Heavy Metal – tape 2805

I know I keep banging on about the coincidences that happen while doing this blog, but they keep happening, so I’ll keep mentioning them.

This time there are two, and they’re unrelated to each other. First, I was listening to the Empire podcast at the weekend, and it was the Comicon special, where they had an interview with Ivan Reitman, who is the producer of the film on this tape, Heavy Metal. On its own, that wouldn’t be much of a coincidence, but in the interview, they specifically talked about this film, one of the most obscure entries on Reitman’s CV. So that was weird.

But then, my wife and I were rooting through a lot of boxes, looking for some important documents we knew we had, but couldn’t find. We had to move a couple of magazine boxes from the garage to get access to some more document boxes, so I idly flipped through the contents of the magazine boxes, one of which had a lot of old comics, and I noticed there was a pile of Heavy Metal issues.

So when this film came up in my rewatch queue, it almost doesn’t feel like a coincidence. The queue, by the way, is determined by the order in which I digitised the original tapes. This one was done in June 2015, two years ago, so it’s not like I’m unconsciously selecting significant tapes. The order was determined two years ago.

I did used to read the magazine Heavy Metal in my youth. It’s the kind of magazine you enjoy when you’re a young man, filled as it is with beautiful art, weird science fiction stories, but mostly, boobies.

It had, I would say, a disproportionate number of stories which involved naked women. And, to be fair, the occasional naked man, but that was rarer.

I can’t remember if I’ve watched the movie before now, so let’s see what it’s got to offer.

The first thing I’d say is the sound on this is quite bad – a problem either with my original recording, or the VCR when playing back. There’s a nasty buzz on the soundtrack, and it keeps dropping out of Hi-Fi sound into mono, a sure sign of poor tracking.

There are a few names in the voice cast. I saw John Candy, Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis.

The opening starts off portentous, then segues into an MTV ident, as a space shuttle deposits a car in space, and a banging rock tune starts. To be honest, this looks disappointingly cheap, as the car isn’t drawn or painted, it looks like it’s been taken from film and copied onto a cel.

It’s certainly taking its title seriously, as the roster of ‘Songs By’ shows.

It opens with the astronaut in the car returning home, where he has a gift for his daughter. Sadly, it’s glowing green ball that is the manifestation of all evil in the universe, and it kills him. She probably would have been happy with an ice lolly. That’s what my dad used to get us when coming home from work.

Then, despite being the manifestation of all evil in the universe, the glowing sphere doesn’t then kill the girl, he starts to tell her a story. It’s the story of some aliens digging him up and getting killed.

It’s nice to see the Data 70 font has had a resurgence in popularity in this unspecified future.

There’s some bad guys at the museum, and a young girl is escaping from them, thanks to a cabbie who’s just arrived. She’s very upset, but then falls asleep (or unconscious) in the cab as he’s telling her about a police station. And as the police want cash up front, they’re not much help.

So he takes her back to his apartment. She tells him how her father found the Loc-Nar, and people have been dying ever since, plus the bad guys want it and she’s the only one who knows where it is.

Pretty soon, she’s stripping off and getting into bed with him – I told you it was all about the boobies. Clearly, a middle-aged, racist New York cab driver is catnip with the ladies.

She’s gone by the morning, but suddenly everybody is after him, looking for the girl.

This movie did the Jaws Sequel joke before Back to the Future.

She gets in contact with the cabbie again, and asks for his help selling it to one of the bad guys. The bad guy gives her the case with teh money, and takes the Loc-Nar. Then it kills him too. I’m beginning to wonder why so many people want to get it when all it’s done so far is kill people.

Talking of killing people, now they’ve got the money, the girl pulls a gun and tells him to pull over, that she’s taking it all for herself, so he activates the death-ray that all cabbies have to have fitted by law, and is left with the money.

(Note that the death ray removes her clothes first. It didn’t do that with the punk who held up the cab at the start of this story.)

And that’s the end of that story.

Next, the Loc-Nar is found by a young boy who thinks it’s a good idea to route wires from an aerial on his roof into a bucket of water in his bedroom during a thunderstorm.

As a result, when the lightning hits, he’s somehow propelled through space, naked.

