It’s issue #3 of the new series by Film Trap writer Chloë Brett: “The Most Important Movie In The World”! In her last article she talked with her friend Lee about his favourite film RoboCop. In this issue she chats with Shane about Heavy Metal.
By Chloë Brett
“Heavy Metal rips. Is that enough? Do you need more material?”
If there are two things I know about my friend Shane it’s that he loves Prog and he loves Gerald Potterton’s 1981 animated anthology film, Heavy Metal, inspired by the “adult illustrated fantasy magazine” of the same name and the subject of this weeks interview.
It was probably a decade ago when I first (and last) saw Heavy Metal. I vividly remember watching it in my parents basement and praying that no one would come down because this is a weird movie and I didn’t want to look weird for watching it. Of course, someone did come downstairs, my cousin who had come into town to stay with us for a bit. She most definitely paused for a moment, looked at the tv, and then promptly retreated back upstairs.
Back in those days I relegated Heavy Metal to the section in my brain where I housed movies that I assumed were entirely meant for men, but now I am older and wiser and know that there is no such thing as a gendered movie. Though I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is a movie I like a whole lot, upon second viewing I appreciate it a lot more and totally understand why that to Shane, Heavy Metal is the most important movie in the world.
CHLOË: So, I usually like to start off by asking everyone how film in general fits into their life. Would you say you’re a buff? A casual observer? A weekend warrior?
SHANE: A movie a day, at least. So buff I guess.
C: Has it always been that way?
S: I’ve definitely become more driven about it in recent years. I remember when I was 17 I started a “project” where I would watch a movie a day for a month. And now that seems like second nature.
C: I think that’s around the age for me too, when I decided movies were going to be my “thing”.
S: It surprisingly never gets old.
C: Well, when you realize you’ll literally never be able to watch every movie in the world, it kind of makes you want to squeeze in as much as you can.
S: I also definitely don’t want to watch every movie in the world
C: Okay, so the movie you picked as your most favourite is Heavy Metal. Do you remember the first time you saw it?
S: My Dad showed it to me when I was 11 or 12, well before I was old enough.
C: For a long time before I ever actually saw it I always just referred to it as “The Boobs Movie” in my mind.
S: I think it’s safe to still do that.
C: So, you’re 12 years old, the movie ends and you’re like “….”?
S: My memory of it was really hazy. I just remember that everything looked so cool. The colours were crazy and the music was awesome. I don’t think I really cared or noticed what the story was.
C: I found a lot when I was younger, and I mean, still to this day, a ton of the music I listen to was stuff I originally heard on movie soundtracks.
S: It’s a surprisingly diverse way to get in to music.
C: It’s been probably 10 years since I first saw Heavy Metal and at the time it didn’t really register how great the soundtrack is. Dio fronted Sabbath, Devo, Grand Funk Railroad.
S: Donald Fagen, Blue Oyster Cult. Every scene has such a good set piece song to go with it.
C: Totally. Even the orchestrated segments, like the music that plays during the “Den” segment. It’s so grandiose.
S: All of the orchestral bits are Elmer Bernstein who normally does stuff like Cape Fear and Magnificent Seven. It’s kind of wild that they got him for a weird Canadian Titty Movie.
C: Interesting. It definitely adds a lot of production value to the whole thing. It kind of brings it out of the slimy category and makes you go, “Wait, is this actually a good movie?” It for sure added to my engagement.
S: “Is this actually a good movie” is such a big part of Heavy Metal for me. Because it kind of is, but it also definitely is not.
C: I 100% agree. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a movie that I like, but at the same time it has so much stuff that I’m super into.
S: It definitely never stops doing new stuff, it isn’t stagnant for any stretch of time. I think that might be a turn off for a lot of people. It is really scatterbrained
C: Whenever I first saw it I wasn’t totally following it, but it’s really not meant to be a super concise story, it’s really just the evil orb that links all the segments together.
S: And even that doesn’t really make any sense. The orb is trying to scare the girl? But he proceeds to tell two stories in a row where he gets defeated? And then telling Taarna’s story causes the girl to become strong enough to defeat him? What was the orb doing and why? I think that’s part of why I love it so much. You can over analyze so many moments in it and it just gets more confusing and weird.
C: The whole time I was watching it I kept forgetting that the orb, Loc-Nar, was telling all these stories to, yeah, scare this child. Any time it cut back to that I just didn’t really care. Because you’re right, it makes zero sense. But I appreciate that they tried to have some kind of thoroughfare. But it doesn’t even matter that nothing makes sense because it’s more about the visuals and the music and getting lost in it all.
