with.)

    Anyway, the last animated movie I watched is THE WOLF HOUSE, and that is just 75 minutes of nonstop swirling psychedlic stop-motion madness with the barest whisper of some kind of allegory holding it together. And I loved that…well, until they got to the last ten minutes, which is an endless song sung in Spanish by life-size puppets made out of masking tape, and I’ve fallen asleep at that part twice now. But I feel like that movie is more of an art installation than a narrative film and it’s not trying to convince anybody otherwise like ROCK & RULE here seems to be doing. I knew I was in for a lava lamp experience going in and it did not disappoint.

  15. We are all among so many great thinkers – thanks for that prompt, eloquent and interesting contribution, Mr. M. Far be it from me to say that Rock and Rule is anything less than total garbage, and also I’ll go one better and say I don’t even think it is vaguely lava lamp-y. I file this way more under “supposed to be exciting” and “supposed to make us feel some kind of gently-airbrushed version of rock emotions” than “supposed to be trippy and/or seem like it has a story”. Comics have so much trash like this, where it’s pathetically trying to act like it has a story going on. To me, if a nerd could consider something as having an internal logic and world then it claim to have a story and I won’t deny it that right. Yu Gi Oh, Image Comics, whatever. Sure, that’s a story, don’t mind me, I will be reading these F. Scott Fitzgerald books over here, and Carl Barks comics and watching these Howard Hawks movies. Sure SPACE BOOBS the anime is a story, I believe you when you say it has a wiki for the whole series, whatever you say.

    That is the best articulation of why someone is not a fan of David Lynch that I have ever heard, and of course I have heard plenty of those. I enjoy his work greatly, and in some ways find Herzog to be the more problematic filmmaker, mainly for the fact that David Lynch lets you sit down on the set and by all accounts truly appreciates people, not to gender things but particularly women, while meanwhile four of those five Kinskis should not have been made as they were consciously enabling the tyranny of a bad person, and also that HEART OF GLASS is some fucked up shit and that I think Bruno shouldn’t have been put in either of those movies, even though I love them both as works of art when I think about them in an abstract or recalling-of-before-they-started-bothering-me way. I love many Herzog’s movies, and consider LESSONS OF DARKNESS to be a movie that is frightening in a way no other movie is, a truly scary Lava Lamp movie. Lynch, for all of his love of abstraction, texture, sound and the fear of the correlation between man’s evil and the unknown, has never produced a work of art as powerful or articulate as LESSONS OF DARKNESS.

    Poems are more popular than novels written in the format of poetry for a reason. Animated features are generally very samey, with music that tends to skew towards the “this is not a genre of music any person actually enjoys, even when it is somebody famous who made rock music great” sound, and that is bafflingly weird because be it rock or otherwise, music is something truly excellent. I really agree with what you said earlier, when talking about it amongst things like THE WALL. It seems like some corporate bean-counter with a recent promotion’s idea of trippy shit for the kids, the sort of movie that cashes in on a vaguely-imaginary trend in the uncool and overwrought way. Give me CARNOSAUR or David Lynch reading the weather any day.

    The real 80s animated rock movies are like, the Tom Tom Club video, “Take on Me” and Chris Knox’s animated/handpainted music videos.

  16. Bruh, you’re reading my mind. LESSONS OF DARKNESS was my intro to Herzog (not counting INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, which I got dragged to by a ladyfriend and enjoyed despite not having a clue who this deadpan Bavarian fellow was) and still probably my favorite of his non-narrative features. In that same vein, I also recommend WILD BLUE YONDER and, for the full lava lamp experience, FATA MORGANA. No Kinksi-enabling required for entry on those. I definitely feel you on that one; decades removed from his works of so-called genius, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would enable Kinski’s madness and cruelty just for the few scant traces of talent the power-mad lunatic felt compelled to let dribble from his petulant asshole on any given film. I feel like it was a waste for any director except for Herzog to even cast him at all, since only Herzog had the patience, persistence, and strength of character to force Kinski to give an actual performance and not just some ego-stroking performance art bullshit that didn’t serve the film. I also feel that Kinski probably got up to more mischief on other productions where there wasn’t an equally insane, equally stubborn opposing force that he both respected and feared in the director’s chair. So in some ways Herzog was doing the film industry a service by quarantining the Kinski pestilence in farflung lands for months at a time.

  17. I still think the weirdest Klaus Kinski story came from Jess Franco, who said that during the shooting of JACK THE RIPPER, Kinski made sure that everybody was warm and comfy during the freezing cold night shoots, which included handing out blankets and serving coffee during breaks.

