A Retrospective on the 1981 Heavy Metal Movieon March 10, 2011 at 12:28 am
If you are a fan of Heavy Metal, you are familiar with the 1981 animated movie. This movie to me is one of the most prolific pieces of animated film ever made. It has inspired me from day one and given me hope that I could make my dreams come to life. Without Heavy metal, the ultimate cult classic–Gates my comic and Heavy Metal’s first online comic, would not have existed.
I spent the last couple of days talking with Kevin Eastman about how much we loved the movie and how influential it was to us in our art.
And it seems that many of you may only know Heavy Metal the movie.
Without a doubt, Heavy Metal represents one of my great teenage film memories. Before the internet gave the world free porn Heavy Metal was very edgy. It was even hard to get a hold of back in the day. Though it may be difficult to see now but Heavy Metal was way ahead of the times. As a young teen, Heavy Metal was everything a kid my age wanted to see and experience – sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, violence, defiance of authority, and hot naked chicks! Heavy Metal is a very fun series of somewhat interrelated vignettes about the journey an evil sentient green orb, called the Loc-Nar.
It was a groundbreaking piece of animation that raised one hand high of flying “devil horns” and the other with a big middle finger to censorship and the moral garbage being fed down the throat of American society. However, Heavy Metal is actually a Canadian film from executive producer Leonard Mogel, the publisher of Heavy Metal magazine at the time. With Ivan Reitman producing and Gerald Potterton directing, they wanted it to resemble the magazine. And so the movie was expedited by having several animation houses working simultaneously on different segments–producing different styles of art.
The film uses the rotoscoping technique of animation in several shots made famous by Ralph Bakshi in the 1970’s and Disney prior to that. This process consists of shooting models and actors, then tracing the shot onto film and drawing over it to be used for animation. Taarna the Taarakian was rotoscoped, using Toronto model Carole Desbiens as a model for the animated warrior goddess. Heavy Metal is an epic anthology of various science fiction, horror and fantasy stories adapted from the magazine as well as some new, original stories in the same spirit. Heavy Metal is loaded with graphic violence, nudity, sexuality and an ass kicking soundtrack. Everything we love.
The soundtrack was released on LP in 1981 with the release of the movie but for legal reasons, was not released on CD until 1995.
Here’s a cool tidbit I found on Wikipedia: Blue Öyster Cult wrote and recorded a song called “Vengeance (The Pact)” for the movie, but the producers declined to use the song because the lyrics provided a capsulized summary of the “Taarna” vignette. That blew me away. I found a version of it on Youtube.com
But “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” was used instead. And what a damn good song it is. One of my favorites on the soundtrack. Also, though used in the film, the songs “Through Being Cool” by Devo & “E5150” by Black Sabbath were not included in the released soundtrack album for some reason. Strangely enough, the legal difficulties surrounding the use of some of the songs in the movie delayed its release to video for many years. All me friends and I had was a bootlegged copy thanks to lifelong pal Justin Smith. Apparently, rights negotiations took over 15 years to resolve, and the official home video release did not debut until 1996 because the use of the songs was limited to the theatrical release and soundtracks only, and didn’t extend to the video/DVD release of the film.
It was freshly released on Blu-Ray recently, marking the 30th anniversary of its release. It’s amazing to think that it was really thirty years ago. I was one of those kids that loved comics and tried to grab Heavy Metal anytime I could. But in a small town in the middle of New York, it was hard to find all the time. When I was a teenager I used to hide out in my room drawing and watching Heavy Metal. My father used to yell at me every time I watched it, “turn that shit down!” But I do remember one night after I was out partying with my friends when I was in high school, my dad was up late sitting on the couch, drinking a Budweiser, watching Heavy Metal. I reminded him that this was the “shit” he always told me to turn down. But we watched it together and I just sat there half drunk and stoned, blathering on about how this is what I wanted to do when I grew up, I wanted to make movies like this. He told me I could and I should and that the only thing that could hold me back was myself. Man was he right.
I remember loving the fact that John Candy was heard throughout the entire thing. My favorite role he played was that of Den, the Richard Corben based hero who is able to refuse the power of the Loc-Nar and is one of the very few in the movie who triumphs over it’s evil power. Other recognizable voices include fellow comedians, Harold Ramis and Eugene Levy.
