Turn Back the Clock

Heavy Metal

Distributed By: Columbia Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                I remember when Heavy Metal first hit the theaters.  I was interested in the rocking promos on the television and thought, "What a cool movie!  It's a cartoon with really rocking tunes.  My parents would definitely allow me to see this.  We've seen all kinds of cartoon films."  I believe I was met with a resounding, "NO!"  This was an adult film.  I remember wondering what kind of cartoon would be an adult film, but, judging from the tone of voice I heard, wisely decided not to ask...and wait until I was old enough to find out for myself.

                Many moons later, living alone, I decided to rent the taboo film.  Boy, was I in for an interesting ride.  Heavy Metal definitely contained some adult themes.  Had to agree with my parents on this one - Heavy Metal was definitely not meant to be watched by kids!

                Heavy Metal is an anthology of stories, some based on tales from the magazine bearing the same name with some original tales thrown in, all threaded together by one constant - a glowing green orb.  This orb, often looked upon as a bauble or as a magnificent jewel, is actually a living entity filled with evil and capable of bringing out the evil in others.  The orb sets about terrifying one little girl, telling its story as it warns her of impending death.  In each segment, the green orb has something to do with the downfall of an individual.  During WWII, it was the destruction of many a fighter pilot and his crew.  In New York, in the future, the orb is at the root of a greedy society, unwittingly dragging in a cab driver just trying to survive day to day.  A young boy is unwittingly transported into another world in which the green orb is a source of unspeakable power to be fought over by two tribes seeking dominance over one another.  While, on another world, the orb causes the rise of a vicious army sent to destroy all in its path until an avenging warrior puts an end to the destruction.

                After each scenario, one wonders why the orb is even bothering terrifying this little girl.  After all, just look at the power it contains.  Then you realize - this orb isn't simply playing with her.  It is actively setting out to terrify her...to maintain the idea that she is weak in the face of it.  Why?  Because this mysterious orb containing all matter of evil powers is actually afraid...afraid it can be defeated.  And it sees something in this little girl, something it can not abide by - its own doom.

                Now, the first time I watched it, I had a little trouble understanding the thread that held this film together.  Having since watched Heavy Metal several times, I marvel at how I missed something so obvious.  And each and every time I watch the film, I am amazed at the animation which, now might seem archaic, but at the time was state of the art amazing.  Sure, there were some cartoony moments, but just the opening sequence, with the astronaut driving home in a space car that looks remarkably like an awesome sports convertible.   That sequence represents some of the most artistic animation I have seen in film.

                Being called Heavy Metal, you had to know that this film would have an incredible rock soundtrack.  There were songs by Sammy Hagar, Cheap Trick, Journey, Devo, Black Sabbath, Stevie Nicks and more.  The musical score of the film by Elmer Bernstein was equally notable and featured his first use of the ondes Montenot, an early electronic instrument which provides eerie, wavering notes, adding to the strangeness of the orb. 

                As a fan of rock and roll and good animation, I have a lot of fun watching Heavy Metal each and every time, but I have to warn you - you don't want to watch this around kids.  I can't stress that enough.  You are probably thinking - so there's some graphic content.  How bad could it be?  Well, I was quite surprised when I first watched Heavy Metal myself.  There's a great deal of female nudity in this film and the women are...shall I say, robust.  And there is also quite a bit of sex.  Nowadays, I've seen much worse in a live action film rated PG-13, but if you want to maintain the innocence of youth, this is not a film you will watch with children around.


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