  18. Majestyk (and CJ, too!), you are excellent. I always tell Vern how good it is to be his reader – the same applies to you. Let me do some better thinkin’ about Werner Herzog. I learned about him somewhere around that time also, and owe a great deal of my ability to process and challenge myself with unusual art to him. Of course I love CHUCKY BLUE YONDER and saw it theatrically. WHAT HAVE YE is also a good one of that ilk. MORGANA I need to resee. The first one I saw was the mountain climbing documentary one. It was nice to learn to appreciate him when he was Anchor Bay and pretentious asshole’s fave, and not the beloved meme that he (rightfully; movie-fundingly) is. My unease with Kinski is part of being a major fan for a very long time. Lynch is way more of a pain in the ass including in the having less movies (and less good movies) department, but he is cool too, whatever. (I also love both the Beatles AND Rolling Stones, Run DMC AND LL, Munsters AND Adams Family, Adams Family Movie AND Adams Family Live Action, Sub-Zero AND Goro, etc, etc.)

    They have those PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE conventions up in Canada and they had those Danny Elfman shows with Catherine O’Hara singing – once the pandemic is through, they should have a big outdoorsy (or prestigiously-venued) ROCK & RULE/HEAVY METAL AND FRIENDS festival, where Robin Zander and Debbie Harry sing and Iggy plays Mok again to everyone’s delight. It would also be like those Live Action Pete and Pete shows they do, has Iggy Pop ever shown up to one of those? Anyway also the HEAVY METAL one would have, like, all the SCTV doing live reads of other Hurlant stories that weren’t filmed, maybe they can crossover with Julie Strain.

    It would be funny if they made F.A.K.K. 3 but then went back and made regular HEAVY METAL II, a more accurate adaptation, and then it was all confusing like with the HALLOWEEN franchise. Also it would be funny if there were maybe eight or eleven movies in this series, like Freddy or LAND BEFORE TIME or some shit, and then for no reason part 4 or something was live action. Also if there was a live-action series where Mok was nice and their friend, like on Nelvana BEETLEJUICE.

    PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, SHOCK TREATMENT, ROCK & RULE – all these Faustian rock operas have got me thinking. You know what would be good would be if an enterprising Canadian production company got together with their country’s proudest, crassest, ball-buyingest son Todd McFarlane along with, I don’t know who, Gordon Lightfoot for the Canadian-Lotteryingly funded SPAWN: THE MUSICAL. Also I would accept some sort of animated rock or stage musical of THE SONNET OF MEDIEVAL SPAWN, or possibly (and were there enough glitzy songs) I would accept one of those minor-league sports arena stage show things with the motorcycles. You could dress one up like a horse. Think about it up there, sincerely your friend in America.

  19. Hey since you guys mentioned it, you know what IS a kind of “Rock and Roll FANTASIA”? Sturgill Simpson’s SOUND AND FURY. A bunch of different Japanese animation studios doing little parts of an extremely loose post-apocalyptic rock opera, all set to the groovy not-quite-concept album by Sturgill Simpson that sounds like if Gorillaz were a psychaedellic southern rock band. It’s on Netflix and very much worth your time if you’d like to see a somewhat more successful version of this kind of thing.

  20. Thing is, Lynch DOES tell straightforward stories that go somewhere…just not told straightforwardly. I think if he did they wouldn’t quite work. And I love his more narrative stuff like Blue Velvet and less so, Wild at Heart. But I know what you guys mean. Still, I prefer that half and half approach for stuff that’s just a pure tone poem or whatnot. Lynch was a real trailblazer with what he was doing with sound.

    Incident at Loch Ness was great, but so much funnier if you know Herzog. The end where he’s like I’ll swim for it is SO in character for the real guy.

  21. I definitely liked Lessons of Darkness though.

  22. Thomas Caniglia

    March 12th, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Anything involving Lou Reed is automatically the funniest stuff to talk about because it can go into so many different directions, all of them way darker than they needed to be. Hell of a musician and real life Marvel Villain (personality of Namor). I was not an adult of music listening age or agency during the glitter rock years, so I am not able to make his inclusion in the glitter rock scene make any sense as to how that worked, other than hanging around with Bowie. Loaded and Transformer don’t feel very glittery to me either, but Sally Can’t Dance is a killer kick-ass album.

    For an awesome performance, check out the “Caroline Says I” portion of his Berlin Live concert.

    05 Lou Reed berlin live Caroline Says, Pt

    Lou Reed Berlin Live at St. Anns Warehouse Berlin: Live At St. Ann's Warehouse is the audio release of Reed's 2006 performances of his classic Berlin album ...

    Rock n’ Rule works for me better than the much later and unrelated Cool World did but they both seem to be in the same universe, even thought they are not.

    “My Name is Mok, Thanks a Lot”. Thankfully nothing about horse castration in that one.

  23. Not for nothing Vern but I’m looking forward to your review of Heavy Traffic. I love that movie.

  24. I haven’t seen it in years, but I just bought the soundtrack. It’s good!

  25. Shout Factory finally gave it the treatment it deserved on blu-ray.

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