Heavy Metal (1981) Review

Heavy Metal was one of those movies that I heard about as a kid that I had to see just because my parents didn’t want me to. The first time I saw it I don’t think I appreciated it for how great it really is. I was too busy ogling the animated boobies. In the successive viewings after that first boner inducing one I’ve realized how amazing and unique the movie is. There’s never been anything quite like it. Imitated but never duplicated. The sequel especially paled in comparison. For the uninitiated, Heavy Metal is a rock and roll anthology of mind blowing animated science fiction shorts. The first five minutes has melting people, swearing, and full frontal female nudity. The flow of the stories is somewhat disjointed, but it has enough variation and visual stimulation to keep you tuned in the whole time. It starts with a far-out space man bringing home a glowing green orb for his daughter as a souvenir. Unfortunately the orb, Loc-Nar, melts papa and reveals demonic tales of devious evil to the young daughter.

Harry Canyon
The first vignette features a noir style story of a cabbie living in the run down New York of the future. Harry doesn’t take shit, as is demonstrated by his disintegration ray in the back seat of his cab that’s operated by a foot switch. The story is suspiciously similar to The Fifth Element. I don’t know if Luc Besson really was inspired by Harry Canyon, but if he was he picked a great fucking story to be inspired by. Dirty ass Harry Canyon gets the girl, kills the bad guy, kills the girl, then makes off with 300,000 chrono dollars. Rock. Although choppy at times, the artwork and animation are top notch stuff you just can’t get today.

Talk about male pornographic fantasy. This story could have been transcribed directly from my dirty little twelve year old mind back in the day. Dorky kid Dan is transported to a far away world where he’s Den, a big burly black dude with his dork hanging out. He quickly gets into smashing mutant skulls, but makes time to do the nasty with every big titty broad in sight. In the end he has a chance to be king, but instead flies off with his nude floosie to go do the horizontal tango. This story probably has the least substance of the whole bunch, but still features amazing landscapes and creature art.

Captain Sternn
I love the dramatic movements of this story. It revolves around an awesomely portrayed anti-hero named Captain Sternn who’s facing an alien infested tribunal, being accused of multiple counts of murder, drug trafficking, and rape (just to name a few). The first witness is brandishing the Loc-Nar, which seems to make him go apeshit and attack Captain Sternn Bruce-Banner-style. In the end you find out the whole thing was set-up by Sternn as he pays the witness off just before ejecting him from an airlock. All the characters are dynamic, no matter short their allotted screen time is. The story gets in and out quick leaving you wanting more, but there’s much more animated mayhem in store.

Zombies, motherfucker. B-17 is the only story that steps just outside the realm of sci-fi and into the dark depths of horror. A crew flying a B-17 bomber in WWII is raided by the Loc-Nar and the dead are resurrected as murderous skeletal zombies. The pilot parachutes to safety only to find that he’s landed in an airplane graveyard infested by some mean looking living dead. The animated gore and zombiism are (or should be) historic examples of the artful potential of everyone’s favorite walking dead. Apparently this story was based on the same script that eventually became Alien, written by Dan O’Bannon. All that and he was responsible for Return of the Living Dead.

So Beautiful, So Dangerous

So Beautiful, So Dangerous basically encapsulates the spirit of Heavy Metal as a whole, but lacks some of the gore of the rest of the movie. A hot office wench is abducted from the pentagon by a UFO piloted by two junky aliens and a lecherous robot. The robot makes a play for the office wench and they go have slut on robot sex while the aliens consume copious amounts of plutonium nyborg (intergalactic cocaine). I love the line when one of the stoned aliens is trying to land the ship on a space station and he says, “It’s like, you know your perspective is fucked so you just gotta let your hands work the controls as if you’re straight.” Classic.

Taarna is pretty much the story that most people think about when they think of Heavy Metal. It features a busty barbarian babe bludgeoning and beheading bad guys. There’s tons of full-on war scenes, epic landscapes, sinister aliens, and boobs. By itself, this story could blow most sci-fi and action movies out of the water, and it’s just one story out of an entire animated feature. The unsung hero of the movie is the bird creature that the barbarian babe rides. It saves her ass multiple times, gets stabbed up, and still survives to fly off with her in the end.