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Old 10-10-2004, 02:52 PM
Scored: 10
Views: 13,910
Default Heavy Metal: Special Edition

Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: March 7, 2000

Released by: Columbia Tri-Star
Release date: November 23, 1999
MSRP: $27.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes

Heavy Metal, the animated film based off the popular magazine of the same name was released in 1981. For various reasons the film has been devoid of video releases until a few years ago when it finally got a video and subsequent LD release. In November of 1999 Columbia Tristar released a Special Edition DVD which has since become one of my favorite discs and is sure to thrill all fans of the film. So lets take a ride on Heavy Metal...

The Story

inline Image Heavy Metal is made up of several short stories that share a common thread - that being the "Loc-Nar". This powerful orb, which has spanned centuries and observed distant worlds is the absolute sum of all evil. Many have tried to possess the "Loc-Nar" only to be destroyed by it, but there have been those who have resisted the Loc-Nar's power and even destroyed it. The Loc-Nar, having learned its lesson, has sought after the one new "Guardian" that could destroy it. The Loc-Nar traps a young girl in her home and through her the Loc-Nar's stories unfold.

inline Image The stories begin with Harry Canyon, a New York City cabby in the year 2023, and his chance encounter with a woman on the run who possesses the Loc-Nar. She is being hounded by a gang off thugs that want to "buy it" from her. Next the story of Den, a scrawny boy who, while testing his experiment during a stormy night, gets sent to a different world where he is powerful and attractive. He'll have to battle two factions who are both vying for control of the Loc-Nar. Then the story of Captain Stern, a man accused of dozens of crimes against humanity. He is being prosecuted in court, but never fear, he has an "angle". Next, the story of a doomed B-17 during World War 2. It's encounter with the Loc-Nar brings the dead back to life as walking corpses!

inline Image After that we see the story of "So Beautiful and So Dangerous" where a beautiful human woman gets beamed aboard a space ship and falls in love with a robot. Finally, the story of Tarrna, a powerful warrior from a long extinct race of Taarakians. She is summoned by the elders of a city about to be destroyed by an army consumed with evil. When she arrives too late and discovers the entire population murdered she sets off to exact revenge.

inline Image Heavy Metal, which was released to theaters in 1981, became a phenomenon. It was something most folks hadn't seen before - animation with an edge. Drifting far away from the cutesy Disney type animation, Heavy Metal is full of cool anti-heroes, beautiful babes with large breasts and colorful science fiction worlds filled with strange aliens and unique designs...oh and lets not forget the blood and violence! Yes, violence plays a big role in Heavy Metal, decapitations, gun shots and not to mention in one of the coolest sequences and my personal favorite - the living dead! Yes, Heavy Metal is definitely not for the kiddies, but then again most films reviewed on this site seldom are, so who cares?

inline Image I love this film and the more I see it the more I enjoy it. Being a fan of animated films ranging from Disney to Japanese Anime and everything in between this film came as a pleasant surprise when I first saw it a couple years ago. Even better is that most of the stories in the film are based on one of my favorite magazines - "Heavy Metal". The animation in each of the film's short stories each has its own distinct style much like the illustrations of the magazine. That's what really gives Heavy Metal its artistic flair, and from the excellent documentary on this DVD we learn what a worldwide effort it was to gather all the animated sequences. Each little short story is fun to watch and they can stand on their own as separate entities.

I'll come down off my soapbox for a minute and say regardless of how much I may praise it, Heavy Metal is probably not for everyone's taste. You may find the subject matter juvenile and its lack of a focused narrative off putting, but Heavy Metal is a film that gets better with repeated viewings and is a time capsule of a forgotten time. I definitely recommend Heavy Metal to animation fans as well as fans of Sci-Fi and Horror.

Image Quality

inline Image Columbia Tristar presents Heavy Metal widescreen at 1.85:1 in a beautiful 16x9 enhanced transfer. Without question Heavy Metal has never looked this good. While there is some grain and print damage, most noticeable in the "Soft Landing" and "Den" sequences, the overall look of the film is very clean and detailed. Some sequences like "Captain Sternn" and "Taarna" look excellent with hardly any noticeable grain and very beautiful and nicely saturated colors. Those two also contain some of the best animation as well, Taarna being my personal favorite in that respect. As animated films go, Heavy Metal looks damn good and the wide spectrum of colors used in the various sequences gives the animation a very colorful look.

