ⓘ Heavy Metal (film)


ⓘ Heavy Metal (film)

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.

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.

A sequel titled Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000.


1.1. Plot 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 Earths atmosphere, landing in a desert canyon.

  • Jimmy T. Murakami and John Bruno – directors
  • Thomas Warkentin – art direction
  • Dan OBannon – writer
  • John Coates – producer
  • "Radar Rider" by Riggs

1.2. Plot Grimaldi

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.

  • Caroline Semple as Girl
  • Don Francks as Grimaldi
  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Harold Whitaker – director
  • John Halas – producer

1.3. Plot Harry Canyon

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

In a dystopian New York City in 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 in the back of his seat. He stumbles into an incident where he rescues a girl from a gangster named Rudnick, who had murdered the girls father. She tells him about her fathers 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 is 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".



1.4. Plot Den

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 alluring 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 favours, 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. Dens voice-over has him suspecting that they were teleported to his moms 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.

  • John Candy as Den/David Ellis Norman
  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • August Schellenberg as Norl
  • Jackie Burroughs as Katherine Wells
  • Martin Lavut as Ard
  • Marilyn Lightstone as Queen
  • Jerry Hibbert – producer
  • Jack Stokes – director
  • Richard Corben – writer

1.5. Plot 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 named 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 highly incriminating statements about Sternn though whether or not any of them are true is unknown 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 Earths atmosphere with Fistes flaming severed hand still clinging to it.

  • Eugene Levy as Captain Lincoln F. Sternn
  • Douglas Kenney as Regolian
  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Joe Flaherty as Lawyer Charlie
  • John Vernon as Prosecutor
  • Rodger Bumpass as Hanover Fiste
  • Bernie Wrightson – writer
  • Julian Harris – director
  • Paul Sebella – director
  • "Reach Out" by Cheap Trick

1.6. Plot 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 Floyds "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.


1.7. Plot B-17

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, who surround him, sealing the horrified pilots fate.

  • George Touliatos as Pilot Skip
  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Zal Yanovsky as Navigator
  • Don Francks as Co-Pilot Holden
  • Barrie Nelson – director
  • Dan OBannon – writer
  • W. H. Stevens Jr. – producer
  • "Heavy Metal Takin a Ride" by Don Felder


1.8. Plot So Beautiful & 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 begins to behave erratically and sexually assaults her. A colossal starship drills through the roof and abducts the doctor and, by accident, Gloria. The ships robot is irritated at Anrak, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but its mood changes when it sees Gloria. With the help of the ships alien pilot Edsel and co-pilot Zeke, the robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and have "robot sex" albeit off-screen. Meanwhile, Edsel and Zeke snort a huge amount of a powdered drug called Plutonian Nyborg before flying home, zoning out on the cosmos. Too intoxicated to fly straight, they crash-land unharmed in a huge space station.

  • Harold Ramis as Zeke
  • Warren Munson as Senator
  • Joe Flaherty as General
  • Patty Dworkin as Woman Reporter
  • Rodger Bumpass as Dr. Anrak
  • Alice Playten as Gloria
  • John Candy as Robot
  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Eugene Levy as Male Reporter / Edsel
  • Angus McKie – writer
  • John Halas – director
  • "Crazy? A Suitable Case for Treatment" by Nazareth
  • "Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar
  • "Prefabricated" by Trust
  • "I Must Be Dreamin" by Cheap Trick
  • "Queen Bee" by Grand Funk Railroad
  • "All of You" by Don Felder

1.9. Plot Taarna

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, answers the call but was summoned 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, with her loyal and also injured mount, 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.


  • Vlasta Vrana as Barbarian Leader
  • Charles Joliffe as Councilman
  • George Touliatos as Barbarian
  • Don Francks as Barbarian
  • Joseph Golland as Councilman
  • Ned Conlon as Councilman
  • Mavor Moore as Elder
  • Zal Yanovsky as Barbarian
  • August Schellenberg as Taarak
  • Len Doncheff as Barbarian
  • Thor Bishopric as Boy
  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar
  • Cedric Smith as Bartender


  • "E5150" by Black Sabbath
  • "The Mob Rules" by Black Sabbath
  • "Through Being Cool" by Devo
  • "Working in the Coal Mine" by Devo

1.10. Plot Epilogue

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


  • Percy Rodriguez uncredited as voice of the Loc-Nar

2.1. Production Animation

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

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. The B-17 bomber was shot using a 10-foot 3 m 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 films 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.

Fantasy illustrator Chris Achilleos 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.


3.1. Release Box office

The film was released on August 7, 1981. The release grossed nearly $20.000.000.


3.2. Release Critical reception

The film was met with mixed response. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 60% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10 and the critical consensus: "Its sexist, juvenile, and dated, but Heavy Metal makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly-used soundtrack."

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "for anyone who doesnt 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." 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." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars, writing that it "isnt 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 criticized the film as "blatantly sexist" and for having "wildly romanticized" violence. Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Somehow a great deal of the charm leaked out on the way to the movie house, but all of the sadism stayed put. And then some. Its the most expensive adolescent fantasy revenge fulfillment wet dream ever to slither onto a screen." John Pym of The Monthly Film Bulletin found that it was "to put it mildly, something of a hodge-podge." 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."


4.1. Music Soundtrack

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 movies 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 and number five on the Mainstream Rock chart.

Blue Oyster 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 Oyster Cults 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 companys use of some songs was 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.


4.2. Music Score

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

Original track listing:

  • "Space Love" 01:32
  • "Barbarians" 03:37
  • "Dens Heroics" 02:52
  • "Bomber and the Green Ball" 04:41
  • "Den Makes It" 02:49
  • "Den and the Queen" 02:56
  • "Flight" 02:20
  • "Tarna Summoned" sic 02:50
  • "Den and the Green Ball" 03:17
  • "Harry and the Girl" 03:45
  • "Tarna Prepares" sic 03:35
  • "Tarna Forever" sic 03:37

Re-release track listing:

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

Bonus tracks

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

5.1. Legacy Sequel

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


5.2. Legacy Remake

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".

Entertainment website IGN announced, on July 14, 2008, "David Finchers edgy new project has suffered a serious setback after it was dropped by Paramount, according to Entertainment Weekly." Entertainment Weekly quoted Tim Miller as saying "David really believes in the project. Its just a matter of time."

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.

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

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 films distributor, who purportedly thought such a film was "too risque for mainstream audiences".

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. On March 11, 2014, with the formation of his very own television network, El Rey, Rodriguez considered switching gears and bringing it to TV.

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