Heavy Metal (film)

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Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal (1981).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gerald Potterton
Produced by Leonard Mogel
Ivan Reitman
Screenplay by Daniel Goldberg
Len Blum
Story by Dan O'Bannon
Richard Corben
Juan Gimenez
Angus McKie
Thomas Warkentin
Bernie Wrightson
Starring Harvey Atkin
Jackie Burroughs
John Candy
Eugene Levy
Marilyn Lightstone
Harold Ramis
Richard Romanus
Alice Playten
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Various artists
Edited by Ian Llande ("Den")
Mick Manning ("Soft Landing")
Gerald Tripp ("Harry Canyon" and "B-17")
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • August 7, 1981 (1981-08-07)
Running time 90 minutes[1]
Country Canada
Language English
Budget US$9.3 million
Box office US$20,117,636[2][3]

Heavy Metal is a 1981 Canadian adult animated science fiction fantasy film directed by Gerald Potterton and produced by Ivan Reitman and Leonard Mogel, who also was the publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, the basis for the film. The screenplay was written by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum. The film was the sixth animated feature film to be presented in Dolby surround sound.

The film is an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from Heavy Metal magazine and original stories in the same spirit. Like the magazine, the film features a great deal of graphic violence, sexuality, and nudity. Its production was expedited by having several animation houses working simultaneously on different segments, including CinéGroupe and Atkinson Film-Arts.

A sequel titled Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Soft Landing[edit]

The film's title sequence story opens with a space shuttle flying in orbit over Earth. The bay doors open, releasing a Corvette. An astronaut seated in the Corvette then begins descending through Earth's atmosphere, landing in a desert canyon.

Crew
Music

Grimaldi[edit]

Leading directly from the title sequence, the film's framing story has the astronaut, Grimaldi, arriving at home where he is greeted by his daughter. He shows her something he brought back: a crystalline green sphere. When he opens the case, the orb rises out and melts the astronaut. It introduces itself to the terrified girl as "the sum of all evils". Looking into the orb, known as the Loc-Nar, the girl sees how it has influenced societies through time and space

Cast
Crew

Harry Canyon[edit]

In a dystopian New York City in the year 2031, cynical taxicab driver Harry Canyon narrates his day in film noir style, grumbling about his fares and occasional robbery attempts, which he thwarts with a disintegrator installed behind his seat. He stumbles into an incident where he rescues a girl from a gangster named Rudnick, who had murdered the girl's father. She tells him about her father's discovery: the Loc-Nar, an artifact over which people are killing each other. Harry takes the girl back to his apartment, where she climbs into his bed and has sex with him. The next day, one of his fares is Rudnick, who threatens Harry if he does not cooperate. The girl decides to sell the Loc-Nar to Rudnick and split the proceeds with Harry. He agrees to take her to the exchange, where Rudnick takes the Loc-Nar out of its isolation case and disintegrates. Meanwhile, the girl informs Harry that she's keeping the money for herself and pulls a gun on him. Harry is forced to use his disintegrator on her. He keeps the money and writes it up as a "two-day ride with one hell of a tip."

Cast
Crew
  • Pino Van Lamsweerde – Director
  • W.H. Stevens Jr. – Producer
  • Vic Atkinson – Producer
  • Daniel Goldberg – Writer
  • Len Blum – Writer
Music

Den[edit]

A nerdy teenager finds a "green meteorite" and puts it in his rock collection. During a lightning experiment, the orb hurls the boy into the world of Neverwhere, where he transforms into a naked, bald muscle man called Den an acronym for his earth name, David Ellis Norman. He witnesses a strange ritual, rescuing a nubile young woman who was about to be sacrificed to Uhluhtc. Reaching safety, she introduces herself as Katherine Wells from the British colony of Gibraltar. While she demonstrates her gratitude with sexual favors, they are interrupted by the minions of Ard, an immortal man who wants to obtain the Loc-Nar for himself. He orders Den to get the Loc-Nar from the Queen, who performed the ritual. Den agrees, and infiltrates the palace, but is promptly caught by the Queen, who offers leniency if he has sex with her. He complies, distracting the Queen while the raiding party steals the Loc-Nar. Den escapes and races back to rescue Katherine from Ard. Recreating the lightning incident that drew him to Neverwhere, he is able to banish Ard and the Queen. Refusing the opportunity to take the Loc-Nar for himself, Den rides with Katherine into the sunset, content to remain in Neverwhere.

