When I saw Heavy Metal at a drive-in in 1981, it blew my young mind. I was eight years old and obsessed with the brand new Masters of the Universe toys and Filmation cartoon, so seeing Heavy Metal was like the hard liquor version of Masters of the Universe. An anthology film loosely based on an adult magazine of the same name (a magazine that introduced me to the awesome works of Moebius, Corben and Druillet around the same time as I saw the film), Heavy Metal’s stories followed a green orb’s (the Loc-Nar) progress through the known universe and details the orb’s influence on events wherever it goes. Overt drug use and full frontal nudity in the film was shocking to me at the time, but in retrospect, the adult subject matter was handled tastefully. I would go on to watch and cherish similar films in the following years such as Bakshi’s Wizards, Fire and Ice (also by Ralph Bakshi, this time with Frank Frazetta) and Street Fight aka Coonskin. As traditional 2D animation becomes more of an archaic form of film making and animated films made for mature audiences are all but extinct, Heavy Metal increasingly becomes a vital part of animation history in my eyes and anyone interested in comic or pop art owes it to themselves to track the film down and give it a viewing or five. Alternately clever and disturbing, Heavy Metal is a true classic and there has never been another film quite like it. A few years back South Park paid massive homage to the film with an entire episode, and really if it weren’t for South Park and the programming that comprises the Adult Swim lineup on Cartoon Network, adult themed animation would have gone the way of the dinosaur long ago.
A secondary component that made Heavy Metal unique was the killer soundtrack featuring bands from Devo (“Working In The Coal Mines”) to Black Sabbath (“The Mob Rules”). I had that 331/3 rpm record LP in heavy rotation along with Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack and between the two of those albums and Led Zeppelin II, I became a metal head as a teenager and am still one to this day. Though I enjoy a wide range of music my tastes definitely run towards heavy, pounding, guitar driven metal. In my opinion the best track on the Heavy Metal soundtrack is Blue Öyster Cult’s “Veteran Of The Psychic Wars”, a chilling tune about a man “living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar”. Most of the acts featured on the soundtrack are not in any way, shape or form true “heavy metal” bands, and some that are, like Riggs, languished in obscurity despite having GREAT riff-laden songs like “Radar Rider”.
There was a sequel film that was released in the year 2000 but was in every way inferior to the 1981 film.
Enjoy Rigg’s “Radar Rider” below!