He’s also transformed into a bald bodybuilder. This is Richard Corben’s Den, notable in the comic for featuring a naked man as well as naked women. But the film clearly doesn’t think we can take such things, as the first thing Den does when he arrives on a strange planet, is to make a loincloth from a handy scrap of material, because “There was no way I was going to walk around this place with my dork hanging out.” Thus missing Den’s unique selling point, I feel.

But don’t despair, there’s still plenty of boobies, as he sees a naked woman, tied to an alter, and another woman, not naked but with her robe open at the front to make sure you can see everything, leading the chants as they throw the girl into a pool.

Den dives in to rescue her, swimming through an underground tunnel away from the sacrifice.

Naturally, the woman is grateful. She’s Katherine Wells, and also from Earth, from Gibraltar. So naturally they have sex. “This was great. There’s no way I’d get a chick like this back on Earth.”

But their rumpy pumpy is interrupted by some alien types who take them to a castle where he meets Ard, supreme leader of the revolution and the next ruler of the world. In Den’s words he’s “a shrimp” but I think the not so subtle subtext here is that he’s gay. And the first thing he does is order Den to be castrated. Good grief, this is all deeply Freudian.

Ard has had Katherine encased in glass, and will only release her if Den steals the sacred Loc-Nar from the Queen. He’s almost literally fridged her.

He breaks into the Queen’s bedchamber, and naturally, more boobies. The Queen might let him go if he satisfies her appetites. “Wow, eighteen years of nothing and now twice in one day” says the voice-over – John Candy’s voice. Was Corben 14 when he wrote this stuff?

“Your strength has brought great peace to my restless body” she tells him after a fairly full on sex scene. “It could bring great peace to all the troubled people of this land.” Does that mean he has to have sex with everyone?

Also, I should mention that not only are boobies plentiful here, but they’re enormous. The queen has breasts the size of footballs. She makes a Japanese Volleyball video game look restrained.

Oh God, now the gay Ard is going to scrifice Katherine again. She’s still topless.

Den escapes the Queen on a horse, and is pursued by people on huge flying insects.

The Queen and Ard argue over who’s going to have the Loc-Nar, and Den saves the day by electrocuting a big water monster using a chain, a spear and some lightning.

The next story concerns Captain Lincoln Stern, on trial for a lot of crimes (including multiple murders and rapes).

He thinks he’s going to get off, because the witness has been paid off, but the witness has picked up the Loc-Nar, and turns into a huge musclebound monster, and chases Stern out of the courthouse and through the huge space station they’re on.

But when he catches up with Stern, Stern gives him the money he’s owed, and he turns back into a normal human.

Then Stern drops him out of an airlock.

Boobie count zero, but the behemoth was topless.

The next story concerns the air crew of a World War II bomber. Most of them are shot dead by anti-aircraft fire, then the Loc-Nar hits the plane, and the crew are turned into marauding skeletons.

The pilot bails out and lands on an island. Which is full of crashed planes and more skeleton crew.

And that’s the end of that story. The entirety of that story. I hope these all worked better in the comic.

The next story is set at the Pentagon, as space expert Dr Anrak tells a concerned group of generals and politicians that the recent spate of mutations can’t be alien in origin, because human beings are the only intelligent life in the universe.

Meanwhile, above the pentagon, an emoji shaped spaceship has arrived.

Dr Anrak starts to behave strangely. Perhaps he’s being distracted by the green glowing brooch worn by the secretary.

So distracted that he actually grabs her and starts molesting her on the table.

At which point a giant tube emerges from the USS Emoji, drills down to the room they’re in, and sucks up the doctor and the secretary.

But the Doctor is actually a robot. And the woman is taken somewhere by a robot.

Piloting the ship are two strange aliens. At one point they cover the floor with white powder and start snorting it.

There’s a montage of derelict spacecraft, including a sneaky cameo from the Enterprise.

Oh for fuck’s sake. We now return to the woman, who’s now (you guessed it) naked, and having a post coital cigarette lying next to the robot.

She agrees to marry him on condition they have a Jewish wedding. Then the stoned pilots land the ship somewhere. And that’s the end of that ‘story’.

The final story (we’re promised) see the Loc-Nar land in a volcano, which then erupts over a large band of the local population, and rather than dying, they turn into a violent mob.

The remaining population are all thinkers and philosophers, not equipped to fight an ugly mob, so they have to summon Taarna, the last of the warrior race, and the only person who can help them.

