Heavy Metal (1981)

heavy metal

“Relax, Harry, I’ve got an angle.”

The Scoop: 1981 R, directed by Gerald Potterton and starring Richard Romanus, John Candy, and Joe Flaherty

Tagline: A Step Beyond Science Fiction

Summary Capsule: A scifi anthology follows the exploits of a green bouncy ball

Justin’s rating: Hot rod red

Justin’s review: Heavy Metal is an animated cult classic from the early ’80s. Well, I don’t say it’s a cult classic, personally, but a lot of other people do. And if there’s one thing you’ve learned being a conforming citizen of this planet, it is that you blindly trust all that the majority says.

Here’s what I say. Heavy Metal is an animated excuse to show a lot of naked girls in all sorts of bizarre situations. It’s an excellent bet that if a buxom-blessed woman appears on the screen in this movie, she will be naked faster than you can say “ten frames per second.” There’s also a slew of blood and guts and people melting like Nazi faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a film made by immature Americans for immature Americans in 1981.

Heavy Metal is a loose collection of fantasy and sci-fi stories that revolve around the Loch-Nar, a green glowing ball of evil. I kept thinking of that SNL skit featuring Happy Fun Ball (“If Happy Fun Ball’s core becomes exposed, call the police and evacuate immediately”). Having evil personified as a gobstopper just doesn’t strike fear into the depths of my heart, but I recognize a plot device when I see one.

The stories in Heavy Metal include a Fifth Element-type flying cab romp through a futuristic NYC, a horror story involving the dead crew of a WW2 bomber (my personal favorite), and a loooooooong, mostly silent story at the end of a girl who is clothed, then gets naked, then finds clothes, then gets naked again. There’s a little something for everybody, but I’m sure it’s not everything for anybody. The rock soundtrack includes some decent tunes from groups like Black Sabbath and Devo, and in between songs they play a Star Trek (classic series) riff over and OVER again.

Animation in the late ’70s and early ’80s resembles those drawings that you might see on any ambitious 9th grader’s notebook. It’s kinda choppy, and ranges from extreme detail to lax doodles. I personally didn’t care for it, but I still have bad memories of the animated Lord of the Rings. It’s nothing like Japanese anime that the public’s become so fond of over the past decade. Heavy Metal tries to boast a lot of edgy attitude, but winds up being a burdensome noodle of a movie.

DnaError’s rating: Great goggly moogly

DnaError’s review: A common complaint the voices in my head have is that we here at Mutant Reviewers do not review as many “strange, offbeat, cult” movies as we should. Well voice in my head, I present Heavy Metal for your viewing pleasure. HM is about as cult as you can get without castration and Kool-Aide. It’s non-Disney animation (which places it outside the general sphere of normalcy already) and it’s all about boobs and guns and whatnot. And it’s actually *good* . Heavy Metal stands out as the best of the “alternative animation” movies made in the ’70s and ’80s and one of the best guilty pleasure movies of all times.

For those of you not “in the known,” and by that I mean obsessive geeks, Heavy Metal was originally a comic book, an American counterpoint to the original French comic. (Wow, the frech HAVE produced something useful, who knew?) A kind of Tales From the Crypt-style anthology of sci-fi and fantasy works. It’s gritty stories, sci-fi gloss, and teen male fantasies would be inspiration for cyberpunk and ruin the minds of many young people. The movie stays true to it’s origins, keeping the hand-drawn look. I like the hand-drawn look not cause it’s really good or original, but because it’s so rare nowadays. This messy, pencil and rotoscoped style simply doesn’t exist in a world of CG-cells, digital paint and clean-line anime. It’s not “better” per say but it is different.

The taxi-driver segment probably had the biggest impact on sci-fi today. The NYC is hell is very ’70s, which lead into the “future is techno-hell” of William Gibson and Blade Runner. You can see where they got their ideas from as the Taxi Driver Who Would Be Korban Dallas has an entertaining little story about murder, sex, and deceit. Ahh, values.

Aside from that, the other segments are entertaining as well. The best is the “B-17” segment Justin mentioned. The worst is the last one, which doesn’t have the same humor or imagination as the other ones, just settling on some animated booty. No attempt is made for these things to “make sense” or “have a point,” but who cares? It’s still damned cool after all these years.

“Hey, kids! I’m the happy WWII zombie!”


  • Heavy Metal was released in theaters in 1981. However, the violent/sexual content and music copyrights kept the video from being released until 1997.
  • DnaError: VH1 showed a heavly-edited version of Heavy Metal at midnight a few times. The result was almost impossible to watch cause the cuts (many, many, many cuts) made the stories damn near impossible to follow. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t watch it on Vh1.

Groovy Quotes

Harry: Ah, kiss my ass!
Hooker: I will for twenty bucks.

Hanover Fiste: He’s nothing but a low-down, double-dealing, backstabbing, larcenous perverted worm! Hanging’s too good for him. Burning’s too good for him! He should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!

Sternn: Relax Harry, I’ve got an angle.

Den: There was no way I was gonna walk around this place with my dork hanging out!

Harry: This dame was going for broke. And I was giving her the stars and stripes forever.

Narrator: A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Heavy Metal 2000
  • The Fifth Element
  • Futurama

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