Heavy Metal, the cult-favorite adult animated feature, comes to 4K Blu-ray on April 19th (Amazon is promising it in March). The film it will come housed in a great-looking Steelbook package, and also included in the release will be Heavy Metal 2000, the sequel, which is making its debut on Blu-ray as well. The less said about that, the better.
Presented in 4K and under the supervision of the late Ivan Reitman, it will also feature a Dolby Atmos track featuring new soundscapes under the direction of Reitman. All sorts of special features are going to be included as well.
I’m not entirely sure what “new soundscapes” means, but it might indicate that they weren’t able to clear the rights to all the music used in the original film.
I have to admit to having mixed feelings about HEAVY METAL. Most of my friends love the movie, and most of them first saw it on HBO in the 1980s and weren’t familiar with the magazine when they were first exposed to the film.
I went in expecting a faithful adaptation of some of my favorite stories from the comic magazine, and what I got was a mixed bag of beautifully-animated segments, horribly-animated sequences, bad adaptations with failed attempts at humor inserted, and two long segments of the movie that were ripped off of stories by the legendary Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius, without attibution.
The animation was farmed out to studios all over the world after the producers had been turned down by Nelvana Ltd, who were working on their first feature film, Rock & Rule (a much better animated feature, by the way). Some of the studios turned out spectacular first-rate work, others produced work that was more than adequate for the time, but some segments were cranked out by slapped-together crews of first-time animators, reportedly hired at Canadian comic conventions.
HEAVY METAL is really a mixed bag. I probably would remember it far more fondly had I not read the source material (credited and uncredited) first. I though the Den segment was an abomination. I’ve been a fan of the late Richard Corben since I was eight years old, and I was hoping that he would’ve been hired to oversee the animation for this adaptation of his story.
Corben had made some experimental films with limited animation based on Den in the 1960s (I posted one HERE last year), and it would have been a dream come true to see what it would look like had he been given a budget to work with. Instead, his segment was handed off to the comic convention recruits, and re-written by the guys who wrote Meatballs and Stripes. Even though I was a fan of John Candy, who voiced the main character, I despised this part of the movie.
Aside from that mess and the fact that two segments rip off the work of Moebius (and also Dan O’Bannon in one case), the rest of the film has aged better than I would’ve thought.
Angus McKie’s So Beautiful & So Dangerous, again, looked very much like the original story, and was very close to a small part of the comic, despite the insertion of a lot of Cheech & Chong style drug humor that was not originally there.
The voice work has some surprises. John Candy, who sort of helped murder the Den segment, turns up in other segments, as do his SCTV cohorts Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. There are also a lot of voices from the Heavy Metal/National Lampoon circle of contributors, like Douglas Kenney, John Vernon (Dean Wormer in Animal House), Rodger Bumpass (now famous as Squidward) and Alice Playten.
A lot of notable comic artists worked on HEAVY METAL behind the scenes. Neal Adams redesigned some of the characters from So Beautiful & So Dangerous, while Howard Chaykin immortalized DEVO in animation with his designs of the band for their cameo in the Taarna sequence.
The soundtrack was one of those Irving Azoff compilations that didn’t make a lot of sense, but was jam-packed with different artists. Where else could you find an album called “Heavy Metal” that had songs by members of The Eagles, Stevie Nicks, DEVO, Donald Fagan and Journey? To its credit, it also had Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick and a pre-Van Halen Sammy Hagar.
So there’s a lot of cool stuff here, if you don’t mind gatuitous cartoon nudity and ignore what they did to Den. I’ll probably grab this for the collection when it comes out.
Here’s the pertinent data from the press release:
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. Richly and lavishly drawn, the vignettes of the orb’s dark victories include the character voices of John Candy, Harold Ramis and a pounding soundtrack by Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Devo, Donald Fagen, Don Felder, Grand Funk Railroad, Sammy Hagar, Journey, Nazareth, Stevie Nicks, Riggs, and Trust. Highly imaginative and full of surprising special effects, HEAVY METAL set the standard for alternative contemporary animation. An intoxicating experience not to be missed!
Here is the list of special features and specs for the release:
HEAVY METAL 4K ULTRA HD DISC
Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, reviewed and approved by Ivan Reitman
New 2022 Dolby Atmos soundtrack – a brand-new immersive experience utilizing enhanced sound effects and much more, supervised by producer Ivan Reitman!
Also includes the 2022 mix in 5.1, and the original 1981 theatrical Dolby Stereo audio
NEW: Heavy Metal: A Look Back – an all-new retrospective featuring reflections from producer Ivan Reitman, famous fans Kevin Smith, Norman Reedus, and more!
HEAVY METAL BLU-RAY DISC™
Feature presented in High Definition with 5.1 audio
Original Feature-Length Rough Cut with Optional Commentary by Carl Macek
Imagining Heavy Metal Documentary
Alternate Framing Story with Commentary
HEAVY METAL 2000 BLU-RAY DISC™
Feature presented in High Definition (newly remastered), with 5.1 audio
Julie Strain: Super Goddess
4K UHD Feature Picture: 2160p Ultra High Definition, 1.85:1
4K UHD Feature Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible) | English 5.1 DTS-HD MA | English Stereo Surround DTS-HD MA