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Heavy Metal (movie)

From Academic Kids

Heavy Metal is a 1981 Canadian animated film produced by Ivan Reitman with the cooperation of various international animation studios. The film is an anthology of various adult oriented science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from Heavy Metal magazine and original stories in the same spirit. Like the magazine, the film has an unusual amount of bloody violence, nudity and sexuality for a North American animated film, especially in the time before the popularity of adult oriented Japanese anime. A direct to video sequel of sorts followed in the year 2000 with the animated movie Heavy Metal 2000, also known as Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K..

Plot summary

The movie's framing story (Soft Landing) begins with an astronaut (possibly the "Grimaldi" mentioned in the credits) descending through Earth's atmosphere in a futuristic automobile. He arrives at a hilltop mansion, where a young girl greets him. He shows her something he brought back: a green sphere. Shortly after he reveals it, the orb glows and painfully melts the astronaut. It introduces itself to the terrified girl as "the Loc-Nar, the sum of all evils." Before it kills her, it says, it will show her how it has influenced society through time and space. The Loc -Nar then forces her to watch the following stories (in order):

  • Harry Canyon: In a dystopian future New York City, cynical taxi driver Harry Canyon narrates his day in film noir style, grumbling about his fares and the occasional robbery attempt (which he thwarts with a disintegrator gun installed behind his seat). He stumbles into an incident where a fat gangster and his cyborg henchmen murder an archeologist. Harry begrudgingly lets the murdered man's daughter into his cab, and she tells him about his discovery: the Loc-Nar, an artifact that people are killing each other over. Harry cannot afford to pay for a police investigation, so he takes the girl back to his apartment. That night, the girl strips, climbs into his bed, and they make love. Harry awakes alone the next morning when the cops bust into the apartment looking for the girl, whose existence he denies. One of his fares that day is the fat gangster, who threatens Harry if he doesn't cooperate. Later, the girl finds Harry and offers to sell the Loc-Nar and split the proceeds with him. He agrees to take her to the Exchange. When the gangster gets the Loc-Nar, he takes it out of its isolation case, and it melts him away. Meanwhile, the girl pulls a gun on Harry, who uses his self-defense ray to evaporate her.
  • Den: Based on the original story by Richard Corben. Dan, a nerdy teenager voiced by John Candy, finds "a weird green meteorite" and puts in his rock collection at home. Weeks later, during a lightning experiment, the orb hurls the boy into the fantasy world of Neverwhere, where he changes into a naked bald muscleman named Den. Landing on a giant idol, he witnesses a strange ritual and rescues a nubile young woman who was about to be sacrificed to "Oolotec". Reaching safety, she tells him that she is from Earth, her name is Katherine Wells, and that she changed into an idealized body. As she demonstrates her gratitude with sexual favours, they are interrupted by the minions of Ard, an immortal man who wants to obtain the Loc-Nar and use it to rule the world. He puts Katherine in suspended animation and orders Den to get the Loc-Nar from the Queen (the woman who performed the ritual). Den agrees and infiltrates the Queen's palace with some of Ard's warriors. He is promptly caught by the Queen's guard, but she offers leniency if he has sex with her. He complies, while the raiding party steals the Loc-Nar. Den escapes and, with the Queen and her forces in pursuit, races back to the idol, where Ard is attempting to recreate the sacrifice himself. Den rescues Katherine, and the Queen's arrival sparks a bloody battle between her and Ard (backed by their respective armies). Den ends the battle by recreating the incident that drew him to Neverwhere, banishing Ard and the Queen. Refusing the opportunity to rule, Den and Katherine ride into the sunset, content to remain in Neverwhere as heroes with idealized bodies.
  • Captain Sternn: Based on the original story by Berni Wrightson. On a space station, a square jawed space captain—Lincoln F. Sternn—is on trial for numerous serious charges. Pleading "not guilty" against his rat-faced lawyer's advice, Sternn explains to his astonished lawyer that he expects to be acquitted because he bribed a witness, Hanover Fiste, to praise his character. Fiste takes the stand, but his perjury is subverted when the Loc-Nar (in his possession and currently reduced to the size of a marble) forces him to blurt out the truth about Sternn's evil deeds and to suggest gruesome execution methods (Hanging's too good for him! Burning's too good for him! He should be torn into itsy-bitsy pieces and buried alive!). Fiste denounces Sternn with such fury that he changes into a muscled giant like the Incredible Hulk, and chases Sternn throughout the station, breaking through bulkheads after him. Eventually, Fiste corners Sternn, and promptly receives his promised payoff for his part in Sternn's plan to escape, shrinking him back to his gangly original form. Sternn then adds a bonus: he tosses Fiste out an airlock, and the Loc-Nar reenters an atmosphere with Fiste's flaming hand still clinging to it.
  • B-17: A World War II bomber makes a difficult bombing run with heavy damage and casulties. As the bomber limps home, the Loc-Nar rams itself into the plane, and raises the dead crewmembers as rampaging, flesh-hungry zombies. The pilot barely bails out in time, only to land on an island, surrounded by zombified airmen.
  • So Beautiful, So Dangerous: Based on the original story by Angus McKie. A science consultant arrives at the Pentagon for a meeting about mysterious mutations that are plaguing the USA. At the meeting, the consultant tries to dismiss the occurrences, but when he sees the green stone in the secretary's locket, he starts behaving erratically, goes berserk, and sexually assaults her. In the sky above, a colossal ship with a smiley face design breaks through the roof with a transport tube and sucks up the berserk consultant and the secretary. The robot inside the ship is irritated at the consultant, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but his mood changes when the secretary arrives. With the help of the ship's hippie crew, he convinces the secretary to stay on board and become his lover. Meanwhile, the hippie crewmembers ingest a massive amount of plutonium nyborg and fly home completely stoned.
  • Taarna: The Loc-Nar crashes onto a future Earth and changes a crowd of humans into mutated murderous barbarians who ravage a peaceful city. The elders desperately try to summon the last of a warrior race, the Tarakians. Taarna, a strong, silent (and sexy) warrior maiden, arrives too late to stop the massacre and resolves to avenge the city. Her search leads to the barbarians' stronghold, where she is captured, tortured and left for dead. With the help of her avian mount, she escapes and confronts the barbarian leader. Though wounded, she defeats him and in one last effort, flies into the Loc-Nar, destroying it.

As the final story ends, the Loc-Nar terrorizing the girl is similarly destroyed, blowing the mansion to pieces, and the girl is revealed to be the next Tarakian herself.

Critical reaction and cult status

The critics were generally dismissive, complaining that the film was wildly uneven and appealed only to adolescent tastes.

The film enjoyed only limited appeal in its initial run, but became a popular cult attraction for midnight theatrical showings, much like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. When legal problems with the film's music rights kept the it off the commercial home video market for 15 years, its mystique was heightened because it could be seen only in theatres or via bootleg recordings. In 1996, the legal issues were resolved and the film is now generally available.

Heavy Metal may be the canonical example of a popular film or album that was unavailable to consumers for a long time for obscure reasons, despite popular acclaim or success.

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