Heavy Metal (film)

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Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal (1981).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gerald Potterton
Produced by Ivan Reitman
Screenplay by
Based on
Original art and stories
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Edited by
  • Ian Llande ("Den")
  • Mick Manning ("Soft Landing")
  • Gerald Tripp ("Harry Canyon" and "B-17")
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • August 7, 1981 (1981-08-07)
Running time
90 minutes [1]
CountryCanada [2]
United States [2]
Budget$9.3 million
Box office$20.1 million [3] [4]

Heavy Metal is a 1981 Canadian adult animated sci-fi-fantasy film directed by Gerald Potterton, produced by Ivan Reitman and Leonard Mogel, who also was the publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, which was the basis for the film, and starring the voices of Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Percy Rodriguez, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon, and Zal Yanovsky. The screenplay was written by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum.

Adult animation, adult cartoon or mature animation, is any type of animated motion work that is mainly targeted towards adults and older adolescents, as opposed to children or all-ages audiences. Works in this genre may be considered adult for any number of reasons, such as complex themes, sexual or suggestive content, graphic violence, profane language or dark humor. Works in this genre may explore philosophical, political, or social issues. Some productions are noted for sophisticated and/or experimental storytelling and animation techniques.

Science fiction film film genre

Science fiction film is a genre that uses rtd-speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

Fantasy film film genre

Fantasy films are films that belong to the fantasy genre with fantastic themes, usually magic, supernatural events, mythology, folklore, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered a form of speculative fiction alongside science fiction films and horror films, although the genres do overlap. Fantasy films often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, escapism, and the extraordinary.


The film is an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from Heavy Metal magazine and original stories in the same spirit. Like the magazine, the film features a great deal of graphic violence, sexuality, and nudity. Its production was expedited by having several animation houses working simultaneously on different segments.

An anthology film is a subgenre of films consisting of several different short films, often tied together by only a single theme, premise, or brief interlocking event. Sometimes each one is directed by a different director. These differ from "revue films" such as Paramount on Parade (1930)—which were common in Hollywood in the early sound film era to show off their stars and related vaudeville-style acts—composite films, and compilation films.

Graphic violence is the depiction of especially vivid, brutal and realistic acts of violence in visual media such as literature, film, television, and video games. It may be real, simulated live action, or animated.

Nudity State of wearing no clothing

Nudity, or nakedness, is the state of wearing no clothing.

A sequel titled Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000.

<i>Heavy Metal 2000</i> 2000 film by Michael Coldewey

Heavy Metal 2000 is a 2000 Canadian-German adult animated science fiction film produced by Jacques Pettigrew and Michel Lemire, and directed by Michael Coldewey and Lemire. Starring the voices of Michael Ironside, Julie Strain, and Billy Idol, the film is the follow-up to the 1981 animated cult film Heavy Metal, which is based on the fantasy magazine of the same name. The story is based on the graphic novel, The Melting Pot, written by Kevin Eastman, Simon Bisley and Eric Talbot. The film was made by CinéGroupe, a studio based in Montreal, Quebec.


Soft Landing

The title sequence story opens with a space shuttle orbiting the Earth. The bay doors open, releasing a Corvette. An astronaut seated in the car then begins descending through Earth's atmosphere, landing in a desert canyon.

Astronaut Person who commands, pilots, or serves as a crew member of a spacecraft

An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft. Although generally reserved for professional space travelers, the terms are sometimes applied to anyone who travels into space, including scientists, politicians, journalists, and tourists.


Teruaki "Jimmy" Murakami was an American animator and film director with a long career working in numerous countries. Among his best-known works are the animated adaptations of the Raymond Briggs books When the Wind Blows and The Snowman. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for The Magic Pear Tree (1968).

John Coates was a British film producer, best known for producing the animated film The Snowman based on the picture book by Raymond Briggs, one of the first animated productions screened on Channel Four and still repeated every year on the channel.

Dan OBannon American film director, screenwriter, actor

Daniel Thomas O'Bannon was an American film screenwriter, director, visual effects supervisor, and occasional actor, usually in the science fiction and horror genres.



