Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Heavy Metal Movie (1981)

Ahh, how I love Netfilx. When this movie was first released, I was only ten years old. I did manage to see it, I believe in 1982. I would often spend the night at my grandparents' house. One big selling point for staying at my grandparents was that they had "Home-Box". I would sleep downstairs, and watch late into the night. I discovered Heavy Metal late one night, and watched it (with the volume turned low, so Grandma wouldn't come downstairs and find me watching "dirty shows"). I was enthralled.

Due to the long unavailability of the film, I didn't watch it again until this past weekend. It is stream-able on Netflix. Some things just don't weather well with time.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it the second time through, but it wasn't as "awesome" as my memory served. I can forgive the animation. For it's time, it wasn't horrible at all. This was one of America's first cartoon adventures for adults. Some of the stories still hold water, in a "check your brain at the door and just don't think about it too hard" sort of way.

The menu of short films is a mixed bag of things I love: hard boiled dystopian future noir with "Harry Canyon"; Sword & Planet with "Den" and "Taarna"; space opera with a splash of comedy in "Captain Stern" and "So Beautiful and So Dangerous"; and EC Comics style horror with "B-17". All of the stories are loosely strung together with a plot device of a glowing green orb called the Loc-Nar which is the sum of all evil. As a device, it works, but is clumsy and unnecessary. I suspect it was thrown in by the producers in order to be able to sell it as a movie versus an anthology of short films.

The later choice would have been more appropriate as it would be more in spirit with the magazine of the same name that serves as the inspiration for the film. My experience with the magazine is minimal. I have read a few stray copies here and there, but I am not a dedicated reader.

As to the shorts films that make up the movie, "B-17" was by far my favorite, but I have an inclination to like a story that would have fit well in the long defunct EC Comics line. "Taarna" and "Den" are close second and thirds for me. Again, these two segments play to my like of Sword & Planet stories, not too mention a strong dose of naked breasts and eroticism. I'll be honest, this movie lives as a cult classic in my mind for it's notoriety of having lots of animated naked women and lots of sex. "Den" plays to those strengths well with its plot line of a scrawny nerdy young man named Dan (voiced by the late John Candy) who is whisked off to another planet and has his body transformed into the muscular Den. On this mysterious planet, he scores with not one, but two beautiful women in less then 24 hours. That story line could have easily been one of my adolescent day dreams.

In short, this will always be a cult classic for me. It is not perfect, but for its intentions it was great. It has all the elements that I nostalgically love of early fantasy/science-fiction films from its era: a bit of cheese, lots of action, boobies, sex, blood and grit. Heavy Metal has one more element that many such movies of it's ilk and era did not have: a kick-ass soundtrack of 80's rock to include Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, Devo, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult and others.

I think gamers could take inspiration from the film. I'm sure my early games did. While that inspiration may come from the story lines, in my own games I think it serves as a reminder to show not tell, and in true Heavy Metal style, go over the top. Don't try to subdue your description. Give the players bright blood, gaudy dressed villains, memorable locals.

A few well placed buxom women with large exposed breasts never hurts either. Extra credit if you can supply a live action model to your gaming table.

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