Heavy Metal (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gerald Potterton|
|Produced by||Leonard Mogel
|Screenplay by||Daniel Goldberg
|Story by||Dan O'Bannon
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein
|Editing by||Ian Llande ("Den")
Mick Manning ("Soft Landing")
Gerald Tripp ("Harry Canyon" and "B-17")
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||91 minutes|
|Budget||US$ 9.3 million|
|Box office||US$ 20,117,636|
Heavy Metal is a 1981 Canadian fantasy-animated 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 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, it has a great deal of graphic violence, nudity and sexuality. Its production was expedited by having several animation houses working simultaneously on different segments, including CinéGroupe and Atkinson Film-Arts.
A stand-alone homage titled Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Production
- 3 Box office and home releases
- 4 Critical reaction and cult status
- 5 Soundtrack
- 6 Score
- 7 Legacy
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The film's title sequence story (based on the original story by Dan O'Bannon and art by Thomas Warkentin) opens with a space shuttle flying in orbit over Earth. The bay doors (on the belly of the shuttle) open, releasing a 1958 Corvette. An astronaut seated in the Corvette then begins descending through Earth's atmosphere, landing in a desert canyon.
- Jimmy T. Murakami - Director
- John Coates - Producer
- Dan O'Bannon - Writer
- "Radar Rider" by Riggs
Leading directly from the title sequence, the film's framing story has the astronaut, named Grimaldi, arriving at home where he is greeted by his daughter. He shows her something he brought back: a crystalline green sphere about the size of a basketball. When he opens the case, the orb rises out of it and melts the astronaut. It introduces itself to the terrified girl as "the sum of all evils". Looking into it, the girl sees how it has influenced societies through time and space. The orb, known as the Loc-Nar, forces her to watch the remaining stories.
- Harold Whitaker – Director
- John Halas – Producer
Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum. 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 the occasional robbery attempts (which he thwarts with a disintegrator installed behind his seat). He stumbles into an incident where a fat gangster named Rudnick and his cyborg henchmen murder an archaeologist on the front steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Harry grudgingly allows the murdered man's daughter into his cab, and she tells him about her father's discovery: the Loc-Nar, an artifact over which people are killing each other. Harry cannot afford to pay for a police investigation, so he takes the girl back to his apartment. That night, the girl strips, climbs into his bed and they have sex. Harry awakens alone the next morning when the cops bust into the apartment looking for the girl, whose existence he denies because she disappeared. One of his fares that day is Rudnick, who threatens Harry if he does not cooperate. Later, the girl contacts Harry and offers to sell the Loc-Nar and split the proceeds with him. He agrees to take her to the exchange. When Rudnick gets the Loc-Nar, he takes it out of its isolation case and he disintegrates. Meanwhile, the girl claims that she's keeping the money for herself and pulls a gun on Harry, who is forced to use his self-defense ray, which disintegrates her clothing before disintegrating the now-naked girl herself. He keeps the money and writes it up as a "two-day ride with one hell of a tip". A lot of the opening storyline for The Fifth Element appears to lift this animation segment. Similarities between the taxi driver, mystery passenger and film noir elements occur.
Based on original art and story by Richard Corben. A nerdy teenager finds a round "green meteorite" and puts it in his rock collection at home. Weeks later, during a lightning experiment, the orb hurls the boy into the world of Neverwhere, where he changes into an initially naked (though he quickly dons a loincloth), bald muscle man called Den. Landing on a giant idol, he witnesses a strange ritual and rescues a nubile young woman who was about to be sacrificed to "Uhluhtc" (// OO-lə-tek; "Cthulhu" spelled backwards). Reaching safety, she tells him that she is from the British colony of Gibraltar, on Earth, and that her name is Katherine Wells. While she demonstrates her gratitude with attempting sexual favors, they are interrupted by the minions of Ard, an immortal man who wants to obtain the Loc-Nar and use it to rule the world. He puts Katherine in suspended animation and orders Den to get the Loc-Nar from the Queen (the woman who performed the ritual). Den agrees, and infiltrates the Queen's palace with some of Ard's warriors. He is promptly caught by the Queen, but she offers leniency if he has sex with her. He complies, while the raiding party steals the Loc-Nar. Den escapes and, with the Queen and her forces in pursuit, races back to the idol. Ard is attempting to recreate the sacrifice himself so Den rescues Katherine, and the Queen's arrival sparks a bloody battle between her and Ard (backed by their respective armies). Den ends the battle by recreating the incident that drew him to Neverwhere, banishing Ard and the Queen, apparently back to Earth. Refusing the opportunity to rule, Den rides with Katherine into the sunset, content to remain in Neverwhere as "Den".
