Heavy Metal (1981)

Heavy Metal, the movie, is great encapsulation of Heavy Metal, the magazine. Heavy Metal was and is an anthology of the best of American and European comic writers and artists. It has carried the work of such masters as Moebius, Druillet, Liberatore, Bernie Wrightson, Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, Arthur Sydam, Enki Bilal, Richard Corben and Simon Bisley. The movie adapts some of the great stories from the glory days of the magazine.

The movie is much like the magazine: a mixed bag of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comedy, and erotica. Some of it is good, some not. My personal favorites are Harry Canyon, Den, Captain Sternn, B-17, and Tarna. Harry Canyon is a sci-fi tale of thugs, femme fatales, and cynics ala Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, transported to the future. It has been cited as an inspiration for The Fifth Element, by some; but it bears some resemblance to the works of French artist, Moebius, who created designs for The Fifth Element. Moebius also factors into Tarna, as the entire look of this sequence is almost xeroxed from Moebius’ Arzach stories.

Captain Sternn is the anti-hero/criminal from Bernie Wrightson, co-creator of Swamp Thing and illustrator of a beautiful edition of Frankenstein. This is a fun sequence, full of comedy and chaos, much like the Sternn stories. Sternn has more than a slight resemblance to a certain Kryptonian.

B-17 captures the flavor of the old EC horror comics, like Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror. The sequence features design work from Mike Ploog, a horror comics master and artist of Marvel’s Man-Thing. It has a nice creepy, decayed atmosphere and lets the visuals tell the story.

Den is adapted from Richard Corben’s tales. The melon-breasted women that Corben is known for are on fine display here. We also get the humor that also permeates Corben’s work. John Candy was quite good here, giving Den the perfect adolescent voice.

Tarna is the most lush sequence, with sweeping vistas and the use of rotoscoping for the character. It is also quite violent. Again, it owes a great deal to Moebius’ Arzach.

So Beautiful, So Dangerous is pretty forgettable, with juvenile humor and boring animation. Soft Landing is fairly pointless, except to serve as a title sequence. The whole linking device is unnecessary, as the segments bear little relation to one another and are stronger as separate entities. The soundtrack is great, with most pieces capturing the flavor of the animation.