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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. Despite the mixed reviews by film critics on its initial release, the film was a modest success at the box office and has since achieved cult status.

A sequel titled Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000, and a reimagining titled Love, Death & Robots was released on Netflix in 2019.


Based on the fantastical illustrated magazine Heavy Metal, producer Ivan Reitman enlists the help of some of Hollywood's animation masters to create the otherworldly tale of a glowing green orb from outer space that spreads destruction throughout the galaxy. Only when encountered by its one true enemy, to whom it is inexplicably drawn, will goodness prevail throughout the universe. An astronaut finds a green sphere called Loc-Nar, who tells stories about him, where in various parts of the universe he was considered a curse, a power, a god, a pure energy, etc.


Soft Landing[]

The title sequence story opens with a space shuttle orbiting the Earth. The bay doors open, releasing a Chevrolet Corvette C1. An astronaut seated in the car then begins descending through Earth's atmosphere, landing in a desert canyon.


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.

Harry Canyon[]

Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum; inspired by Jean Giraud (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 ray 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 the money for herself and pulls a gun on him. Harry is forced to use his disintegrator on her. He keeps the money and writes it up as a two-day ride with one hell of a tip.


A nerdy teenager finds a green meteorite 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 article of clothing to keep anyone from seeing his dork hanging out, Den witnesses a strange ritual, rescuing a nubile young 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 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. Refusing the opportunity to take the Loc-Nar for himself, Den rides with Katherine into the sunset content to remain in Neverwhere.

Captain Sternn[]

On a space station, crooked space captain Captain Lincoln F. Sternn is on trial for numerous serious charges presented by the Prosecutor consisting of 12 accounts of murder on the first degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 accounts 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 the stand 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. Fiste rants with such fury that he changes into a hulking muscular form and chases Sternn throughout the station, breaking through bulkheads and wreaking havoc. Eventually, he corners Sternn, receives his promised payoff, and 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 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 Floyds Time. The 1996 VHS release included this segment at the beginning 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 US. At the meeting, the doctor tries to dismiss the occurrences, but 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, The Robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and have robot sex. Meanwhile, the pilots 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 Jean Giraud (Moebius) Arzach stories.

The Loc-Nar, now the size of a giant meteor, crashes into a volcano, 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, tortured, and left for dead. With the help of her Taarakian mount, she escapes, places her outfit back on her, 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. 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 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. During development of this film, the Canadian animation studio, Nelvana Limited, was offered the chance to work on Heavy Metal, but they declined their offer, instead working of their first theatrical film, Rock & Rule. 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. It was a financial success, grossing over $20 million on a $9 million budget.


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: It's 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 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. 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 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 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 [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. 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.

On the whole, in terms of individual segments, critics were typically most favorable towards the Den story. Critic Janet Maslin gave the film a positive review in The New York Times. She said, The other highly memorable story is about a bookworm from earth who winds up on another planet, where his spindly body is transformed into that of an extraterrestrial Hercules. She also complimented John Candy's vocal performance as Den.


Actor Role
Percy Rodriguez (Uncredited) Loc-Nar
Don Francks Grimaldi
Caroline Semple The Girl (Grimaldi)
John Candy Desk Sergeant
Marilyn Lightstone Whore
Susan Roman The Girl (Harry Canyon)
Richard Romanus Harry Canyon
Al Waxman Rudnick
Harvey Atkin Alien
John Candy Den
Jackie Burroughs Katherine Wells
Martin Lavut Ard
Marilyn Lightstone The Queen
August Schellenberg Norl
Rodger Bumpass Hanover Fiste
Joe Flaherty Charlie
Eugene Levy Captain Lincoln F. Sternn
John Vernon Prosecutor
Douglas Kenney Regolian
Don Francks Holden
Zal Yanovsky Navigator
George Touliatos Skip
Rodger Bumpass Dr. Anrak
John Candy The Robot
Joe Flaherty General
Eugene Levy Male Reporter
Alice Playten Gloria
Harold Ramis Zeke
Patty Dworkin Woman Reporter
Warren Munson Senator
Don Francks Barbarian
August Schellenberg Taarak
Zal Yanovsky Barbarian
George Touliatos Barbarian
Vlasta Vrána Barbarian Leader
Mavor Moore Elder
Thor Bishopric Boy
Len Doncheff Barbarian
Cedric Smith Bartender
Joseph Golland Councilman
Charles Joliffe Councilman
Ned Conlon Councilman