Run Time: 91 minutes
Directors: Gerald Potterton, Jimmy T. Murakami
Cast (voices): John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Caroline Semple
For as long as I could remember it had called to me. I'm not sure what was the most enticing element. Could it have been the textured block letters? The blond lion's mane on the buxom cover girl? The adorable, yet frightening phoenix/pterodactyl creature she is riding on? While all of these elements are certainly intriguing, I think what really caught my eye was the shiny metallic cover.
Yes, the cover shined and shimmered, and called out to me when I was just a wee lass, but due to the combined prohibitions of my father and the overbearing video store guy I was not allowed to watch Heavy Metal during the era when it most appealed to me. Then, this past November when my boyfriend and I were cleaning up the dollar video collection at a Blockbuster in Providence, RI, I stumbled upon a copy of this VHS. The shiny cover was just how I remembered it, although this copy was clearly a reissue. I bought it, but didn't watch it until earlier today.
I'm certainly not going to say that this movie isn't enjoyable, but I will say that I now fully understand why my dad and the Video International guy didn't think it was a good idea for me to see this movie. The whole movie is very focused on giant glowing orbs, particularly ginormous animated space bazooms. While I've learned to overlook gratuitous nudity and exploitation of the female body to a certain extent, for the first couple of vignettes the unecessary boob action was pretty hard to get past. The filmmakers have a specific audience in mind, and since I'm neither 12, male, a virgin, and living in an era where internet porn isn't readily available, I just don't quite make the cut. At age eight, when I most wanted to see it, I would have turned beet red, but now I can just laugh.
The movie's strongest feature is the animation. Although it might not impress anime fanatics, and has certainly been surpassed recently, this movie has some images in it that are pretty hi-tech for early 80s animation. Its baroque use of color and light is reminiscent of The Last Unicorn, and The Hobbit, which are more chick friendly early 80s animations. If you're a fan of the style of these two movies, than you are a likely fan of the visual style of Heavy Metal.
The movie also has a few worthwhile characters, such as Hanover Fiste, a plebe with Leno-esque chin whose life is ruined by the effect of the green orb. I'm also a fan of Taarna. While she is gratuitously bare breasted for a portion of her screen time (like most of the women in the movie), she's a badass lady space freedom fighter, and the closest thing to feminist figure that you'll find in a movie like this.
The previews and extras on this VHS are pretty great. They include The Last Supper (a "mature" comedy), starring Cameron Diaz, Annabeth Gish, Bill Paxton, and Ron Perleman, which is about a group of liberal friends who conspire to kill a right wing tv personality; The City of Lost Children, which is a surreal Jon Jeunet movie; Desperado, which is an awesome action movie directed by Robert Rodriguez, starring Antonio Banderas. After the feature, there is some deleted footage called "Nevermore Land", which is pretty basic, but very visually interesting. It tells the story of the orb throughout Western history, showing us images of Ancient Rome and Jack the Ripper to name a few. It is perhaps more compelling than the rest of the film.
All in all, Heavy Metal is a good way to spend an hour and a half, as long as you aren't turned off by misogynistic sex scenes, and know how to appreciate dated animation.