|Year Released||1981||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||86:42 minutes||Other Extras||Deleted Scenes
Featurette - Imagining Heavy Metal (35:39)
Featurette - Original Feature-length Rough Cut (87:42)
Galleries - Artwork and Photographs
Columbia TriStar Home Video
|Starring||Vocal talents include:
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||?1.85:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Being blissfully unaware of the existence of this film, which apparently has for a long time been unavailable on home video due to licensing problems, I had no idea what to expect. Whilst I was at one time dimly aware of the Heavy Metal magazine, upon which this is based, I could not recall exactly what the magazine was about. The film Heavy Metal provided ample reminder! This is the sort of irreverence that one tends to associate with the National Lampoon banner and it is no surprise that the magazine is owned by that exalted icon. Coming as it did at the start of the Reaganist conservatism in the United States, this is a refreshing blast of political incorrectness that is sadly so missing from life today. And is it my imagination or is this the sort of thing that Japanese Anime aspires to but often falls short of?
So what about the plot you are asking, right? Well, that is a little difficult to answer as there really is not one. The film itself is a collection of short stories if you like, bridged by a green fluorescent ball called the Lok-Nar which has the capacity to completely disintegrate flesh. Lok-Nar is the embodiment of pure evil. The stories themselves range from historically based horror and gore to fantasy sex romps to futuristic legal juggling. This really is a collection of animated stories straight out of the magazine. The stories themselves comprise Soft Landing (which sets up the arrival of Lok-Nar), Grimaldi, Harry Canyon (New York cabbie extraordinaire), Den, Captain Sternn, B-17, So Beautiful So Dangerous and Taarna (now there is an Amazonian delight!). Each story is the work of a different group of animators and their diversity in style and content is what ultimately binds the whole thing together as an almost coherent film.
Produced by Ivan Reitman, a man whose pedigree in comedy is well founded, this was commenced whilst he was working on Stripes, which partially explains why the vocal talents of John Candy and Harold Ramis were used. However, they are by no means the only contributors from that film. Whilst the stories are somewhat variable in their success, and my personal favourites are Harry Canyon and Taarna, the overall style brought together by Reitman is nonetheless reminiscent of the magazine. What makes the film so watchable is really the different animation styles employed, some of which border on being somewhat avant garde for their day. The variability in the styles is most intriguing, and for aficionados of animated films, this must be something of a cult classic. Not the most coherent film ever put together, and some will have problems with at least some of the content, but this is definitely an experience that is rewarding. And just to make it very clear - this is not animation for kids.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer highlights every little imperfection in the source material and therefore you have to put up with some variability in the visual experience. It is important to understand that each story comes from essentially a different animation company and their preferences in style do not aid a consistency in style - thankfully. Whilst in general the transfer is sharp and well defined, there are some quite obvious lapses along the way. The source material demonstrates some variability in detail, which is somewhat unavoidable. In general, this is not what you could call a clear transfer at all. There are no apparent problems at all with low level noise in the transfers.
The colours are anything but consistent here, and that is precisely what makes this such a wild extravaganza. At best the colours are gorgeously rich, lovely and vibrant and a delight to look at. At worst the colours are a little muted, being a little wishy-washy in style. There are problems in some areas with oversaturation of colours, but nothing that is positively repulsive. In many respects the noticeability of the oversaturation is a result of the different ways in which colour was used in the various stories. Colour bleed does become a problem on a couple of occasions, but it should be stressed that these are all inherent faults in the source material and not DVD related mastering problems I suspect.
The most noticeable MPEG artefact, and one consistent in the film, is the blurring of panned shots. These became a little tiring on the eyes the further the film went on. It may be of course that these are not related to the DVD mastering process but are inherent weaknesses in the source material again. There were no readily apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. If you want film artefacts though, you will find them in abundance, although it has to be said that there really are none that are too distracting, and given that this appears to have languished in the vaults for most of the past twenty years, their presence is hardly surprising.
This disc is an RSDL formatted disc, although the location of the layer change is not known. I am presuming that the film is on one layer, with the extras predominantly on the second layer, which would be eminently logical.
There are five audio tracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. I listened to the English soundtrack, but also sampled the Italian soundtrack, as there is reason to believe that the packaging is incorrect in stating this to be surround encoded. After listening to excerpts from the soundtrack, I would suggest that the packaging may be correct, but it is not the best surround encoded soundtrack I have heard. All comments relate to the English soundtrack.
The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.
Of course, there were significant audio sync problems with the transfer, but they are supposed to be there. It is called animation.
The original musical score comes from the very prolific Elmer Bernstein, and by all accounts (well at least the comments in the featurette) it is considered something of a lost gem. I would hardly go that far in my description, but it is a very nicely complementary effort with some evocative tones to it. In all, it does a great job of enhancing the film, but I don't think it would stand up too well if removed from the context of the film (unlike other great soundtracks). The original score is enhanced further by rock music efforts from some serious names of the genre from the seventies and early eighties. Names like Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Journey, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, Devo and Grand Funk Railroad to name a few might give you some idea of the offerings here!
Unfortunately, this is something of a flawed soundtrack, with the balance at times being very poor (Chapter 21 is especially noteworthy). The vocal track at times becomes very recessed in the overall mix and the resultant sound picture is even more weird than the film itself intends. This is by no means consistent and at times the sound picture is completely believable with little to complain about at all. The surround channels get some nice work, but really in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack I was expecting something with a bit more surround presence and ambience. The bass channel was not excessively used and again could have been used with a little more aggression at times. Still, given the genre, some may not find the soundtrack as flawed as I do, and it may of course be that the soundtrack is exactly as it was meant to be.
A very good video transfer, that highlights every imperfection in the source material.
A slightly problematic audio transfer.
A stunning extras package.
And I can hear some asking the question of what the heck are the Genies? [Ed. What the heck are the Genies?] The Canadian equivalent of the Oscars. It's all right, I did not know either, but the Internet Movie Database is a treasure trove of trivia about films.
© Ian Morris
13th January 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|