Heavy Metal

Directed by Gerald Potterton

1981

A series of interconnecting stories as told by mysterious green orb called the Loc-Nar.

This is one of the weirder animated films from the 80s. The concept is fairly unique among animated features. The film is a series of independent stories inspired by or adapted from stories that appeared in Heavy Metal magazine. The connecting thread is the narrator of the story that is a glowing green orb called the Loc-Nar. Sometimes that presence is barely there and others it is front and center to the story.

The stories (in order) are:

Soft Landing

This is just the opening sequence and tells no actual story. The bay doors of a space shuttle open which releases a Corvette with an astronaut seated inside that safely lands in a desert canyon. This is our first introduction to the Loc-Nar (Percy Rodriguez) in the form of a brief and sinister voiceover.

It is just visually interesting and evocative of classic album art and a hint of old-school MTV. It is also kind of the reverse of what Elon Musk did a few years ago.

Grimaldi

In the opening story it is revealed that this astronaut (voiced by Don Francks) is returning home with a case in his hand. He greets his daughter (voiced by Caroline Semple) and says he has something to show her. He opens his case to reveal the Loc-Nar which promptly melts him.

After it begins floating, the Loc-Nar begins to tell its story of how its evil has touched places and people across space and time.

There is no clear reason why the Loc-Nar decides to do this other than “just because.” There is an indication it has a need to do so but that need feels like the unnecessary exposition of a movie’s supervillain rather than anything necessary for the story.

Harry Canyon

In the first story, cynical New York City cabbie Harry Canyon (Richard Romulus) rescues a never named girl (voiced by Susan Roman) who is fleeing Rudnick (Al Waxman) and his goons who have just killed her father in an attempt to possess the Loc-Nar.

It is an entertaining bit of film noir with plenty of sex, a dangerous beauty, and alien gangsters. The characters were the right level of dangerous and shady here. I thought the ending was a bit obvious though. The immediate introduction of the disintegrator in the opening all but guaranteed its use in the resolution. Understandably in noir most or all central characters come to a bad end, but this end was obvious. Good story weakened but predictable finale.

Den

A teenager (John Candy), while conducting experiments on a green meteorite he found, is thrust to the world of Neverwhere and is given a new body. Calling himself “Den” he meets Katherine Wells (Jackie Burroughs) from the British colony of Gibraltar and finds himself caught between the planet’s Queen (Marilyn Lightstone) and her enemy Ard (Martin Lavut) in a fight for the Loc-Nar and Katherine’s life.

This is a fun fantasy adventure story. There is nothing to deep or weird here and the Loc-Nar is just an ignition source for things rather than a force behind them.

Captain Sternn

Captain Lincoln F. Sternn (Eugene Levy) is on trial for multiple serious crimes of which he is certain to be convicted but he has an ace in the hole: a witness named Hanover Fiste (Rodger Bumpass) who is willing to commit perjury.

This is the first of the sillier shorts. This is also where the Loc-Nar, while present (here it is no bigger than a marble), is not the impetus in any way for events. The crimes along with the escape plan appear to have been conceived long before it showed up on the space station. What I am unclear in is if Fiste could change before the Loc-Nar or his transformation was brought on by the Loc-Nar. That fuzziness aside, it feels like a rough draft of a story rather than a complete narrative.

B-17

During World War II, a bomber is making a difficult run. Suffering heavy casualties and serious damage, it limps home only to be followed by a glowing orb whose energies reanimate the bodies of the dead crew.

This is a straight horror story and maybe my least favorite of the stories. While it has some good visuals there real is no meat to it. It has no beginning, middle or end. It is just monsters attacking. Felt more like a vignette from the first Creepshow film.

The scenario with the Loc-Nar here is a nice allusion to foo fighters. I will give them some credit for that. If you do not know, during WWII pilots reported strange lights following their planes that came to be known as “foo fighters.”

So Beautiful & So Dangerous

Mutations are plaguing the United States. During a meeting at The Pentagon, a scientist (voiced by Rodger Bumpass) attempts to calm fears but his eyes catch the Loc-Nar in a locket worn by busty stenographer Gloria (voiced by Alice Playten) and he abruptly begins to sexually assault her. Just then a smiley faced spaceship sucks the two away.

“Raunchy” might be a good word to describe this in comparison to the other stories. Robot (John Candy) is immediately taken by Gloria and uses obviously half assed excuses to not only get her to stay but to get her in bed.

The spaceship pilots Edsel (Eugene Levy) and co-pilot Zeke (Harold Ramis) are stoners that use Plutonian Nyborg (an obvious allegory to cocaine) to a ridiculous extent.

It is an absurdity and entertaining diversion that has some good visuals. It is just fun and does not try to be anything it cannot be. This is my second favorite.

Taarna

The Loc-Nar is now a giant meteor that crashes into a volcano on a peaceful world. After a crowd forms, green lava flows from the volcano and covers all and turns them into an evil army. Now the army strikes at a great city and the elders call on the last of the Taarakians, Taarna, to protect them.

This is definitely the most exciting of the shorts. It is an adventure story that is equal parts fantasy and science fiction. Taarna is the stoic (and silent) warrior archetype that exists to stop any foe. The story and the animation mesh best here and produce something I think should have been what the whole film was about. Nothing against anything else done here but this has much more commercial appeal along with being the better crafted piece. The story has better characters and a more interesting albeit villain.

Epilogue

The Loc-Nar, having told its last tale, explodes and destroys the girl’s house but she survives. Outside she finds Taarna’s flying mount. As they fly away it is revealed that Taarna’s soul has reincarnated in the girl as her hair turns white and she matures into Taarna.

Anybody else find it weird that this girl suddenly becomes a full-fledged woman in an instant? I know these are supposed to be odder stories with odd endings, but this feels like an odder than most ending.

In Conclusion…

Separate these stories are not that special. They do not wow you by themselves with their story or animation. Together though the stories in Heavy Metal make something special. The parts together are much greater together than apart. It leaves you with a feeling that you are reading an extra special of the magazine which inspired it.

And then there is the music. The soundtrack to this is amazing. There are too many songs and artists to list here. Suffice to say this is a great slice of the edgier music of the time. This kind of sampling of acts and their music from a specific era would be hard to find.

Heavy Metal is an unusual entry into 80s animation. It is not for everyone, but it is a good film. This is something that Disney or most other animation studios would not even consider. For fans of animation and/or music or even usual film, this is worth a look. Watch and enjoy something very different.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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