Let's not forget Heavy Metal is almost 20 years old. While the film's animation may not be up to the standards of what's being done today, it's is still pleasing to watch and the transfer on this DVD reflects that.


Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the blazing rock soundtrack to Heavy Metal sounds fabulous and is definitely an audio experience to be lived (yes, I'm a big fan of Heavy Metal's soundtrack and I have it on CD). Though the music is mainly centered in the front channels the surrounds have great split effects which are used very frequently. Dialogue was clear, but I notice some distortion in some of the voices in the Taarna sequence. Still it's a minor complaint at best. Overall I found this mix to be thrilling and defiant of its age. Also included on the disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Columbia Tristar has released a terrific Special Edition of Heavy Metal on DVD. From top to bottom Heavy Metal is an exemplary disc that will keep you busy for hours. First there's an entire feature length "rough cut" which features the animated sequences in various levels of completion. It also features original footage that was cut out of the final version like some bits that were edited out of Captain Sternn etc. There's also an optional commentary with Carl Macek. Macek talks about the rough-cut and basically what it is and how it fits into the animation process. He also points out the scenes that were deleted as well as going in-depth about the different groups working on the different segments. It's good to listen to if you get bored of just watching the work print which at times doesn't have any sound.

inline Image The Heavy Metal DVD also features a very good documentary titled "Imagining Heavy Metal". Roughly 35 minutes in length, Imagining Heavy Metal features interviews with Kevin Eastman (Editor, Heavy Metal Magazine), John Bruno (Director of Special Effects), Paul Sabella (Sequence Director, Captain Stern), Terry Windell (Layout Artist), Joe Medjuck (Production Coordinator), Ivan Reitman (Producer), Dan Goldberg (Co-Screenwriter) and Michael Schlesinger (Columbia Pictures Repertory). The documentary starts off by the participants explaining what Heavy Metal is and what it means to them. It then goes on to cover the magazine Heavy Metal is based on and the film version's inception.

inline Image The documentary also goes into detail about the worldwide contributions made to put together the animated sequences and get the film done on time. It's a splendid documentary that's well crafted and perfectly edited with clips from the film. The disc also features a Heavy Metal magazine cover gallery that features the beautiful artwork that has graced the covers of Heavy Metal magazine all the way back to 1977! After browsing through the covers it's obvious to see what kind of audience Heavy Metal tries to attract, almost all the covers feature women who are barely clothed and who are generously endowed.

inline Image Also on board are deleted scenes from Heavy Metal including the deleted sequence "Neverwhere Land". That sequence would have been the bridge between Captain Stern and B-17. The sequence was animated by Cornelius Cole and was unfortunately cut because the film ran too long. While the deleted scene presents Neverwhere Land in an unfinished state it gives you a good idea of what the sequence might have been like and it does look VERY cool. Essentially the story is about evolution on Earth and how it was tainted by the evil of the Loc-Nar. Also included, as a deleted scene, is the alternate-framing story that linked all the short stories together. Instead of the Loc-Nar speaking with the little girl and telling her it's tales the stories are presented by way of carousal. This scene can be played with or without commentary by Carl Macek.

Heavy Metal, being an animated film, has an abundance of drawings and artwork and this Special Edition DVD has plenty of galleries to view them all. There is a section "Artwork of Heavy Metal" which features pencil portfolios, conceptual art, single cell portfolios and layered cell portfolios. There are also "Production Photos" of B-17 and Taarna. Oddly enough what's missing from this DVD is a theatrical trailer, which is pretty strange. Still, trailer or not Heavy Metal is still packed with supplements and scores the highest grade in that category.

Final Thoughts

The Heavy Metal Special Edition is one hell of a DVD. The film itself looks and sounds terrific and it's loaded with a lot of cool extras. Columbia Tristar makes terrific DVDs and special editions and it shows. I strongly recommend this disc to Heavy Metal fans, animation enthusiasts and DVD collectors.


Image Quality A-
Sound A
Supplements A+

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 24 Chapter Stops
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Documentary: Imagining Heavy Metal
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Feature Length Rough Cut with Optional Commentary
  • Production Photo Gallery
  • Heavy Metal Magazine Cover Gallery
  • Pencil portfolio with Animations
  • Single & Layered Cel Portfolios
  • Conceptual Art Gallery
  • Production Notes
  • Carl Macek Reading His Book "Heavy Metal: The Movie"
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