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"Heavy Metal" creates a unique entertainment experience with its historic marriage of film, music, and art. It transports a viewer to a step beyond science-fiction into a universe of magic, passionate fantasies, awesome good, and terrifying evil.
Inspired by the fantastic stories and exceptional sexual graphics that brought Heavy Metal magazine an international readership, "Heavy Metal" points its other-world adventures towards futuristic hues. Each world and story is dominated by the presence of the Loch-nar -- the sum of all evils manifested as a glowing green sphere whose power infects all times, all galaxies, all dimensions.
To some, the Loch-nar appears to be a treasure, a green jewel that they must possess. Others worship it as a god. Few escape it. Even in death and through death its powers continue. From war to war and world to world it seems invincible. Only Loch-nar knows its true adversary: this is the story of "Heavy Metal." The film's unfolding was perhaps best described by Brad Balfour, writing for Heavy Metal magazine:
It goes something like this, as one scriptwriter, Len Blum, puts its, "from one universe into another." It opens with the Soft Landing sequence, based on art by Thomas Warkentin, from an idea by "Alien" scriptwriter Dan O'Bannon. After this "2001: A Space Odyssey"-like prologue, it shifts rather handily into the quasi-mythical Grimaldi story - the key linking device between sequences. From this we jump into Den, the adaptation of Richard Corben's brilliantly drawn quintessential hero fiction. It presented the greatest challenge to bring to the screen. Corben's spectacular color values were carefully maintained in the backgrounds, with bizarre expanses glowing in rich, fluorescent hues. The tale of young Dan's transformation into the hero Den, who's caught in the power struggle between the sorcerer Ard and the queen-priestess, is told with near-explicit sex scenes amidst lots of solid, hand-to-hand combat.
From these staggering visuals, the film carries us into the galactic court where Captain Sternn is on trial. From comic-artist great Berni Wrightson's original story, Sternn is the ultimate parody of every space-opera villian-hero. As the story leaves the conclusion of the trial, it moves into the Neverwhere world - master animator Cornelius Cole's personal vision of the history of evil as a basic force in history. Cole's visionary graphics employ intricate ball-point renderings of lyric pastels. On to B-17, the first true horror story to be animated, with all the savagery that makes great shockers.
Will Eisner-trained film artist Mike Ploog did most of the conceptualizations. His background as a former Marvel Comics "Conan" and "Frankenstein" artist lends greater power to this 1950's B.C. Comics-style terror tale. The story (based on an original idea of O'Bannon's) was given a twist of authenticity. They visited an aviation museum, and one of the last few flyable B-17's was flown in order to record actual sound effects of the plane. With the following sequence, So Beautiful and So Dangerous, came the original artist, Angus McKie, who directly contributed seventy key background paintings of the most incredible animation sequences ever done. The contrast between McKie's high-tech environments and the three space jockeys was inspired by Cheech and Chong.
Juan Gimenez's Harry Canyon is an original depiction of a world half-familiar -- New York City -- in an unfamiliar time, 2031. The misadventures of a cynical cab driver caught in the middle of a battle for valuable stolen goods comes right out of a thirties detective story. "We sort of thought of it as an animated variation of Dashiell Hammett's 'Maltese Falcon,' starring Humphrey Bogart," says the other scriptwriter, Dan Goldberg. "Heavy Metal's" New York of the future is everything the area was before its current renovation, only more: there's a Times Square with cheap, rip-off churches; a cop station that charges to aid the troubled; a Statue of Liberty no longer in the bay but surrounded by skyscrapers; and the Brooklyn Bridge graced with the sign 'Use at Your Own Risk.' Ironically, all of this was initially envisioned by the exceptional South American illustrator Juan Gimenez, who had never visited New York when he did the subtle drawings. He imagined a New York City unprejudiced by its reality -- a reality that he discovered only weeks after his four-month drawing stint in Canada.
Finally, the piece de resistance, the grand finale is the twenty-seven minute long Legend of Taarna, a sequence which boasts perhaps a dozen lines of dialogue. Taarna evokes the sense of wonder that every animation fan, sword-and-sorcery fan, feminist sci-fi fan, female-anatomy fan, mythology fan, weird landscape-and-wild-beastie fan, or special effects fan ever desires. As the sequence director, John Bruno, puts it, "It fits the perfect formula for animation; it's something impossible to do in live action."
That animation was the ideal medium for bringing Heavy Metal to life was recognized right away by "Heavy Metal" producer Ivan Reitman. "I knew it wouldn't work as a regular movie," he explains. "So I figured, if we put together segments of shifting designs and story approaches, yet make them somehow connected, we could have the best of all worlds."
Copyright © 1996, Columbia Pictures Inc. All rights reserved.