In the framing story, the astronaut Grimaldi arrives at home, where he is greeted by his daughter. He says he has something to show her. When he opens his case, a green, crystalline sphere rises out and melts him. It introduces itself to the terrified girl as "the sum of all evils". Looking into the orb known as the Loc-Nar, the girl sees how it has influenced societies throughout time and space.

Percy Rodriguez Canadian actor

Percy Rodriguez was a Canadian actor who appeared in many television shows and films from the 1950s to the 1980s. He was of Afro-Portuguese heritage and was born in the Saint-Henri neighbourhood of Montreal. Born with the surname "Rodrigues," he adopted the spelling "Rodriguez" after it was misspelled in a Broadway program early on in his career. Rodriguez was also known for his extensive voiceover work as the narrator of film trailers, television spots and documentaries.

Don Francks Canadian actor, vocalist, jazz musician

Donald Harvey Francks, also known as Iron Buffalo, was a Canadian actor, singer and musician.


Harry Canyon

Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum; inspired by Moebius' The Long Tomorrow stories.

In a dystopian New York City in the year 2031, cynical taxicab driver Harry Canyon narrates his day in film-noir-style, grumbling about his fares and occasional robbery attempts, which he thwarts with a disintegrator installed behind his seat. He stumbles into an incident where he rescues a girl from a gangster named Rudnick, who had murdered the girl's father. She tells him about her father's discovery: the Loc-Nar, an artifact over which people are killing each other. Harry takes the girl back to his apartment where she climbs into his bed and has sex with him. The next day, one of his fares is Rudnick, who threatens Harry if he does not cooperate. The girl decides to sell the Loc-Nar to Rudnick and split the proceeds with Harry. At the exchange, Rudnick takes the Loc-Nar out of its case and is disintegrated. Meanwhile, the girl informs Harry that she's keeping all the money for herself and pulls a gun on him. Harry is forced to use his disintegrator on her. He keeps all the money and writes it up as a "two-day ride with one hell of a tip".

  • Pino Van Lamsweerde – director
  • W. H. Stevens Jr. – producer
  • Vic Atkinson – producer
  • Daniel Goldberg – writer
  • Len Blum – writer


A nerdy teenager finds a "green meteorite" near his house and puts it in his rock collection. During a lightning experiment, the orb hurls the boy into the world of Neverwhere, where he transforms into a naked, bald-headed muscular man called Den, an acronym for his earth name, David Ellis Norman. After getting a nearby flag around him to keep anyone from seeing his "dork" hanging out, Den witnesses a strange ritual, rescuing a nubile young topless woman who was about to be sacrificed to Uhluhtc. Reaching safety, she introduces herself as Katherine Wells from the British colony of Gibraltar. While she demonstrates her gratitude with sexual favors, they are interrupted by the minions of Ard, an immortal man who wants to obtain the Loc-Nar for himself. He orders Den to get the Loc-Nar from the Queen, who performed the ritual. Den agrees and infiltrates the palace, but is promptly caught by the Queen, who offers leniency if he has sex with her. He complies, thereby distracting the Queen while the raiding party steals the Loc-Nar. Den escapes and races back to rescue Katherine from Ard. Recreating the lightning incident that drew him to Neverwhere, he is able to banish Ard and the Queen. Den's voice-over has him suspecting that they were teleported to his mom's house and she will be surprised. Refusing the opportunity to take the Loc-Nar for himself, Den rides with Katherine into the sunset content to remain in Neverwhere. As for the Loc-Nar, it rises into the sky and lands on a space station where it is picked up by someone.


Captain Sternn

On a space station, crooked space captain Lincoln F. Sternn is on trial for numerous serious charges presented by the prosecutor consisting of 12 counts of murder on the first degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 counts of piracy in high space, 18 counts of fraud, 37 counts of rape, . . . and one moving violation. Pleading "not guilty" against the advice of his lawyer Charlie, Sternn explains that he expects to be acquitted because he bribed a witness Hanover Fiste. Fiste takes the stand upon being called to by the prosecutor, but his perjury is subverted when the Loc-Nar, now the size of a marble, causes him to blurt out the truth about Sternn's evil deeds before changing him into a hulking muscular form that chases Sternn throughout the station, breaking through bulkheads and wreaking havoc. Eventually, he corners Sternn, who gives him his promised payoff, and he promptly shrinks back to his gangly original form. Sternn opens a trap door under Fiste, ejecting him into space. The Loc-Nar enters Earth's atmosphere with Fiste's flaming severed hand still clinging to it.