Cast
Crew

Captain Sternn[edit]

On a space station, space captain Lincoln F. Sternn is on trial for numerous serious charges (and one moving violation) presented by the prosecutor. Pleading "not guilty" against the advice of his lawyer, Sternn explains that he expects to be acquitted because he bribed a witness, Hanover Fiste. Fiste takes the stand, but his perjury is subverted when the Loc-Nar, now the size of a marble, causes him to blurt out the truth about Sternn's evil deeds. Fiste rants with such fury that he changes into a muscled giant and chases Sternn throughout the station, breaking through bulkheads and wreaking havoc. Eventually, he corners Sternn, receives his promised payoff, and promptly shrinks back to his gangly original form. Sternn opens a trapdoor under Fiste, ejecting him into space. The Loc-Nar enters Earth's atmosphere with Fiste's flaming hand still clinging to it.

Cast
Crew
  • Julian Harris – Director
  • Paul Sebella – Director
  • Bernie Wrightson – Writer
Music

Neverwhere Land[edit]

Because of time constraints, a segment called "Neverwhere Land" was cut; in the film, it would have connected Captain Sternn to B-17.

The story follows the influence of the Loc-Nar upon the evolution of a planet, from the Loc-Nar landing in a body of water, influencing the rise of the industrial age, and a world war. This original story was created by Cornelius Cole III.

The original rough animatics are set to a loop of the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Time". The 1996 VHS release included this segment at the beginning of the tape. On the DVD release, this segment is included within the bonus features. In both released versions, the sequence is set to the music of "Passacaglia" (from Magnificat), composed and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki.

B-17[edit]

A World War II B-17 bomber nicknamed the "Pacific Pearl" makes a difficult bombing run with heavy damage and casualties. As the bomber limps home, the co-pilot goes back to check on the crew. Finding nothing but dead bodies, he notices the Loc-Nar trailing the plane. Informing the pilot, he heads back to the cockpit, when the Loc-Nar rams itself into the plane and reanimates the dead crew members as zombies. The co-pilot is killed, while the pilot parachutes away in time. He lands on an island where he finds a graveyard of airplanes from various times, along with the wrecked airplanes' zombified airmen.

Cast
  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Don Francks as Co-Pilot (Holden)
  • Zal Yanovsky as Navigator
  • George Touliatos as Pilot (Skip)
Crew
  • Barrie Nelson – Director
  • W.H. Stevens Jr. – Producer
  • Dan O'Bannon – Writer
Music

So Beautiful and So Dangerous[edit]

Dr. Anrak, a prominent scientist, arrives at the Pentagon for a meeting regarding mysterious mutations that are plaguing the United States. At the meeting, the doctor tries to dismiss the occurrences, but when he sees the Loc-Nar in the locket of Gloria, a beautiful buxom stenographer, he behaves erratically and attempts to sexually assault her. A colossal starship bursts through the roof and abducts the doctor and, by accident, Gloria. The ship's robot is irritated at Anrak, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but its mood changes when it sees Gloria. With the help of the ship's alien pilot and co-pilot, the robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and have "robot sex". Meanwhile, the pilots snort a massive amount of plutonian nyborg (a powdered substance resembling cocaine) before flying home, zoning out on the cosmos. Too intoxicated to fly straight, they crash while landing into a huge space station.

Cast
  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Rodger Bumpass as Dr. Anrak
  • John Candy as Robot
  • Joe Flaherty as General
  • Eugene Levy as Male Reporter / Edsel
  • Alice Playten as Gloria
  • Harold Ramis as Zeke
  • Patty Dworkin as Woman Reporter
  • Warren Munson as Senator
Crew
Music

Taarna[edit]

Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum; inspired by Moebius' Arzach stories.