It’s 0ne of my favorite movies ever. I draw a lot of inspiration from the Heavy Metal movie and have since the day I saw it. Den in particular has been very inspirational to me. Since I was a child I was obsessed with animal/human hybrid creatures from Planet of the Apes to the Island of Dr. Moreau to Mos Eisley in Star Wars (the original version not George Lucas’ 1990’s re-edit.) So the Den segment to me was awesome. I loved Richard Corben’s work and when I did a little research about Den, I found out that Den’s name is actually—an acronym, and stands for David Ellis Norman. Also, the Loc-Nar itself comes from the Den graphic novels, although in the comics it was not round but oblong, and did not speak with the voice of an angry black man. And this film would actually mark the second time that Richard Corben’s Den character was depicted in animation form. The first time was in 1968 with his self-produced animated short Neverwhere that I actually found on Youtube. Check it out.
Many Corben purists claim that the whole point of this character is that his ‘dork’ SHOULD be hanging out, as in the original Corben comics. In the comics Den was hung like a horse, kicked monster and wizard ass and banged hot chicks–every fifteen year old boy’s wet dream.
This segment had some great quotes:
Den: “There was no way I was gonna walk around this place with my dork hanging out!”
Den: [as the Queen presents her big boobs to him as she seduces him] Wow, 18 years of nothing, and now twice in one day ! What a place!
Den: Whoever these assholes were, they sure picked a bad time to show up.
I love the gay little wizard Ard and my friend Dave and I would play the part over and over again when he says, “stupid bitch get away from me!”
Artistically Den was pretty cool but overall was kind of inconsistent. The way he kind of morphed a little bit in his look, bugged me aesthetically but I was able to forgive it.
MY FAVORITE SEGMENTS:
B-17 was based on original story by Dan O’Bannon, director of Return of the Living Dead and other horror/sci-fi movies. It reminded me of a very Bernie Wrightson like style of art, (However Wrightson actually wrote the goofy story, Captain Stern). This is such a cool segment using the rotoscoped World War II B-17 bomber nicknamed the “Pacific Pearl”. The poor plane makes a difficult bombing run with heavy damage and casualties and as it limps home. When the Loc-Nar rams itself into the plane and raises the dead crew members as zombies, the co-pilot is killed and the pilot – who barely escapes in time, lands on an island populated by zombified airmen who had crashed there long ago. It was kind of like the Bermuda Triangle further vilified by the Loc-Nar. The zombies were awesome and scary just like they should be.
But Taarna is amazing too. The original story to this segment was written by Daniel Goldberg & Len Blum and inspired by Moebius’ Arzach stories. The Loc-Nar crashes into a volcano, changing a tribe of evil humans into mutated barbarians who ravage a peaceful city. One of my favorite scenes in an animated film is the transition from the boy shot by arrows, morphing into a pile of junk and some kind of futuristic plow.
But the evil green mutants sure get what’s coming to them when the elders desperately try to summon the last of a warrior race, the Taarakians. Taarna, a strong, beautiful warrior goddess, arrives too late to stop the massacre and follows the pact to to avenge the city. Her search leads to the barbarians’ stronghold, where she is captured, tortured and left for dead. But with the help of her annoying yet very brave and heroic bird like steed, she escapes and confronts the barbarian leader. Though wounded, she kicks his ass and kills him with his own saw hand. With Taarna readying her final attack on the Loc-Nar, it pleads to her not to “sacrifice” herself but she does not relent and her sacrifice of herself destroys the Loc-Nar–and a new Taarakian is born from her ashes!
It’s a hot piece of animation. And Taarna is still one of the toughest bitches to ever hit the big screen to this day. And it features three awesome songs that went perfectly with the animation, “The Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath and “Through Being Cool” by Devo.
Here’s a really cool behind the scenese video about Taarna:
Though I do love B-17 and Taarna artistically some of my favorite one liners and goofiness were from the first segment of Harry Canyon the unfazed cab driver in dystopian New York city. I love the way he said, “stupid asshole.” But this was my favorite quote form Harry, “Sucker play or not, I must have turned her on somethin’ fierce. I mean, this dame was goin’ for broke. Maybe it was her first time with a New Yorker, I dunno. Anyway, nothing beats good old American know-how. And I was givin’ this broad the Stars And Stripes For Ever.”
So tell me.
• What is your favorite segement in the Heavy Metal Movie?
• What is your favorite quote from the movie?
• What is your favorite song on the soundtrack?
inquiring minds want to know!
DEATH! DEATH TO THOSE WHO OPPOSE US!