Heavy Metal (1981, Gerald Potterton)
Starring: The voices of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, Marilyn Lightstone, Richard Romanus, John Vernon.
Box Notables: ‘Judas Priest Rule’ Tippexed on inside of case
Tagline: ‘Louder and Nastier Than Ever’
Trailers: Sudden Hill, Two Bullets for Charlie, Riddlemaster2: The Punchline
Cherrypick: “… unless you count all those times I sold dope disguised as a nun.”
The sticklers among you may very well quibble about the induction of 1981’s Heavy Metal into the hallowed halls of our mental rental Valhalla. Unavailable due to music licensing wrangles for the entire span of the Eighties video bonanza, this animated portmanteau of egregious fantasy clichés and ludicrous no-go dayglo lo-fi sci-fi nevertheless managed to remain in constant rotation thanks to the underground railroad of playground bartering. While your older brother and his mates were handing around a subtitled copy of A Clockwork Orange that somebody’s weird uncle brought back from a sex-tourism jaunt through the Benelux countries, you and your speccy, half-cocked chums were sneaking a peak at a well-thumbed copy of Heavy Metal taped off the telly during the run of Channel 4’s legendarily short-lived mid-Eighties rock strand ‘Concrete Banana’.
As an exercise in nakedly exploiting the sweaty peccadilloes of the average teenage male the film would appear at first glance to be a sure-fire winner: an adaptation of stories stripped from the ultraviolent Gallic sex-comic 'Métal Hurlant' with a slew of metal anthems booming over the top is everything the adolescent boy could wish for, although - looking back with adult eyes - that may not have been an entirely good thing. But what one remembers as a breast-filled bloodbath of orgiastic mayhem set to the savage cacophony of Iron Maiden and the Sabbath is revealed to be a jarringly episodic parade of badly drawn vignettes featuring heavy-set, matronly women riding tigers to the strains of art-rock also-rans Devo covering ‘Working in a Goldmine’ or Stevie Nicks wigging out over an impenetrable snippet of hamstrung space opera.
All these curiously pointless little episodes concern to a greater or lesser degree the controlling influence of the Loc-Nar, a manifestation of pure, malevolent intergalactic evil that takes the bone-chilling form of a small, lime-green beach-ball. The Loc-Nar proceeds to recount a variety of it’s vaguely fiendish and decidedly drab adventures that can all be neatly summed up with any ramification of the terms ‘mutant zombies’, ‘thighboots’ and ‘hulking warlord’ and then rounded off with ‘… before forcing him to have sex with her’.
|Last chance saloon|
Written by the godless huckster that gifted the world Space Jam, and directed with all the subtlety of a cathedral blaze by Gerald ‘Pitter Patter’ Potterton - an animator on Beatles loonarama Yellow Submarine and the man behind not only Canadian Vignettes: Starting the Car but also the seminal informational Fish Spoilage Control - Heavy Metal boasts the vocal talents of the cream of Toronto’s unjustly celebrated Second City comedy troupe. But even the golden-throated dexterity of the young John Candy, Eugene Levy and some luckless bastard consigned to navigate the choppy waters of life bearing the name of Roger Bumpass can enliven a film with less going for it than OJ Simpson at a Klan rally.
Rumour has it that director David Fincher is slated to bring his own brand of inverted lunacy to an update of the material for a prospective 20?? release, by which time sex and music will undoubtedly be outlawed and the future will be a thing of the long distant past.
Originally published in Little White Lies#18