The Loc-Nar, now the size of a giant meteor, crashes into a volcano, changing a tribe of human outcasts into mutated barbarians who ravage a peaceful city. The elders desperately try to summon the last of a warrior race, the Taarakians. Taarna, a strong, beautiful, Taarakian warrior maiden, arrives too late to stop the massacre and resolves to avenge the city. Her search leads to the barbarians' stronghold, where she is captured, tortured, and left for dead. With the help of her Taarakian mount, she escapes and confronts the barbarian leader. Though wounded, she defeats him. With Taarna readying her final attack on the Loc-Nar, it pleads to her mount not to sacrifice herself. She does not relent, and her self-sacrifice destroys the Loc-Nar.

Cast
  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Don Francks as Barbarian
  • August Schellenberg as Taarak
  • Zal Yanovsky as Barbarian
  • George Touliatos as Barbarian
  • Vlasta Vrána as Barbarian leader
  • Mavor Moore as Elder
  • Thor Bishopric as Boy
  • Len Doncheff as Barbarian
  • Cedric Smith as Bartender
  • Joseph Golland as Councilman
  • Charles Joliffe as Councilman
  • Ned Conlon as Councilman
Music
  • "E5150" by Black Sabbath is played at the beginning of the sequence. While is sounds like background, the track and The Mob Rules are played in the order the appear on the Mob Rules (album) LP.
  • "Vengeance (The Pact)" by Blue Öyster Cult is a telling of Taarna, and includes the pact that a Defender makes.

Epilogue[edit]

As the final story ends, the Loc-Nar terrorizing the girl is similarly destroyed, blowing the mansion to pieces. Taarna's mount, reborn, appears outside and the girl happily flies away on it. It is then revealed that Taarna's soul has been transferred across space and time to her. This is further signified by the change in hair color the girl now exhibits and the revelation of the Taarakian mark on her neck. Thus the girl is revealed to be the next Taarakian herself, destined to defend the universe from evil for another generation.

Cast
  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as voice of the Loc-Nar

Production[edit]

Animation[edit]

The film uses the rotoscoping technique of animation in several shots.[4] This process consists of shooting models and actors, then tracing the shot onto film for animation purposes.[4] The B-17 bomber was shot using a 10-foot replica, which was then animated. Additionally, Taarna the Taarakian was rotoscoped, using Toronto model Carole Desbiens as a model for the animated character. The shot of the exploding house near the end of the movie was originally to be rotoscoped, but as the film's release date had been moved up from October/November to August 7, 1981, a lack of time prevented this. This remains as the only non-animated sequence in the film.[5]

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film was released on August 7, 1981. The release grossed nearly $20,000,000.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical response was generally dismissive with some reviewers making positive comments; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 58% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10 and the critical consensus: "It's sexist, juvenile, and dated, but Heavy Metal makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly-used soundtrack."[6]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times noted that the film "was scored very well, with music much less ear-splitting than the title would suggest."[7] Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 stars out of 4 in his Movie Guide, calling the feature "...uneven, but great fun on a mindless, adolescent level."[8]

Audience reaction[edit]

The film enjoyed only limited appeal in its initial run, but became a popular cult attraction for midnight theatrical showings, much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Legal problems with the copyrights for some of the music used in the film prevented a commercial home video release for 15 years, although the film was in rotation on some cable channels, including Cinemax, HBO and TBS, which allowed fans to record it and circulate bootleg copies.

Home media[edit]

Prior to official release on VHS and Laserdisc in 1996, the film was re-released to select theaters on March 8, 1996 taking in $550,000.[3] The subsequent home video release moved over one million units.[5]

The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on February 1, 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive and it was later released everywhere on June 14.[9]

Soundtrack[edit]

Heavy Metal
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released July 1981
Label Full Moon/Asylum/Epic
Heavy Metal film soundtracks chronology
Heavy Metal OST
(1981)
Heavy Metal 2000 OST
(2000)

The soundtrack was released on LP in 1981, but for legal reasons, was not released on CD until 1995. The album peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. Blue Öyster Cult wrote and recorded a song called "Vengeance (The Pact)" for the film, but the producers declined to use the song because the lyrics provided a capsulized summary of the "Taarna" vignette. "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" was used instead. Both songs can be found on Blue Öyster Cult's album Fire of Unknown Origin. Though used in the film, the songs "Through Being Cool" by Devo and "E5150" by Black Sabbath were not included in the released soundtrack album. These songs are on New Traditionalists and Mob Rules, respectively.

