Heavy Metal (1981 film)

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The Loc-Nar menaces a girl in Heavy Metal (1981 film)...


"Columbia Pictures takes you beyond the future into a universe you've never seen before. A universe of mystery. A universe of magic. A universe of sexual fantasies. A universe of awesome good. A universe of terrifying evil. A universe one step beyond science fiction: the universe of Heavy Metal!" A glowing green orb which embodies ultimate evil terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy and horror.


  • Release Date: 1981
  • Country/Language: Canada, English
  • Genres/Technical: Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, animated, anthology, musical
  • Setting: Dreamlands, Weird World War, Cthulhu Icarus, CthulhuPunk, and others
  • Runtime: 1 hr 26 min
  • Starring: (various)
  • Director: Gerald Potterton (and various others)
  • Writer: Dan O'Bannon (and various others)
  • Producer/Production Co: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC)
  • View Trailer: (Not Work-Safe), (TV Trailer)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link)


MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: R (animated Violence, Nudity, Adult Content, Sexual Situations, and Profanity)

The film is loaded with enough animated sex and nudity that it has always been difficult to edit the film to meet the demands of network television broadcast standards and practices; the segment "Den" is typically removed altogether because attempting to remove its omnipresent nudity would have rendered anything left of that segment unwatchable.

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

The invasive, corrupting influence of the green, glowing "Loc-Nar" sphere as it travels through time and space might be loosely compared to "The Colour Out of Space (fiction)", the stories generally seem to take place in a sort of sci-fi/fantasy Dreamlands setting, at least one story appears to be a pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter stories and Robert E. Howard's Conan and Bran Mak Morn, etc., and some of the better stories are a nice mix of horror, fantasy, and/or science fiction, though the film as a whole is a little bit too ham-and-cheesey, puerile, over-the-top, and rule-of-cool to ever end up feeling like a Lovecraftian pastiche in any but the loosest sense; it lacks the subtlety, dignity, and awe of a properly Lovecraftian treatment of its subject matter.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.


Review Links:

  • Phil Hardy in the Aurum Film Encylopedia: Science Fiction (Pg. 367 & 368) - "Between liberal spankings of Science Fiction, mysticism, dystopianism, gothic horror, soft-core sex and sword and sorcery... ...lies a tangle of connections not made... ...a fog of risibly portentous juvenile gibberish."
  • Marty McKee at Johnny LaRue's Crane Shots (link) - "Seemingly designed for midnight crowds under the influence..."
  • Janet Maslin at The New York Times (Link) - " Animated or not, this isn't a movie to take children to, unless you'd like them to develop an early interest in bondage."
  • Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings & Ramblings (Link) - "Overall, I admire the movie's ambitions, but I can't say I found it satisfying."
  • Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2.5/5 Stars) (Link) - "There is a trippy cult hallucinatory quality to Heavy Metal. At its best it conjures some nice vistas of space and other worlds. However... ...film also seems to embody far too much of what was criticized about the Robert E. Howard school of barbarian sword-and-sorcery... The film’s appeal at times seems little above that of a John Norman novel."

Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

  • "Soft Landing" ("Grimaldi") - Wrap-around segment which begins with an astronaut riding through Earth's atmosphere in a classic convertible, soft-landing, and speeding to his house, to deliver a mysterious artifact to his daughter for her birthday; the artifact, a green, glowing sphere called the "Loc-Nar", immediately melts the astronaut before his daughter's eyes, and then terrorizes the girl with visions of the other stories from the anthology.
  • "Harry Canyon" - A cyberpunk-noir detective story in which a femme-fatale archaeologist's daughter hires a cab driver to help her protect the Loc-Nar from a gang of thugs.
  • "Den" - About a skinny nerd who travels to the Dreamlands, where he takes the form of a mighty barbarian-king who hacks-and-slashes his way through kingdoms ruled by witch-queens and decadent sorcerer-princes to save a girl from sacrifice to the Loc-Nar.
  • "Captain Sternn" - A smug star-ship captain on trial for his many crimes against humanity (and inhumanity) turns to geeky character witness Hanover Fiste to get him out of trouble, not realizing that Fiste has found the Loc-Nar; Fiste mutates into a hideous ogre, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake as he pursues Sternn from the courtroom to a double-twist-ending.
  • "B-17" - In what is often regarded as the scariest and best segment of the anthology, a WW-II bomber, shot to pieces during its latest bombing run, encounters the Loc-Nar while struggling to remain airborne for its return trip; the Loc-Nar raises the dead crew as undead monsters, and forces the survivors to crash in a surreal and nightmarish haunted warplane's graveyard....
  • "So Beautiful, So Dangerous" - a forgettable comic relief segment involving a UFO crewed by stoner androids and aliens and the sexy Earth secretary they abduct to join their sex-and-drug-fueled space party.
  • "Taarna" - The last of a race of leather-clad, sword-wielding, giant-bird-riding warrior nuns tasked as Defenders of a fantasy world by sacred pact, is called upon to take vengeance upon a sadistic army raised and mutated by the Loc-Nar....
  • "Epilogue" - After Taarna defeats the mutant army and destroys the Loc-Nar, the wrap-around segment concludes with the Loc-Nar shattering, and the astronaut's daughter becoming the next Defender, riding off to the Dreamlands on Taarna's bird....


Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • Named for the fantasy magazine of the same name.
  • Features a hard-rock soundtrack provided by Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Journey, Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Devo, Grand Funk Railroad, and others....

Associated Mythos Elements

Keeper Notes

  • The investigators are hired by a beautiful femme-fatale daughter of an archaeologist to help protects a mysterious and deadly artifact from a gang of cultists; of course, in true Film-Noir tradition, the girl has her own deadly ideas on how disposable the investigators are and how honest she needs to be with anyone involved....
  • The investigators in a one-shot Weird World War scenario are the crew of a bomber which has crash-landed in an eerie and mysterious place full of the wreckage of other aircraft, populated by the undead; a mysterious artifact in a cyclopean and antediluvian ruin may be the key to the party's survival - or destruction....