The Great Vhs Collection Review #6: Heavy Metal (1981)
There was a point in time when adult animation, and animation in general, became experimental and bizarre. This was a time when Ralph Bakshi and rotoscope animation ruled the indie circles. Though that age is over its art remains, and one of these underground classics is Heavy Metal, the personification of the frase “sex,drugs,and rock&roll”.
Since this movie is an anthology (I have many of those in my collection) I will talk about each segment individually before giving my opinion on the movie as a whole.
The Wrap Around: In most anthologies there is a “wrap around segment” that is meant to tie all of the stories together, and this one is no exception. This segment involves an astronaut returning to earth and giving his daughter a glowing green orb as a present, only for the orb to come to life, melt the astronaut, and corner the girl. The orb (called the Loc-Nar) introduces itself as “the sum of all evils” and shows her how he (I think it’s a he) has influenced the universe throughout history (which are the stories). This segment probably has some of the most unique animation in the entire movie, with rotoscoping, modals, and traditional animation all playing a part. Other than that there is not much to it. It is mostly a vehicle to get from one story to another.
Harry Canyon: A cyberpunk film noir mix this film follows a taxi driver in a futuristic yet trashy New York City and his attempts to protect the daughter of a murdered museum curator from a mafia who wants the Loc-Nar. This is probably one of the slower segments in this movie, but slow does not necessarily mean bad. It is your classic noir but with a sci-fi twist, and fans of this genre, like me, will get a kick out of this one. Not to mention that it has one of the most stanley awesome laser weapons in sci-fi (you will know it when you see it).
Den: A sort of throwback to old pulp sci-fi books this story involves a boy who is sent to an alien world and transformed into a powerful superhero by the Loc-Nar. The problem is that this world is ruled by two insane siblings who both want the Loc-Nar for their own purposes, purposes that involve human sacrifice. This segment is one of the stronger ones, having many of those elements that can make a story bothe cheesy and entertaining. My only complaint is that the humor in this segment sometimes falls flat, it’s mostly just bad penus jokes, but other than that it is basically a pulp cover come to life.
Captain Sternn: In the style of a political cartoon this story involves a space captain accused of a variety of crimes (including rape and murder) who tries to bribe a key witness in his trial, unfortunately for him however the witness is mutated by the powers of the Loc-Nar and goes on a rampage. Serving as a bit of a comedic break from the other, far more serious segments this one is more of a slapstick chase through a spaceship, and that’s really it. It is short sweet and to the point and that’s all there is to it.
B-17: Probably my favorite segment, this story involves a B-17 bomber during WWII that is struck by the Loc-Nar after a battle and causes the dead crew members to rise as zombies. It’s a simple horror premise that works very well, especially with such a claustrophobic setting. The zombies themselves are also terrifying to look at and serve as great antagonists. My only complaint is that it’s too short, especially considering the segment that comes next.
So Beautiful & So Dangerous: A beautiful secretary is accidentally abducted by a group of stoner aliens who were trying to pick up a malfunctioning android. They can’t bring her back to Earth (as they already left by the time they found her) so they decide to take her with them, and along the way she falls in love with their robot. This is probably my least favorite segment out of this entire movie. It is basically 15 minutes of lame jokes and nothing happening until the robot and the woman have sex, that’s it. In fact the Loc-Nar itself bearly factors into this story so it makes you wonder why bother telling this story at all. I’m personally not a fan of this one and I usually skip it.
Taarna: The final segment involves an army mutated by the powers of the Loc-Nar destroying a peaceful civilization but not before they call upon the the last member of an ancient warrior race to avenge their deaths. This warrior is named Taarna and she is destined to end the Loc-Nar’s rain of terror. This segment is the selling point of this film even featuring Taarna on the poster, so you would expect it to be good and for the most part it is. The animation is especially on point and there are some moments without dialogue that just oozes with atmosfire. The only thing one should know is that the ending is a bit confusing so be warned.
One thing that is prevalent throughout the film is the music as I believe that this movie has one of the best film soundtracks of all time. It features Blue Oyster Cult, Donald Fagen, Stevie Nicks, and Journey all in the first segment. This is a must see for fans of classic rock and is readily available on DVD. Overall this film is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it, just get the kids out of the room.
Rating: The sum of all rockers