The legal difficulties surrounding the use of some songs in the movie delayed its release to home video. The production company's use of some songs were limited solely to the theatrical release and soundtrack and did not include home video releases. It was not until 1996 that there was an official home video release on VHS when Kevin Eastman, who had bought the publishing rights of Heavy Metal magazine in 1992 and previously contributed to the magazine, reached a settlement with the music copyright holders.

No. Title Artist Length
1. "Heavy Metal" (Original Version) Sammy Hagar 3:50
2. "Heartbeat"   Riggs 4:20
3. "Working in the Coal Mine"   Devo 2:48
4. "Veteran of the Psychic Wars"   Blue Öyster Cult 4:48
5. "Reach Out"   Cheap Trick 3:35
6. "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)"   Don Felder 5:00
7. "True Companion"   Donald Fagen 5:02
8. "Crazy? (A Suitable Case for Treatment)"   Nazareth 3:24
9. "Radar Rider"   Riggs 2:40
10. "Open Arms"   Journey 3:20
11. "Queen Bee"   Grand Funk Railroad 3:11
12. "I Must Be Dreamin'"   Cheap Trick 5:37
13. "The Mob Rules" (alternate version) Black Sabbath 3:16
14. "All of You"   Don Felder 4:18
15. "Prefabricated"   Trust 2:59
16. "Blue Lamp"   Stevie Nicks 3:48

Score[edit]

Unusual for the time, an LP recording of Elmer Bernstein's score was released alongside the soundtrack in 1981, and it featured the composer's first use of the ondes martenot, an instrument which became a trademark of Bernstein's later career. On March 13, 2008, Film Score Monthly released an official, expanded CD release of Bernstein's score, which he conducted.[10] The score was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the London Voices and Jeanne Loriod on the ondes Martenot.

Original track listing
  1. "Den and the Green Ball" (03:17)
  2. "Den Makes It" (02:49)
  3. "Den and the Queen" (02:56)
  4. "Den's Heroics" (02:52)
  5. "Bomber and the Green Ball" (04:41)
  6. "Space Love" (01:32)
  7. "Harry and the Girl" (03:45)
  8. "Tarna Summoned" (sic) (02:50)
  9. "Flight" (02:20)
  10. "Tarna Prepares" (sic) (03:35)
  11. "Barbarians" (03:37)
  12. "Tarna Forever" (sic) (03:37)
Re-release track listing
  1. "Beginning" 1:16
  2. "Intro to Green Ball" 1:18
  3. "Discovery/Transformation (Den and the Green Ball)" 3:15
  4. "Den Makes Out (Den Makes It)" 2:42
  5. "Castrate Him/Searching for the Loc-Nar" 2:04
  6. "Queen for a Day (Den and the Queen)" 2:54
  7. "Pursuit (Den’s Heroics)" 2:51
  8. "Fiste" 1:27
  9. "Getting Bombed" 3:06
  10. "Green Ball" 2:15
  11. "Dem Bones" 2:44
  12. "No Alarm" 0:58
  13. "Robot Love (Space Love)" 1:32
  14. "Harry" 1:35
  15. "The Next Morning" 1:56
  16. "End of Baby" 2:43
  17. "Council (Taarna Summoned)" 2:49
  18. "The Flight to Temple (Flight)" 2:16
  19. "The Sword (Taarna Prepares)" 3:32
  20. "Flight to Holiday Town" 2:20
  21. "Fighting" 2:43
  22. "My Whips!/Taarna Escapes Pit" 4:57
  23. "Finish (Taarna Forever)" 3:34
Bonus tracks
  1. "Den Makes Out" (film version) 2:49
  2. "Bomber and the Green Ball" (album edit) 4:35
  3. "Harry and the Girl" (album edit) 3:41
  4. "Barbarians" (album edit) 3:34

Legacy[edit]

References to the film in popular culture include "Major Boobage", an episode of South Park that takes inspiration from this film.

