Directed by Clive A. Smith
A war has wiped out mankind leaving only rats and dogs and vermin to replace humanity. Now in this post-apocalyptic world one reclusive malevolent musician searches for one voice which will allow him to open a gateway and bring a being from another dimension into our own.
This is a weird early 80s animated feature film. It has more in common with Heavy Metal than anything Disney ever put out. Not too bad of a film. But also, not without its flaws either.
My first issue is that the main villain Mok (voiced by Don Francks) never has his motivations clearly explained. Yes, he wants to open a doorway to another dimension but why? Is it just because? It is never really explained. It is implied he is angry, but the reasons are fuzzy and may be waning popularity. And how did he get ahold of the formula that allows him to get to this point? I am not one that needs everything explained but major elements such as what I’ve mentioned here should have some sort of clear explanation. Instead we the viewers are presented a story that never bothers to clearly fill us in.
While the film does have a fantastic soundtrack and a cross-section of all-star talent from the time like Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Earth, Wind & Fire, Debbie Harry as well as Cheap Trick, the songs themselves are not always well showcased. What I mean is they do not always feel as if they connect to the scene in which they are featured. It comes off at times more as if somebody turned on the radio and that just happened to be recorded. Not consistently but often enough.
The story itself is an odd mix of adult themes with family friendly presentation. One minute the characters of Omar (voiced by Greg Salata in the Canadian version/Paul Le Mat in the American version) and Angel (voiced by Susan Roman) are making out in the backseat of a car and the next a goofy character hands them a business card for example. The filmmakers did not seem to understand which to go with. Adult or family friendly. It has been said that the studio heads did not know how to market the movie once they got it and I honestly think the straddling of family friendly and adult may have been the major reason why.
The core cast of characters is rounded out by Dizzy (real name Alphonse and voiced by Dan Hennessey) and Stretch (voiced by Greg Duffel) who are in a band with Omar and Angel as well as Mok‘s henchman who are Toad (voiced by Chris Wiggins), Sleazy (voiced by Brent Titcomb) and Zip (voiced by Greg Duffel). The latter are the kind of henchmen you would find in a Disney film. They were not really threatening but more comedic. And they all sounded alike so it confuses me why three different actors were needed.
The story also moves a little too quickly. The pacing is fast to the point that it feels as if they were rushing. And this is unfortunate because it is an interesting story. It takes the Disney conventions of using anthropomorphic cartoon characters and places them in a much more adult setting. There is much harder rock than you would find in any Disney film of the time or now even. To further distance it from the cuteness of Disney there are also drug references along with sexual innuendo. And as mentioned before the characters make out in the back of a car and as they pan across there is a brief shot of one car bouncing up and down. We all know what is going on in that one.
The movie looks beautiful. It has a style and look that has withstood time. The animation does need a touch more polish, but the issues are very minor and only pop out to someone such as myself that has watched one too many cartoons in their lives.
Even though Mok is never given a clear motivation the idea of a character in a cartoon willing to unleash hell on earth is cool. I am not sure of too many animated villains that have decided to bring about the apocalypse. The only other one I can think of was from an episode of the 80s Ghostbusters cartoon and I am not sure that really counts in connection to this.
The voice acting is good, and the dialogue is not bad. As for the singing it is top-notch. They used many big names of the day and the soundtrack in and of itself is worth listening to even if the presentation in the film is flawed.
It is an enjoyable movie but with some flaws. This is not a film for everybody. It has a cult reputation and I can understand why. Watch if you’re seeking something different in animation.