Neverwhere Land

Because of time constraints, a segment called "Neverwhere Land", which would have connected "Captain Sternn" to "B-17", was cut.

The story follows the influence of the Loc-Nar upon the evolution of a planet, from the Loc-Nar landing in a body of water, influencing the rise of the industrial age, and a world war. This original story was created by Cornelius Cole III.

The original rough animatics are set to a loop of the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Time". The 1996 VHS release included this segment at the end of the tape. On the DVD release, this segment is included as a bonus feature. In both released versions, the sequence is set to the music of "Passacaglia" (from Magnificat), composed and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki.


A World War II B-17 bomber nicknamed the Pacific Pearl makes a difficult bombing run with heavy damage and casualties. As the bomber limps home, the co-pilot goes back to check on the crew. Finding nothing but dead bodies, he notices the Loc-Nar trailing the plane. Informing the pilot, he heads back to the cockpit, when the Loc-Nar rams itself into the plane and reanimates the dead crew members as zombies. The co-pilot is killed, while the pilot parachutes away in time. He lands on an island where he finds a graveyard of airplanes from various times, along with the wrecked airplanes' zombified airmen.


So Beautiful and So Dangerous

Dr. Anrak, a prominent scientist, arrives at the Pentagon for a meeting regarding mysterious mutations that are plaguing the United States. At the meeting, the doctor tries to dismiss the occurrences. When he sees the Loc-Nar in the locket of Gloria, a beautiful buxom stenographer, he behaves erratically and attempts to sexually assault her. A colossal starship drills through the roof and abducts the doctor and, by accident, Gloria. The ship's robot is irritated at Anrak, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but its mood changes when it sees Gloria. With the help of the ship's alien pilot and co-pilot Edsel and Zeke, the robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and have "robot sex". Meanwhile, Edsel and Zeke snort a massive amount of plutonian nyborg before flying home, zoning out on the cosmos. Too intoxicated to fly straight, they crash land unharmed in a huge space station.



Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum; inspired by Moebius' Arzach stories.

The Loc-Nar, now the size of a giant meteor, crashes into a volcano on an unnamed world, changing a tribe of human outcasts into mutated barbarians who ravage a peaceful city. The elders desperately try to summon the last of a warrior race, the Taarakians. Taarna, a strong, beautiful, and mute Taarakian 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, stripped of her clothing, tormented and left for dead. With the help of her Taarakian mount, she escapes, places her outfit back on, and confronts the barbarian leader. Though wounded, she defeats him. With Taarna readying her final attack on the Loc-Nar, it tells her not to sacrifice herself as she cannot destroy it. She does not relent, and her self-sacrifice destroys the Loc-Nar.




As the final story ends, the Loc-Nar terrorizing the girl is similarly destroyed, blowing the mansion to pieces. Taarna's reborn mount appears outside and the girl happily flies away on it. It is then revealed that Taarna's soul has been reincarnated in the girl. The girl's hair color changes to that of Taarna and she reveals a Taarakian mark on her neck.




Animator Robert Balser directed the animated "Den" sequence for the film. [5]

The film uses the rotoscoping technique of animation in several shots. This process consists of shooting models and actors, then tracing the shot onto film for animation purposes. [6] The B-17 bomber was shot using a 10-foot replica, which was then animated. Additionally, Taarna the Taarakian was rotoscoped, using Toronto model Carole Desbiens as a model for the animated character. The shot of the exploding house near the end of the movie was originally to be rotoscoped, but as the film's release date had been moved up from October/November to August 7, 1981, a lack of time prevented this. This remains as the only non-animated sequence in the film. [7]

Fantasy illustrator Chris Achilléos designed and painted the iconic promotional poster image, commissioned in 1980, that features the central character Taarna on her birdlike steed. That artwork continues to be used for home video releases. Achelleos also did conceptual design work for the Taarna character.


