Saturday, 24 May 2014

Ani-MAY-tion Month: Heavy Metal (1981)

An interesting, quirky, sci-fi anthology movie, Heavy Metal, with its gratuitous nudity, wish fulfilment moments and title-appropriate soundtrack, is pretty much designed for teenage boys. That's not to say that it's a bad film, but it does seem to fill many sequences by going for easy options and rather juvenile moments.

The stories in this movie are all connected by a deadly, glowing orb. The orb has intelligence, and also the ability to voice its thoughts, and the framing device of the movie is the orb relating some cautionary tales to a scared young girl. The stories all tend to show how the orb affects those it comes into contact with, for better or for worse, and violence occurs frequently.

Mostly based on material from a long-running magazine of the same name, Heavy Metal is easy to enjoy, even if it's not so easy to love. The stories often have a nice, old-fashioned feel to them, they're all pulp pleasures taking place in different environments, and sometimes developing interesting mythologies in the limited time they have. Screenwriters Daniel Goldber and Len Blum have a great selection of stories to work with, including some written by the great Dan O'Bannon, and they manage to keep the tone consistent while hopping from one story to the next, mainly by populating the tales with a mix of robots, space travellers and topless women.

Director Gerald Potterton keeps everything moving along nicely, helped by a voice cast that unexpectedly includes John Candy, Eugene Levy, John Vernon and Harold Ramis, among others, and it never quite outstays its welcome (running at just under 90 minutes), although it comes close during the last section.

And then there's the soundtrack, which caused the film to be unavailable for a number of years due to problems with the music licensing, apparently. The bands/artists getting to invade your ears include the following: Blue Oyster Cult, Stevie Nicks, Journey, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, and more. Okay, none of the songs will appear on any greatest hits album, but they're an extra part of the appeal to the target demographic.

It's not a great film, and the love that some people have for it surprises me, but it's enjoyable enough. And has plenty of those robots, space travellers, and topless women to keep me happy. Which may just be yet another sign of my struggle to keep wearing the disguise of a mature adult.



  1. HEAVY METAL was among that buncha 80's animated movies such as "American Pop" and "Rock & Rule" that were promoted more for their soundtracks than anything else. I've always had a suspicion that "The Fifth Element" is a sneaky unofficial sequel/remake of the "Harry Canyon" segment.

    1. I've not seen any of the others, Derrick. I think Heavy Metal was, to my knowledge, the only one that seemed to develop a bigger following outside of America/Canada. Absolutely agree about The Fifth Element though. It's hard not to see the connective tissue.