Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heavy Metal (1981)

Title: Heavy Metal (1981)

Director: Gerald Potterton

Writers: Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum, Dan O’Bannon, Richard Corben, Bernie Wrightson, Angus McKie, Jean Giraud


Heavy Metal is an animated film based on the long standing sci-fi/fantasy art magazine of the same name. For those of you who don’t know what Heavy Metal magazine is all about, well, basically, it’s a monthly magazine that showcases fantasy and sci-fi art from all over the world. Artists from everywhere submit their short stories and they get printed on the legendary magazine. It’s an amalgamation of some of the best and worst art you will ever see. This months issue might be awesome, next months issue might suck. That’s how it goes with Heavy Metal magazine. But one thing is for sure, no matter how good or bad the artwork might be you will always be amazed and entertained! The stories will sometimes be so diametrically opposed that its interesting to jump from a science fiction tale to a fantasy tale, and sometimes even a horror one. It's a magazine aimed at adults, the ladies in the stories always wear the skimpiest dresses, and sometimes, nothing at all. This is a magazine that has nudity, foul language and violence and for all these reasons, it's a magazine that is treasured by lovers of science fiction and fantasy art across the world. And its still running strong! So this movie came out in 1981, when animation was mostly something strictly for kids.

Keeping true to the magazine format, the film is an anthology film. The wrap around story is about this astronaut who one day comes home; after flying around the cosmos in his 1960 Corvette. He lands his car and walks home, were he is greeted by his daughter. He says he has something to show her! When he opens the suit case we see that he has found a strange green orb that glows! Immediately, the orb melts the girl’s father into a puddle of goo. Then the orb introduces itself as “the sum of all evils” and proceeds to let the girl see how it has affected different worlds and different civilizations. As the girl looks into the orbs green glow, the different stories in the film begin to unfold. These are the six different stories:


This story is about a taxi driver who lives in a futuristic city filled with flying cars and numerous sky scrapers. On a particularly sucky day, a fare comes into his cab running away from some gangsters. He soon discovers that this beautiful fare is hiding the green orb from the gangsters who will stop at nothing to get it! The interesting thing about this one is that as I looked I it, I realized where the filmmakers behind The Fifth Element got their inspiration. They saw Heavy Metal and said: lets change that a bit and make it into a movie! And they did. A fantastic film that I still love to this day. But it originally came from this story. Lets count the similarities shall we?

1- Pissed Off Cab Driver who does voice over narration? Check!

2- A beautiful girl running from somebody gets into his cab? Check!

3- A chase sequence through a futuristic landscape? Check!

4- Landscape filled with sky scrapers and flying cars? Check!

5- Cab Driver takes the girl home and tries to make a move on her? Check!

6- The girl holds the secret to a powerful artifact? Check!

7- Cabby lives in a tight little apartment? Check!

8- Cabby gets mugged by a crazy guy with a gun at the door of his own home? Check!

9- Cabby takes the gun and puts it in a pile with all the other guns he has taken from muggers? Check!

Is that Bruce Willis carrying Leeloo Dallas?

So as you can see, the similarities between these two films are many! Hell, even the buildings are colored the same way in The Fifth Element! I never expected this movie to be so influential! But still, The Fifth Element doesn’t have a hardcore sex scene like the one we see on this story! This is something that Heavy Metal did a lot of; they had nudity galore through out the whole film. No matter what a story is about, odds are that a girl will most likely be naked at some point. Fantasy art has always had this element of nudity to it, so I guess the film is holding true to that.


This story is about a teenager who finds a round green meteorite. He doesn’t know it, but the meteorite is the mysterious green orb seen through out all of the stories in the film. He picks it up takes it home, and during a lightning storm, the green orb opens a portal to an alternate dimension! A world called Neverwhere. Interesting part is that when the boy transports himself to Neverwhere, his body mutates into that of some kind of superhero! When he gets to Neverwhere, the boy must save a beautiful virgin that is about to get sacrificed to some god by a group of religious nuts!


This one is about a crazy space captain called Lincoln F. Sternn who has to go to court because he is being prosecuted for various criminal charges. He says he is going to plead guilty because with his new witness, he has an “angle” that will help him walk away free. The witness is called upon the stand and as soon as the witness starts to speak he begins to transform into a huge hulking dude capable of smashing everything in his way! Will Captain Sternn get away with getting away? Captain Sternn was voiced by Eugene Levy!


This one I liked because it has a zombie angle to it, but that doesn’t surprise me since the story was written by Dan O’Bannon the guy who wrote and directed Return of the Living Dead. This particular story is about a group of soldiers returning home from the war when suddenly, their B-17 gets hit by the green glowing orb. Soon, the orb kills everyone on the plane, and then the dead soldiers turn into zombies!


This one is about a girl who gets sucked into an alien spaceship! While on the ship, she ends up having sex with a robot! And the crew of the ship are flying around their spaceship while being coked up out of their heads! This one was the weakest entry for me really, it kind of goes nowhere with its story, its very much a pointless story.