Box office

The film was released on August 7, 1981. The release grossed nearly $20,000,000. [3]

Critical reception

The film was met with mixed response. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 61% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10 and the critical consensus: "It's sexist, juvenile, and dated, but Heavy Metal makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly-used soundtrack." [8]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "for anyone who doesn't think an hour and a half is a long time to spend with a comic book, 'Heavy Metal' is impressive," and noted that the film "was scored very well, with music much less ear-splitting than the title would suggest." [9] Variety declared, "Initial segments have a boisterous blend of dynamic graphics, intriguing plot premises and sly wit that unfortunately slide gradually downhill ... Still, the net effect is an overridingly positive one and will likely find its way into upbeat word-of-mouth." [10] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars, writing that it "isn't intended for close scrutiny on a literal level. The film clearly is intended as a trip, and on that level it works very nicely." He did, however, criticize the film as "blatantly sexist" and for having "wildly romanticized" violence. [11] Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Somehow a great deal of the charm [of the magazine] leaked out on the way to the movie house, but all of the sadism stayed put. And then some. It's the most expensive adolescent fantasy revenge fulfillment wet dream ever to slither onto a screen." [12] John Pym of The Monthly Film Bulletin found that it was "to put it mildly, something of a hodge-podge." [13] Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 stars out of 4 in his Movie Guide, calling the feature "...uneven, but great fun on a mindless, adolescent level." [14]

Home media

Prior to official release on VHS and Laserdisc in 1996, the film was re-released to 54 theaters on March 8, 1996 taking in $550,000. [4] The subsequent home video release moved over one million units. [7]

The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on February 1, 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive and it was later released everywhere on June 14. [15]


Heavy Metal
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedJuly 1981
Genre Heavy metal, hard rock, pop rock
Label Full Moon/Asylum/Epic
Heavy Metal film soundtracks chronology
Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal 2000 OST

The soundtrack was released on LP in 1981, but for legal reasons, was not released on CD until 1995. The album peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. The movie's theme song, "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" was sung by Don Felder. It was released as a single in the U.S. and reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 [16] and number five on the Mainstream Rock chart. [17]

Blue Öyster Cult wrote and recorded a song called "Vengeance (The Pact)" for the film, but the producers declined to use the song because the lyrics provided a capsulized summary of the "Taarna" vignette. "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" was used instead. Both songs can be found on Blue Öyster Cult's album Fire of Unknown Origin . Though used in the film, the songs "Through Being Cool" by Devo and "E5150" by Black Sabbath were not included in the released soundtrack album. These songs are on New Traditionalists and Mob Rules , respectively.

The legal difficulties surrounding the use of some songs in the movie delayed its release to home video. The production company's use of some songs were limited solely to the theatrical release and soundtrack and did not include home video releases. It was not until 1996 that there was an official home video release on VHS when Kevin Eastman, who had bought the publishing rights of Heavy Metal magazine in 1992 and previously contributed to the magazine, reached a settlement with the music copyright holders. [18]

1."Heavy Metal" (Original Version) Sammy Hagar 3:50
2."Heartbeat" Riggs 4:20
3."Working in the Coal Mine" Devo 2:48
4."Veteran of the Psychic Wars" Blue Öyster Cult 4:48
5."Reach Out" Cheap Trick 3:35
6."Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" Don Felder 5:00
7."True Companion" Donald Fagen 5:02
8."Crazy (A Suitable Case for Treatment)" Nazareth 3:24
9."Radar Rider" Riggs 2:40
10."Open Arms" Journey 3:20
11."Queen Bee" Grand Funk Railroad 3:11
12."I Must Be Dreamin'" Cheap Trick 5:37
13."The Mob Rules" (alternate version) Black Sabbath 3:16
14."All of You" Don Felder 4:18
15."Prefabricated" Trust 2:59
16."Blue Lamp" Stevie Nicks 3:48


Unusual for the time, an LP recording of Elmer Bernstein's score was released alongside the soundtrack in 1981, and it featured the composer's first use of the ondes Martenot, an instrument which became a trademark of Bernstein's later career. On March 13, 2008, Film Score Monthly released an official, expanded CD release of Bernstein's score, which he conducted. [19] The score was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the London Voices and Jeanne Loriod on the ondes Martenot.

