Friday Flashback - Heavy Metal

Friday Flashback is where I look back at the books, films, TV shows and million and one other things that have inspired me over the years in my storytelling and art. This week I'm have a look at the classic film:

Heavy Metal is an animated film that was made back in 1981 and is an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from the awesome Heavy Metal Magazine (of which I am a huge fan) and some original stories all tied together by an over all arc.

Ivan Reitman produced the film, the same guy who brought us other film classics such as Stripes and Ghostbusters. 

Here is the trailer:

Heavy Metal, at the time, was a ground breaking film in terms of animation and it still stands out today. It is said the the best way to watch this film is wasted or high as it is such a mad mixture of science fiction and fantasy. It even inspired a South Park episode about the kids getting high and hallucinating that they are in a mystical fantasy land.

This reputation I feel is a shame, sure I can see why, but it also glosses over the fact that it is a brilliant bit of classic sci-fi fantasy too!

There are nine short stories in the film that make up the anthology, Soft Landing, Grimaldi, Harry Canyon, Den, Captain Sternn, B-17, So Beautiful and So Dangerous, Taarna, and the Epilogue.

Each story is self contained and is also part of a bigger story. You have the madness of a car falling from the belly of the Space Shuttle whilst being driven by an astronaut, landing on Earth and driving through the desert to loud rock music which is Soft Landing. To the awesome taxi driver of the near future Harry Canyon – believe me when I say the fifth element is a total rip off of this story. To the bonkersness of Captain Sternn, a mad spin on the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon hero, and B-17 is like something from the Twilight Zone. All this topped off with some real classic sci-fi fantasy with stories like Den, Taarna and So Beautiful and So Dangerous.

One of the reasons I really like the Heavy Metal film is because it is very much of its time, from the look and feel of the characters and worlds, to how the stories are told and even the sound track (which I'll come to in a minute). I love sci-fi and fantasy from the 1970s-1980s, it was driven heavily by a world bravely looking to the stars and influenced by the popularity of swords and sorcery. It is a real creative mix, and it is also the era that produced mainstream science fiction and fantasy artists that I look up to then and today, such as Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.

The soundtrack to the film is a monster mash-up of heavy rock and metal, and interestingly is also the reason the film struggled to make it to the VHS market due to legal reasons. The soundtrack is perfect for this film, and is full of some great stuff like,  "Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar,  "Working in the Coal Mine" by Devo, "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Öyster Cult, "The Mob Rules" by Black Sabbath and "Blue Lamp" by Stevie Nicks.

All in all a great film and inspiration to me as an artist and writer. I watch this film at least once a year just to 'recharge' the old skool sci-fi and fantasy batteries, and where and when I can, I still pick up copies of the Heavy Metal Magazine (you can find the Heavy Metal website here).



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