Heavy Metal (1981)


There was always something about a rotoscope animated astronaut driving a top down corvette convertible from space to Earth that always screamed the eighties to me, and surprisingly it still works in encapsulating the surrealism of “Heavy Metal.” If you can accept the film for what it is, which is basically a man’s wet dream filled with misogyny, sex, big breasts, and mild exploitation, “Heavy Metal” is a solid animated anthology with some damn good music to accompany its epic sprawling tale. After the astronaut Grimaldi brings home mysterious green orb from space for his daughter, he’s melted and his daughter is shown by the sentient sphere named Loc-Nar, the extent of its power and influence through time and space.

There is really no theme presented in “Heavy Metal” except for that the orb Loc-Nar inspires pure evil, and on rare occasions provides justice against the pure evil. Mostly though it’s a source of greed, lust, jealousy, and monstrous beings across the universe, and we’re a witness to its chaos. Loc-Nar is really just a Macguffin which provides the backdrop for a lot of stories for “Heavy Metal” many of which are either very entertaining or just downright pointless. “Harry Canyon” has the most depth as a classic noir tale set in a crime ridden future. Harry Canyon is a taxi driver who destroys any criminal attempts in his cab by way of a yellow ray that eviscerates the thugs. Canyon eventually comes across a buxom female stealing Loc-Nar away from a group of gangsters.

After they murdered her father for it, she looks for hide out and stumbles in to Harry’s arms. Harry has to take her in agreeing to help her in exchange for a major payday. As with most noir tales, the two fall in love, Harry gets in deep with the dame, and learns a lesson about greed. B-17 is a short but sweet horror tale set during World War II where a crew aboard a flaming plane comes across Loc-Nar floating in the sky. When the crew is murdered by passing enemy fire, Loc-Nar infests the corpses of the crew, which come to life as reanimated corpses, murdering the surviving crew. When the pilot flees for his life, he accidentally stumbles upon a graveyard of enemy corpses. Barrie Nelson’s direction mixed with the EC style animation make this segment creepy albeit much too brief.

Finally, there’s “Taarna,” the more in depth tale of how Loc-Nar affects a society, and how the society of elders summon the last of a warrior race named the Taarakians in the beautiful Taarna. The white haired buxom warrior woman seeks out the savage barbarians that ravaged her land and tries to end the reign of Loc-Nar once and for all. Though the animation is sub-par in some respects, especially during major moments of action, “Taarna” is a decent end leading in to the twist finale. While “Heavy Metal” has its fill of brain dead segments that go literally nowhere and seem to be included for the sake of arousing sophomoric sexual fantasies, what good segments there are salvage “Heavy Metal” and keep it consistently entertaining and gripping in its surrealism. It’s definitely watchable for fans that appreciate the exploitative pulp nature of the magazine set to excellent rock music.