Heavy Metal (1981) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Six stories make up the feature-length running time of this maddeningly ambiguous, or pointless depending on your point of view, adult themed sci-fi animated film. The cartoon fantasies are bridged by a narrator relaying evil tales to the frightened daughter of an astronaut. The glowing green orb is referred to as the LOC-NAR and its diverse effect on humankind over the course of time and space is the concurrent through-line in all the stories presented. The feature starts strong with its best story upfront, but unfortunately by mid-way the energy and interesting concepts have been exhausted. Although throughout the strong visual style remains intact.

The best of the lot is Harry Cannon, concerning the events of a cab driver in a futuristic version of New York City. Think the opening of The Fifth Element and you’ll get the picture. Harry Cannon is the seen-it-all driver who picks up a mysterious woman and her strange luggage. The girl is being pursued by a gangster named Rudnick and his goons for the contents of her bags. Contained within is the LOC-NAR which has a mysterious effect on all those that come in contact. The short story is full of noir elements, the femme fatale, a reluctant hero, and corrupt authority figures. The highpoint is the cynical last line of the tale, “two-day ride with one hell of tip.”

The least appealing segment is the perversely irreverent So Beautiful and So Dangerous, a short which embodies nearly the faults of the entire project. Aimed at the humor level of a 12-year old and scattered with a clever idea here and there, the tale has no real momentum and is saddled with virtually no plot. An alien race kidnaps a high-ranking government scientist and his secretary, the man is killed in transport but the woman becomes an idealized object to the stoned, horny aliens taking the human back to their home planet. The written description works better than the cartoon it morphed into. The visual of an alien race doing blow is about the most amusing thing in this over-long tale.

Heavy Metal is a brash, sometimes crudely constructed anthology accompanied by an odd mixture of rock music. The trippy elements are part of an over-all unique experience that starts with a bang but gradually runs out of steam. This Canadian production features the voice talent of a number of famous SCTV members, and was produced by Ivan Reitman. After a short theatrical run in the early 1980s, the film was virtually lost until a mid 1990s restored home video release.

Director: Gerald Potterton
Stars: John Candy, Eugene Levy, Richard Romanus

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