The Abominable Heavy Metal Movie

heavy1Those Satanic Algorithms of Netflix caught me out last night, as I noticed in its recommendations the Heavy Metal movie, a film I first saw it on VHS, sadly on a regretted sell-through copy rather than a rental, many moons ago. I’d been curious of watching the film for years (it came out in cinemas back in 1981) and was expecting something quite special – I recall a glowing review in Starburst magazine when the film came out. I don’t know what they were watching (or what they were smoking) but goodness me that VHS was a shocking disappointment. I was somehow expecting something like the imagery of that picture above, which that damned Starburst review splashed across its pages as if that’s how the whole thing looked. I mean sure, in hindsight I was clearly an idiot- you could make that imagined movie that ran in my head look like that today, with CGI etc, but back in 1981, on the limited budget typical of any animation back then? Impossible. Instead we got jerky, flat and horrible animation, and even worse, crudely assembled and adapted stories with imagery that was just about sex and titillation.

Sure, the film obviously knew its audience, or at least assumed it knew the readership of the original magazine: as it turned out, I think they were proven wrong as the film deservedly flopped. Over the years, who knows, maybe young boys loved the movie, but I’m pretty certain women must have hated it, and rightly so: each female character is pretty much just a sex object and spends as little time as possible stripping off and having sex. Its like the very worst it could possibly be, and in this day and age would have the producers of the new mightily progressive Dr Who in hysterical fits.

So anyway, idiocy once again got the better of me and I pressed ‘play’ on the remote, wondering if that movie was really as bad as I remembered. Sometimes old films surprise you by being better than you recall; maybe its the familiar face of an old actor, or old styles of the time. Most of the time its as bad as you feared, but sometimes its even worse. This was the latter.

Such a shame. Even back in 1981, the magazine deserved better. I think the true Heavy Metal Movie would be an assembly of the best segments of Netflix’s own Love, Death + Robots that came out last year. Infact, it occurred to me that I would be much better off re-watching some of that than rekindling old horror-experiences of this movie. But it was late, it was a worknight, so I cursed those Netflix algorithms and stopped the regrettable play through of this terrible movie, hoping I’ll never have to suffer it again.

6 thoughts on “The Abominable Heavy Metal Movie

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    I remember that same coverage in Starburst, but I never got to see this film until a couple of years ago. Though I only lasted about twenty minutes.

    Shockingly bad film.

    I’m still fond of the original ‘So Beautiful, So Dangerous’ story by Angus McKie though. Lovely artwork.

    1. Yeah I loved that strip too. That was such a great exciting era for ‘adult/alternative’ comic strip stories/art. Creators seemed to be pushing the boundaries of what comics could be. I suppose all that evolved into the move to graphic novels and stuff like Watchmen and DKR etc, but back when European creatives were pushing the boundaries (and we saw English-language versions in Heavy Metal) it was particularity exciting. For all I know some of that is continuing (I don’t know if Heavy Metal is still being published) but if its Out There, its awfully niche and passed me by, unfortunately.

  2. gregory moss

    I too remember that Starburst review. And quite frankly – I loved this film upon its release. Is it flawed? Absolutely. But I’m appreciative of the intent. I’m actually glad I live in a world where this film exists.

    1. Hey Greg, appreciate your bravery vouching for this one! Every film is loved by someone, I reckon, and I’m reminded of my own adoration for Life Force – a film with a terrible cast and acting, awful dialogue and too many ‘WTF?’ moments to mention. I do think there is a place for a genuinely proper stab at a Heavy Metal animated movie (although I also think Love Sex + Robots has probably filled that gap) that does the original stories (certainly that great 1970s/early 1980s era) justice.

      Did you see Heavy Metal at the cinema then? I wondered if it was a different experience on a big screen in the day compared to my own VHS experience. Some films, you just had to ‘be there’. That being said, I do think the animation was poor and I really, really hated the original score – possibly from my aversion to most scores by Elmer Bernstein, especially any of his his orchestrations using the Ondes Martenot. He’s ruined a few films for me just for using that bloody thing.

      1. Matthew McKinnon

        An odd coincidence: I just – literally this morning – finished reading Jim Clark’s ‘Dream Repairman’, about his life as a film editor. There’s a short chapter where he’s brought in to try to improve Robert Benton’s ‘Twilight’ and attends the music spotting and recording sessions with Elmer Bernstein.

        It featured the Ondes Martenot. Heavily. Benton became increasingly unhappy with it.

        Clark bumped into someone else who worked with Bernstein at the time and they asked ‘does the score have the Ondes featuring prominently?’ .

        Apparently Elmer is friends with the French virtuoso who plays the thing and likes to fly them over to New York whenever he can.

        Eventually it was all re-recorded without the Ondes parts.

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