Based on original art and story by Bernie Wrightson. On a space station, a square-jawed space captain named Lincoln F. Sternn is on trial on numerous serious charges (and one moving violation) presented by the prosecutor. Pleading "not guilty" against the advice of his rat-faced lawyer, Sternn explains to his astonished lawyer that he expects to be acquitted because he bribed a witness, Hanover Fiste, to praise his character. 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 until he angrily denounces Sternn. 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 for his part in the escape plan and promptly shrinks back to his gangly original form. Sternn then pulls a lever, opening a trapdoor under Fiste, and the Loc-Nar reenters an atmosphere with Fiste's bodiless flaming hand still clinging to it.
- Julian Harris – Director
- Paul Sabella – Director
- Bernie Wrightson – Writer
Based on original story by Dan O'Bannon. 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 raises the dead crew members as zombies. The co-pilot is killed by the zombie ball turret-gunner leaving only the pilot – who barely escapes in time, only to land on an island where he finds wreckage of airplanes, along with the wrecked airplanes' zombified airmen.
- Barrie Nelson – Director
- W.H. Stevens, Jr. – Producer
- Dan O'Bannon – Writer
- Rusty Gilligan – sketch artist
- "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" by Don Felder
So Beautiful and So Dangerous
Based on original art and story by Angus McKie. A scientist (Dr. Anrack) arrives at the Pentagon for a meeting about mysterious mutations that are plaguing the United States. At the meeting, the doctor tries to dismiss the occurrences, but when he sees a green stone (the Loc-Nar, reduced again in size) in the locket of Gloria, a buxom stenographer, he behaves erratically and attempts to sexually assault her. A colossal starship shaped like a smiley face bursts through the roof and abducts the berserk doctor and, by accident, Gloria. The ship's robot is irritated at Anrack, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but his mood changes when he sees Gloria. Instead of being shocked by her abduction, Gloria is merely annoyed and asks "Who is going to pay for my dry cleaning?" With the help of the ship's alien pilot and co-pilot, the robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and talks her into having "robot" sex. She reluctantly agrees to marry him (provided they have a Jewish wedding). Meanwhile, the crew inhale a massive amount of plutonian nyborg (a powdered substance resembling cocaine) and fly home completely stoned, zoning out on the cosmos and passing space junk (which includes a model of the refurbished USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Too stoned to fly straight, they crash into a huge space station, though they think it was a "nice landing".
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 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.
- Percy Rodriguez ... voice of the Loc-Nar (uncredited)
- Don Francks ... Barbarian
- August Schellenberg ... Taarak
- Zal Yanovsky ... Barbarian
- George Touliatos ... Barbarian
- Vlasta Vrana ... Barbarian Leader
- Mavor Moore ... Elder
- Thor Bishopric ... Boy
- Len Doncheff ... Barbarian
- Cedric Smith ... Bartender
- Joseph Golland ... Councilman
- Charles Joliffe ... Councilman
- Ned Conlon ... Councilman
- John Bruno - Director
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 the universe and through time to her. This is further signified by the change in hair color the girl now exhibits and the appearance of the Taarakian crest on her skin. Thus the girl is revealed to be the next Taarakian rider herself.
The film uses the rotoscoping technique of animation in several shots. This process consists of shooting models and actors, then tracing the shot onto film for animation purposes. 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 at the end of the Grimaldi sequence 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.
- The original idea for the episode B-17 was for Gremlins to attack the plane and try to dismantle it in the air, instead of the undead crewmembers used. O'Bannon has mentioned this particular concept in another context, his work on a screenplay called "Star Beast". That story had eventually become the second part of the movie Alien.
- Den's name is actually, according to creator Richard Corben, an acronym, and stands for David Ellis Norman.
- The Loc-Nar itself comes from the Den graphic novels, although it was not round but rather oblong, and did not speak.
- Contrary to Den's statement in the film (voiced by John Candy), Den did not, in fact, have a problem "running around with [his] dork hanging out" as he often did in the graphic novels. The change was likely made to keep an 'R' rating for the film.
- This film would mark the second time that Richard Corben's Den character was depicted in animation. The first time was in 1968 with his self-produced animated short Neverwhere.
Because of time constraints, a segment of the film called "Neverwhere Land" was cut out; 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 under the Bonus Features/Deleted Scenes. In both released versions, the sequence is set to the music of "Passacaglia" (from Magnificat), composed and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki.
Box office and home releases
The film was released on August 7, 1981. The release grossed nearly $20,000,000.
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. The subsequent home video release moved over one million units. 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, 2011.
Critical reaction and cult status
Critical response to the film 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." 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." 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."
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. Heavy Metal may be the canonical example of a popular film or album that was unavailable to consumers for a long time for obscure reasons, despite popular acclaim or success.
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Heavy Metal film soundtracks chronology|
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.
|1.||"Heavy Metal" (Original Version)||Sammy Hagar||3:50|
|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|
|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|
|16.||"Blue Lamp"||Stevie Nicks||3:48|
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. The score was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the London Voices and Jeanne Loriod on the ondes Martenot.