But then there appears to be a long passage of time – and we’re watching someone flying over the planet on some kind of giant bird. I mean, I guess the scenery is nice, but this is going on for a very long time.

Our mysterious flyer is a woman, But at least she’s fully dressed.

No wait, the cloak is off immediately.

At least she puts on a few clothes before leaving. Very few.

She flies into the city, now a smoking ruin, to find the bodies of the men who summoned her, all dead.

She tracks some of the marauders to a bar and kills them. But when she gets closer to their city, she’s captured herself. In no time, she’s held captive, and naked again. And whipped.

But she’s rescued by her bird. Hooray.

Which is then shot as she escapes. Boo.

She then fights a man with a circular saw for a hand.

She finishes him off, then, with the help of her bird who’s not actually completely dead. she flies to the volcano and summons lightning to destroy the Loc-Nar.

Curiously, this seems to cause the Loc-Nar from the opening to be destroyed, leaving the young girl free, and she finds her own flying bird. Because she’s the reincarnation of Taarna, keeping the world safe from the Loc-Nar for another generation. And thank crikey she doesn’t get her kit off.

One of the Blue Oyster Cult songs on the soundtrack has a writing credit for ‘Michael Moorecock’. I’ve checked, and it is actually a misprint for the actual Michael Moorcock, veteran Science Fiction writer. And this is the most interesting thing about this movie so far.

Actually, the credits are the most interesting thing. The art Director for the Den sequence was Pat Gavin, who also created the title sequence for The South Bank Show.

Another familiar name – one of the animators is Hester Coblentz, who was Production Manager on Roobarb and Noah And Nelly for Bob Godfrey.

The Emoji spaceship sequence was based on the work of Angus McKie, but the co-designer was Neal Adams, a legendary comics artist in the 70s.

Among the designers for the Taarna sequence were Mike Ploog, Howard Chaykin and Doctor Who paperback artist Chris Achilleos. They fail to credit Jean Giraud (Moebius) whose influence is quite strong in places.

I know I said recently that Sleepwalkers was the worst film I’ve seen in a long time. Well this one is close. I wonder if I’d have liked it when I was younger? Possibly, I’m pretty sure I was a bit of an arse.

Next, something preceded by an odd dedication.

Something starts, and I’ve no idea what the heck it is. I only know that it’s got something to do with Doug Bradley (Pinhead) who’s a rogue scientist, or something.

Then London gets hit with some very cheap special effects, courtesy of “The Anti-God Baal”.

It’s something called Archangel Thunderbird, and just when I thought the madness was over, and the credits were rolling, there’s this:

Professor Doug Bradley has The Necronomicon.

Now they’ve used the Necronomicon to summon up a giant to defend the Earth against stop motion dinosaurs.

The whole thing is ten minutes long, and looks like a pitch for a series that never happened. It ends with the most pointless content warning ever.

The live action was directed by Kevin Davies, who I’ve met a few times – coincidentally the last time was also when I met Neil Gaiman – Neil was giving the annual Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture, and Kevin was helping us run a live stream of the event.

I’ll say one thing. That was a whole lot more fun than Heavy Metal.

After this, recording continues with a couple of episodes of The Hunger, introduced by Terence Stamp.

It’s a Showtime show, so there’s even boobies in these. The first one features Michael Gross, who we saw quite recently in Tremors. Everything is connected.

Then, something a little more interesting – an episode of The World of Hammer. Just a clips show, really, but at least they delve a little deeper into the Hammer back catalogue, looking at thrillers like Hell is a City.

There’s some grim thrillers in this lot. Here’s Peter Vaughan menacing Susan George.

After this, the tape finally ends during an episode of Friday 13th The Series.

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2 comments

  1. In between the heavy metal songs in “Heavy Metal” there’s music by Elmer Bernstein – there was a separate score album put out, which was very unusual back then. It’s worth getting the complete score CD just for this on the back cover.

    Also, for the music.

  2. When The Fifth Element was released, some people with long memories noted how similar the plot was to the cabbie story of Heavy Metal. TFE is a lot better, though.

    The cast was made up of a lot of SCTV comedians (like Reitman, they’re Canadian too). But the whole thing is about 2% as witty as an episode of that, it’s strictly for those who liked to hang posters of metal albums on their bedroom walls.

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