Original track listing:

  1. "Den and the Green Ball" (03:17)
  2. "Den Makes It" (02:49)
  3. "Den and the Queen" (02:56)
  4. "Den's Heroics" (02:52)
  5. "Bomber and the Green Ball" (04:41)
  6. "Space Love" (01:32)
  7. "Harry and the Girl" (03:45)
  8. "Tarna Summoned" (sic) (02:50)
  9. "Flight" (02:20)
  10. "Tarna Prepares" (sic) (03:35)
  11. "Barbarians" (03:37)
  12. "Tarna Forever" (sic) (03:37)

Re-release track listing:

  1. "Beginning" 1:16
  2. "Intro to Green Ball" 1:18
  3. "Discovery/Transformation (Den and the Green Ball)" 3:15
  4. "Den Makes Out (Den Makes It)" 2:42
  5. "Castrate Him/Searching for the Loc-Nar" 2:04
  6. "Queen for a Day (Den and the Queen)" 2:54
  7. "Pursuit (Den’s Heroics)" 2:51
  8. "Fiste" 1:27
  9. "Getting Bombed" 3:06
  10. "Green Ball" 2:15
  11. "Dem Bones" 2:44
  12. "No Alarm" 0:58
  13. "Robot Love (Space Love)" 1:32
  14. "Harry" 1:35
  15. "The Next Morning" 1:56
  16. "End of Baby" 2:43
  17. "Council (Taarna Summoned)" 2:49
  18. "The Flight to Temple (Flight)" 2:16
  19. "The Sword (Taarna Prepares)" 3:32
  20. "Flight to Holiday Town" 2:20
  21. "Fighting" 2:43
  22. "My Whips!/Taarna Escapes Pit" 4:57
  23. "Finish (Taarna Forever)" 3:34

Bonus tracks

  1. "Den Makes Out" (film version) 2:49
  2. "Bomber and the Green Ball" (album edit) 4:35
  3. "Harry and the Girl" (album edit) 3:41
  4. "Barbarians" (album edit) 3:34



The first sequel, titled Heavy Metal 2000 , was released in 2000. A second sequel has been in various stages of development since.[ citation needed ]


In March 2008, Variety reported that Paramount Pictures was set to make another animated film with David Fincher "spearheading the project". Kevin Eastman, who is the current owner and publisher of Heavy Metal , will direct a segment, as will Tim Miller, "whose Blur Studio will handle the animation for what is being conceived as an R-rated, adult-themed feature". [20]

Entertainment website IGN announced, on July 14, 2008, "David Fincher's edgy new project has suffered a serious setback after it was dropped by Paramount, according to Entertainment Weekly ." [21] However, Entertainment Weekly quoted Tim Miller as saying "David really believes in the project. It's just a matter of time." [22]

In September 2008, Eastman was quoted as saying "Fincher is directing one, Guillermo del Toro wants to direct one, Zack Snyder wants to direct one, Gore Verbinski wants to direct one". It was reported that the film had been moved to Sony division Columbia Pictures (which had released the original) and had a budget of $50 million. [23]

In June 2009, Eastman said "I've got breaking news that Fincher and James Cameron are going to be co-executive producers on the film, Cameron will direct one. [24] Mark Osborne and Jack Black from Tenacious D were going to do a comedy segment for the film." [25]

However, production is stalled indefinitely, as no film distributor or production company has shown interest in distributing or producing the remake since Paramount Pictures decided to forgo being the film's distributor, [26] who purportedly thought such a film was "too risqué for mainstream audiences". [22]

In July 2011, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez announced at the Comic-Con that he had purchased the film rights to Heavy Metal and planned to develop a new animated film at the new Quick Draw Studios. [27] However, on March 11, 2014, with the formation of his very own television network, El Rey, Rodriguez considered switching gears and bringing it to TV. [28]

On March 15, 2019, the reboot was released on Netflix as a reimagining titled Love, Death & Robots . [29]

Related Research Articles

<i>Heavy Metal</i> (magazine) American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine

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Richard Corben is an American illustrator and comic book artist best known for his comics featured in Heavy Metal magazine. He is the winner of the 2009 Spectrum Grand Master Award and the 2018 Grand Prix at Angoulême. In 2012 he was elected to the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.

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<i>Rock & Rule</i> 1983 Canadian animated musical science fiction fantasy film directed by Clive A. Smith

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<i>Cannibal Ferox</i> 1981 film by Umberto Lenzi

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