Sunday, April 14, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Animated April Part 2 - Heavy Metal

Welcome back to Animated April where we discuss classic animation for adults. Today, louder and nastier than ever...Heavy Metal!


Title: Heavy Metal
Year: 1981
Starring: John Candy, Eugene Levy, Roger Bumpass
Director: Gerald Potterton
Synopsis: A glowing green orb - which embodies ultimate evil - terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.
Why it is Notable: It's fucking Heavy Metal, fuck you.

"You stand here accused of 12 counts of murder in the 1st degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 counts of piracy in high space, 18 counts of fraud, 37 counts of rape...and one moving violation."

With the release of LOVE, DEATH +ROBOTS, you might have heard the name Heavy Metal bandied about. LOVE, DEATH +ROBOTS was originally conceived as a re-imagining of Heavy Metal for the 2019 crowd. I can't help but wonder how much of the 2019 crowd knows that this movie exists.

In the Duat household? This movie is a family movie!

When I was a kid, we had something called Super Channel, which was a premium package of TV channels with different movies every month. It came with it's own personal TV Guide. I realize I'm saying words that are basically extinct now, think of the TV Guide as that little schedule thing on your digital TV box or the sidebar in r/Television, but in magazine form, with ratings, synopsis and sometimes pictures. In the Super Channel guide was listing for Heavy Metal, but the final airing of the movie had already passed. But, it was also being released on home video.

So, naturally I acquired a copy, and watched it. Then I watched it again and again through the years. For a short while, in my mid-teens, this was my favourite movie.

I've watched it when it's aired on television, I've watched it on tape, on DVD, I've watched it when home sick, when bored, I own the soundtrack and the CD is so well worn that it's scratched to shit and skips like a little girl.

I have foisted this movie onto family, friends, and significant others. This is one of my Deal Breaker movies. If you do not like this movie or at least the soundtrack, then we can never be more than casual acquaintances.

Admittedly it's been years since I've watched it. For obvious reasons, I felt it was time to revisit it.

So, does it hold up?

Eeeehhh?

It's adolescent, juvenile, sophomoric, dated, chauvinistic, uneven and damn soft core by today's standards. Some of the animation and rotoscoping is clunky. Yet, once those first few musical notes float from the speakers, I'm filled with nostalgia.

Heavy Metal is a little like Pac-Man. Innovative in it's time but quaint now.

Ask anyone and probably their favourite, or at least most memorable short is the least sexy one of them, B-17. The animation is great, the atmosphere is chilling and the sound editing is pretty masterful for the era. For the longest time it was my least favourite. Mostly because this is not what I signed up for. I wanted cartoon sex, damnit! But I've come to appreciate it.

My least favourite short is probably the first official one, Harry Canyon. It's gritty and grimy with unsympathetic characters and wastes a Stevie Nicks song. But it sets the tone for the rest of the movie pretty well, and features the most amazing Blue Oyster Cult song this side of Don't Fear (The Reaper).

I feel I'm probably the only person who's favourite story is actually Captain Sternn. It's a simple, funny story with a great featured song, and very well written with a lot of quotable lines. I often find myself saying, "Relax, Charlie, I got an angle." for no reason. Also, it looks damn good in the same way Sonnie's Edge from LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS does. The characters are caricatures so the movements flow better than the rotoscoped stuff from, say, the opening animation from Heavy Metal. The stretch-and-bend technique is welcomed, especially since it's sandwiched between a lot of semi-realism.

What makes Heavy Metal work in a way that LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS doesn't is that it's short. It's short. It's a clean, tight hour and 30 minutes. No story drags on too long, or looks for excuses to linger, not even when it's trying to show off the animation techniques or turn itself into a music video. You're not exhausted by the end. Maybe a bit grimy, but not exhausted.

I hope you seek out this movie, if only to feel educated in your animated smut history.

LILITH'S SCORE: 4.5/5

NEXT TIME: We delve into the mind of Ralph Bakshi with his own animated anthology series, Spicy City.


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