Sunday, April 02, 2017

Heavy Metal

Influenced as much by Second City and National Lampoon as the comic magazine that bears its name, HEAVY METAL is a crude, loud, misogynist, and violent animated film for adults that is a rollicking good time. Yes, in the case of HEAVY METAL, those adjectives are positives.

Seemingly designed for midnight crowds under the influence, the R-rated science fiction fantasy boasts a rockin’ soundtrack that includes Devo, Journey, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, Grand Funk, Black Sabbath, and Sammy Hagar, who performs the title song. MEATBALLS writers Dan Goldberg and Len Blum scripted an anthology based on HEAVY METAL stories and built around a deadly green orb called the Loc-Nar and voiced by a curiously Percy Rodriguez (PEYTON PLACE), who was voicing virtually every horror movie trailer at the time.

Segments include “Harry Canyon” with Richard Romanus (MEAN STREETS) as a futuristic noir cabbie, “Den” with John Candy (SPLASH) as a teenage nerd who is transformed into a muscular hero in an alternate universe (reminiscent of Jeffrey Lord’s Blade novels), “Captain Sternn” with Eugene Levy (AMERICAN PIE) as a lantern-jawed space jockey standing trial on a space station, “B-17” pitting World War II bombers against zombies, “”So Beautiful and So Dangerous” about a Pentagon secretary abducted by cokehead aliens Levy, Candy, and Harold Ramis (STRIPES), and the terrific “Taarna” (possibly an influence on AEON FLUX) about a beautiful Amazon who fights barbarians astride a flying dinosaur.

Comic book artist/writers Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, and Berni Wrightson contributed some of the HEAVY METAL stories adapted by Goldberg and Blum. Ivan Reitman (GHOSTBUSTERS) produced the Columbia release in Montreal on a budget reported between $7.5 million and $10 million, and National Lampoon art director Michael Gross was the production designer. In addition to the hard rock songs, the thrilling score is composed by THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’s Elmer Bernstein, giving the outrageous horror, sci-fi, and fantasy sequences — particularly “Taarna,” which has little dialogue — a rich soundscape to match. A limp sequel, HEAVY METAL 2000, built around pinup model Julie Strain, was produced years later.

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