Sequel[edit]

The first sequel, titled Heavy Metal 2000, was released in 2000. A second sequel has been in various stages of development since.[citation needed]

Remake[edit]

In March 2008, Variety reported that Paramount Pictures was set to make another animated film with David Fincher "spearheading the project". Kevin Eastman, who is the current owner and publisher of Heavy Metal, will direct a segment, as will Tim Miller, "whose Blur Studio will handle the animation for what is being conceived as an R-rated, adult-themed feature".[11]

Entertainment website IGN announced, on July 14, 2008, "David Fincher's edgy new project has suffered a serious setback after it was dropped by Paramount, according to Entertainment Weekly."[12] However, Entertainment Weekly quoted Tim Miller as saying "David really believes in the project. It's just a matter of time."[13]

In September 2008, Eastman was quoted as saying "Fincher is directing one, Guillermo del Toro wants to direct one, Zack Snyder wants to direct one, Gore Verbinski wants to direct one." It was reported that the film had been moved to Sony division Columbia Pictures (which had released the original) and had a budget of $50 million.[14]

In June 2009, Eastman said "I’ve got breaking news that Fincher and James Cameron are going to be co-executive producers on the film, Cameron will direct one.[15] Mark Osborne and Jack Black from Tenacious D were going to do a comedy segment for the film."[16]

However, production is stalled indefinitely, as no film distributor or production company has shown interest in distributing or producing the remake since Paramount Pictures decided to forgo being the film's distributor,[17] who purportedly thought such a film was "too risque for mainstream audiences."[13]

In July 2011, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez announced at Comic Con that he had purchased the film rights to Heavy Metal and planned to develop a new animated film at the new Quick Draw Studios.[18] However, on March 11, 2014, with the formation of his very own television network, El Rey, Rodriguez considered switching gears and bringing it to TV.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "HEAVY METAL (AA)". Columbia Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. August 19, 1981. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Heavy Metal". The-Numbers.com. Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  3. ^ a b "Heavy Metal Reissue". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  4. ^ a b J.C. Maçek III (2012-08-02). "'American Pop'... Matters: Ron Thompson, the Illustrated Man Unsung". PopMatters. 
  5. ^ a b Imagining Heavy Metal, 1999 
  6. ^ "Heavy Metal Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved January 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ Janet Maslin (1981-08-07). "Heavy Metal (1981) 'HEAVY METAL,' ADULT CARTOON". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  8. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1998). Leonard Maltin's 1999 Movie & Video Guide. Signet. p. 582. ISBN 0-451-19582-5. 
  9. ^ Heavy Metal Rocks Best Buy - Blu-ray News at IGN
  10. ^ Heavy Metal: The Score from ScreenArchives.com
  11. ^ Michael Fleming (2008-03-13). "Par, Fincher put pedal to 'Metal' Eastman, Miller to direct animated segments". Variety. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  12. ^ Orlando Parfitt (2008-07-14). "Fincher's Heavy Metal on Hold Paramount drops sci-fi/fantasy project.". IGN. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  13. ^ a b Nicole Sperling (2008-07-09). "David Fincher's 'Heavy Metal' remake a no-go at Paramount". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-09-21. [dead link]
  14. ^ Alex Billington (2008-09-04). "Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski, Guillermo del Toro Directing Heavy Metal Segments?". firstshowing.net. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  15. ^ Fleming, Mike. "Fincher Brings Mettle To Passion Project". Deadline. 
  16. ^ ComingSoon.net (2009-06-06). "James Cameron Forging a Piece of Heavy Metal". comingsoon.net. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  17. ^ MTV News (2010-08-25). "David Fincher Can't Get Funding for "Heavy Metal"". worstpreviews.com. Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  18. ^ ComingSoon.net (2011-07-21). "SDCC: Robert Rodriguez Takes Heavy Metal". comingsoon.net. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  19. ^ ScreenRant.com (2014-03-11). "Robert Rodriguez May Bring ‘Heavy Metal’ to TV; Prepared to Make ‘Sin City 3’". screenrant.com. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 

External links[edit]