The original LP's track listing is as follows:
- "Den and the Green Ball" (03:17)
- "Den Makes It" (02:49)
- "Den and the Queen" (02:56)
- "Den's Heroics" (02:52)
- "Bomber and the Green Ball" (04:41)
- "Space Love" (01:32)
- "Harry and the Girl" (03:45)
- "Tarna Summoned" (sic) (02:50)
- "Flight" (02:20)
- "Tarna Prepares" (sic) (03:35)
- "Barbarians" (03:37)
- "Tarna Forever" (sic) (03:37)
Re-release track listing:
- "Beginning" 1:16
- "Intro to Green Ball" 1:18
- "Discovery/Transformation (Den and the Green Ball)" 3:15
- "Den Makes Out (Den Makes It)" 2:42
- "Castrate Him/Searching for the Loc-Nar" 2:04
- "Queen for a Day (Den and the Queen)" 2:54
- "Pursuit (Den’s Heroics)" 2:51
- "Fiste" 1:27
- "Getting Bombed" 3:06
- "Green Ball" 2:15
- "Dem Bones" 2:44
- "No Alarm" 0:58
- "Robot Love (Space Love)" 1:32
- "Harry" 1:35
- "The Next Morning" 1:56
- "End of Baby" 2:43
- "Council (Taarna Summoned)" 2:49
- "The Flight to Temple (Flight)" 2:16
- "The Sword (Taarna Prepares)" 3:32
- "Flight to Holiday Town" 2:20
- "Fighting" 2:43
- "My Whips!/Taarna Escapes Pit" 4:57
- "Finish (Taarna Forever)" 3:34
- Bonus tracks
- "Den Makes Out" (film version) 2:49
- "Bomber and the Green Ball" (album edit) 4:35
- "Harry and the Girl" (album edit) 3:41
- "Barbarians" (album edit) 3:34
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".
Entertainment website IGN announced, on 14 July 2008, "David Fincher's edgy new project has suffered a serious setback after it was dropped by Paramount, according to Entertainment Weekly." However, Entertainment Weekly quoted Tim Miller as saying "David really believes in the project. It's just a matter of time."
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.
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. Mark Osborne and Jack Black from Tenacious D were going to do a comedy segment for the film."
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, who purportedly thought such a film was "too risque for mainstream audiences."
- List of animated feature films
- Red Sonja film
- "Major Boobage", an episode of South Park taking inspiration from this film
- "Heavy Metal". The-Numbers.com. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- "Heavy Metal Reissue". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- J.C. Maçek III (2012-08-02). "'American Pop'... Matters: Ron Thompson, the Illustrated Man Unsung". PopMatters.
- Imagining Heavy Metal, 1999
- Heavy Metal Rocks Best Buy - Blu-ray News at IGN
- "Heavy Metal Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
- Janet Maslin (1981-08-07). "Heavy Metal (1981) 'HEAVY METAL,' ADULT CARTOON". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
- Maltin, Leonard (1998). Leonard Maltin's 1999 Movie & Video Guide. Signet. p. 582. ISBN 0-451-19582-5.
- Heavy Metal: The Score from ScreenArchives.com
- Michael Fleming (2008-03-13). "Par, Fincher put pedal to 'Metal' Eastman, Miller to direct animated segments". Variety. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- Orlando Parfitt (2008-07-14). "Fincher's Heavy Metal on Hold Paramount drops sci-fi/fantasy project.". IGN. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- Nicole Sperling (2008-07-09). "David Fincher's 'Heavy Metal' remake a no-go at Paramount". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-09-21.[dead link]
- Alex Billington (2008-09-04). "Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski, Guillermo del Toro Directing Heavy Metal Segments?". firstshowing.net. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- Fleming, Mike. "Fincher Brings Mettle To Passion Project". Deadline.
- ComingSoon.net (2009-06-06). "James Cameron Forging a Piece of Heavy Metal". comingsoon.net. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- MTV News (2010-08-25). "David Fincher Can't Get Funding for "Heavy Metal"". worstpreviews.com. Retrieved 2011-05-07.
- ComingSoon.net (2011-07-21). "SDCC: Robert Rodriguez Takes Heavy Metal". comingsoon.net. Retrieved 2011-11-26.
- Official website
- Heavy Metal at the Internet Movie Database
- Heavy Metal at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Heavy Metal at allmovie
- Heavy Metal at Box Office Mojo
- Heavy Metal at Rotten Tomatoes
- Heavy Metal score soundtrack questions, answers and more @ the SoundtrackINFO project
- Fan site providing detailed history of the film, its relationships to the original graphic novel stories, reviews, etc
- Sketch artist Rusty Gilligan's Internet Movie Database page