S: It’s just a bunch of really strange moments that have so much character. I distinctly remember so many parts of it in a way that I don’t really with “better” movies. Like during the first story with the cab driver. Right at the beginning, Blue Oyster Cult kicks in with the line, “You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars”. Yeah sure, that’s a badass sci-fi thing to say I guess. And then the archaeologist says “Right. Twelve. Degrees.” in the weirdest line read ever. Like every word is recorded at a different time in a different room.
C: Yeah! The very beginning of the movie, where the orb is saying something like “Death will rain from the skies” and then there’s a lighting crack, then the title credits, and then it just goes into this Twilight Zone-esque music. What mood were they even trying to strike? It starts off like the beginning of an Iron Maiden album and then goes Star Trek
S: It’s got such an adolescent tone to it. But it completely commits. Every aspect is governed by a teen boy fantasy
C: Oh yeah, I used to write it off as a “boy movie”. Not that I believe there to be such a thing any more. But it’s very much, “Robots! Boobs! Skeletons! Man stuff!” Which is charming in its own way.
S: Every scene has to have a twist and a fight and a chase.
C: But when you look past that stuff, there really is something for everyone. I love the horror aspects and the 1960’s sci-fi vibes.
S: It’s got a zombie scene, a badass fantasy girl revenge scene, a stoner road trip through space scene. We also haven’t talked about the cast yet, which is just pure 80s Canadian royalty.
C: I LOVE that John Candy voices about 12 million characters.
S: And they’re surprisingly diverse voices! I didn’t clue in that he did both pre transformation Den and buff Den.
C: Him as a tiny boy, who then gets turned into a buff man, but still has a child voice, but also a buff man voice when he’s trying to be impressive. So good.
S: “18 years of nothing, and now twice in one day!”
C: I feel like that’s a character that I normally would have thought was a total dweeb, but because it’s John Candy, he’s just so sweet and endearing. And then you’ve got Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis as these coked out alien dudes and it’s just so perfect.
S: I feel like that is a perfect prediction of their audience watching it for the first time in theatres. Or at a drive in.
C: This is the perfect drive in movie. You can come in and out of it and not really lose any of the experience.
S: I think that’s why I’ve been able to come back to it so many times over the years without getting sick of it. Every individual part works and is just so much fun. I feel like the people who hate this movie take themselves too seriously.
C: Even if you aren’t into the story and/or the music, it’s still a pretty impressively executed film. All the various techniques they used to create a pretty immersive world, or worlds I should say.
S: You can take any frame of it and it’s very distinctly Heavy Metal.
C: Like that scene where that spaceship blows a hole in the Pentagon and then we see this insane wide shoot with the whole ship in frame. That scene is crazy and I took a million screenshots.
S: That scene has so much momentum at first! Then they just cut to a bunch of robot sex jokes. It’s very playful.
C: Did you ever read any Heavy Metal Magazine?
S: I collect them.
C: Oh snap! I’ve never actually even seen one in the flesh.
S: They are too much and I LOVE it. Looking at one and flipping through it is sensory overload.
C: When I read that this movie was based of a magazine, I just thought, “How? What? No.” But then seeing some of the archives online, it totally fits and it actually such genius idea.
S: Reading the magazine, it seems like an impossible thing to adapt. But from that perspective they pull it off perfectly.
C: You could so easily translate the film into a comic of magazine format. Having different directors for each segment gives each one it’s own unique feel. But they still all work as one piece. I don’t know. I just liked it so much more this time around than I did as a teenager.
S: I think it’s easier to appreciate for being very unique now than when I was younger. I’ve still never really been able to find a movie like it.
C: It’s very easy to write it off as sleaze but it really is one of a kind. There’s just so much going on, I don’t know how someone could make another movie like it.
S: A beautiful mistake that got to slip through the cracks.
C: Yeah, I don’t know how anyone would get away with making a movie like it these days. Independently I guess, but there’s no way it would be of this caliber. So that’s seems like a good place to cap things off. Unless you’ve got any further thoughts? A favourite moment perhaps? Or favourite segment.
S: Literally all of it. Probably when the Cab Driver says “There’s BEER in the FRIDGE”.
S: Like he’s trying to impress himself. It’s just so cute.
C: I love his casual obliteration of people with his in cab laser beam.
S: He’s just kind of ticked off about it.
C: “Oh man, ANOTHER gun for glove compartment” Such an inconvenience. It’s such a funny vision of 1980’s sci-fi future.
S: And there’s a grenade in there, like someone tried to rob him just holding a grenade.
C: And a flail, like someone just come from a renaissance fair and decided to do a mugging.
You can hear more from Shane on his podcast Power Hour Bonus Hour. There’s a new episode every Monday and can be found at powerhourbonushour.com or through iTunes. He promises that at least 5% of you will really like it.