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Heavy Metal (1981)
Director: Gerald Potterton

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

Produced by Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters), Heavy Metal is not so much about the music genre (even though the soundtrack features metal bands) as it is about the magazine (inspired by the French publication Metal Hurlant), which during the 1970s featured creators such as Berni Wrightson, Richard Corben and Chris Achilleos. Reitman cast several 'Second City' comedians in voice roles: talent included John Candy, Harold Ramis, and Eugene Levy.
   Released in 1981, Heavy Metal quickly became the principal feature at midnight movie screenings. Combining a one-two punch of imagination and masturbation, the movie is basically a set of tales tied together by a thin framework. The story is quite simple: a green globe claiming to be the "sum of all evil" shows a young woman how futile it is to stop it. Through vignettes, the orb demonstrates its power. In the closing tale, the little girl is found to be a descendent of a warrior race known as 'Defenders'. As the green orb is destroyed along with the present Defender, the young woman becomes the latest in the line of Defenders against evil.
   Although the vignettes are uneven, each has its own animation style (although sometimes the work appears hurried and choppy). After the awesome introduction in which a convertible is lowered out of a space shuttle and descends to an unnamed planet, the first vignette, Harry Canyon, concerns a cab driver's interaction with the green orb and the buxom daughter of the now-dead scientist who discovered it. It was this segment that inspired director Luc Besson (Nikita and Leon) to create The Fifth Element. Parents with children are warned that this sequence, like many others in the film, is sodden with nudity, sexual situations, and graphic violence.
   The next vignette, titled Den, concerns a young nerd who is transported to a planet known as 'Neverwhen', where he is transformed into the titular character, a muscle-head with a huge dork. Den battles the minions of the green orb while bedding several willing ladies. This story was inspired by the work of incredible artist Richard Corben.
   Another vignette, titled Captain Sternn, is hilarious, as nerdy-looking Hanover Fist must serve as a character witness for scumbag Sternn. This episode was inspired by the work of artist Berni Wrightson, who is perhaps most famous for his creation Swamp Thing.
   Other stories include the horror short B-17 (artist Mike Ploog's design) the stoner-drenched and robot-sex epic So Beautiful & So Dangerous (Neal Adams), and the Taarna closure, which incidentally is captured musically by Blue Oyster Cult on its album 'Fire Of Unknown Origin'.
   The film's soundtrack is excellent, with musical styles that range from heavy metal to hard rock to even contemporary. Heavy metal giants like Black Sabbath, the aforementioned BOC, Nazareth and hard rockers like Sammy Hagar, Cheap Trick and Trust mix with new wave bands such as Devo and contemporary stylists such as Stevie Nicks and Journey. The soundtrack album is presently available but somewhat difficult to find.
previously published in VideoVista #22
Related pages:
tZ  Space Music: A Top 10 List of Heavy Metal Albums with SF Themes
Heavy Metal on DVD
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