In this tale, the green orb crashes inside of a volcano transforming everyone in the land into horrible mutated creatures. Taarna, a beautiful and sexy warrior maiden comes into town to avenge the death of all the dead. She flies around in this dragon that looks like a featherless chicken or something trying to discover the mutated barbarians stronghold so she can make them pay.

The film has a very offbeat nature to it. It doesn’t follow any rules at all. Good guys end up being bad, there’s a lot of backstabbing. Many characters are selfish pricks and have no moral whatsoever. I mean, these guys were trying to do something entirely opposed to what you had come to expect from animation. So you could say that the guys behind this film were really breaking the rules by making an animated film for adults filled with nudity, violence and foul language. Three things you would never see on a saturday morning cartoon or Disney movie. They were breaking with these old stigmas that had been placed upon animation, so I applaud them for that.

Speaking of animation, it can sometimes be crude and raw. The kind of animation seen on this film is the traditional 2-D animation. Now we are used to all sorts of computer animation in films, and heck, even traditional animation like the one seen on this movie is dissappearing or only used for animating saturday morning cartoon shows. But back in the early 80s, this is where animation was. It was old school, but it got the job done. And theres something to be admired about people going through so much work, drawing each frame by hand in order to get this one done. Also, this film was done with the collaboration of a couple of animation studios, so it was a collaborative effort. Its probably why the art work might seem different with each passing story.

A word of warning, this movie has a lot of animated sex sequences! Characters indulge in sexual acts, and I have to admit the excessive nudity on this film makes it look like an immature film, like a teenagers wet dream. A film made for kids to oogle at breasts, even if they are animated. But I really think this film was just trying to break some rules and establish animation as a valid form of adult entertainment and not just something for The Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake to thrive in. Nowadays adult animation is all over the place and it’s understood that adults can enjoy animated stories just as much as a kid can. This new form of animation was firmly established thanks to the work done in films like Heavy Metal, Rock and Rule (1981) and a lot of the stuff that legendary animator Ralph Bakshi was doing with films like Fritz the Cat (1972) Heavy Traffic (1973) and Coonskin (1975). This film was followed by its sequel entitled Heavy Metal 2000, cant remember much about it, but Ill be giving it the old re-watch and reviewing it soon! Even more interesting is the fact that director David Fincher is very interested in making yet another Heavy Metal film! Many A-class directors want to direct a segment, so Im looking forward to the next Heavy Metal film. Animation has grown by leaps and bounds, so it should be interesting to see where this new Heavy Metal movie thats in the works will take us.  

Rating: 4 out of 5


Bryce Wilson said...

Great Write up. Believe it or not I never noticed The Fifth Element connection before.

Manuel said...

The cabbie story is my fav. The zombie plane one and the robot sex stories are my least. This film is fun to watch and hear; it has great songs from Cheap Trick and various cool bands. The 2000 version was a complete disaster.

J.D. said...

"It’s an amalgamation of some of the best and worst art you will ever see. This months issue might be awesome, next months issue might suck."

Heh! That's so true! They had a pretty schizo track record but, as you point out, the art was always pretty cool.

I still really dig this film and not to mention it had kick-ass soundtrack as well! Not too crazy about the sequel but I am curious to see what Fincher and co. do if they ever convince a studio to take a chance on an R rated animated film in 3D.

The Film Connoisseur said...

@Bryce: I noticed it right away cause Im a huge fan of The Fifth Element. Interesting thing is that Jean Giraud (one of the greatest conceptual artists to walk the face of the earth) also worked on this movie, and he also worked conceptualizing The Fifth Element.

@Manny: Yeah, the Cabby story ist he coolest one. Corben Dallas is a photo copy of that dude! Yeah, I failed to mention the soundtrack on my review, Im such a doofus! Its such an integral part of this film! Sammy Hagars in it too!

Manny, Ill be reviewing Heavy Metal 2000 soon, I saw it ages ago, but I cant quite remember what the hell it was about, so Im going to have to give it a re-watch.

@JD: Yeah, but its sooo worth it when an issue has a great artist in it. Whenever the art isnt great, i still enjoy it. Just to see what crazy stories people can come up with.

Im looking forward to the third Heavy Metal film because I read that some pretty talented individuals are interested in directing segments. People like Guillermo del Toro and Zack Snyder. Lets hope it materializes!

Mr. Fiendish said...

I'm just gonna pop up and say that this movie kicks ass.


The Film Connoisseur said...

It does in deed!

Drew said...

This is an awesome writeup and really takes me down memory lane. Strange as it sounds, I was first introduced to this movie back in the day when I was like 10 years old at a friends birthday party when his father put it on for us (!), and I remember being pretty mesmerized by it back then. That's been forever ago though, and I believe your great post here has inspired me to revisit this one sometime soon.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Hey Drew, glad you enjoyed the review! When you see this kind of animation, it feels kind of like a dinosaur, it looks so old school, so unpolished. But what the hay, the movie is about 25 years old!

Still, the entertainment value it has holds up very well. I stuck all the way to the end cause I was amused every step of the way.


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