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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
    None Listed
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hindi
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary - during the rough cut of the feature
  • Production notes
  • Photo gallery
  • Documentaries - Imagining Heavy Metal - 35 mins

Heavy Metal - Collector's Edition

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 87 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I love it when intros write themselves.

My housemate just walked into the room as I was working on reviews and picked up the cover to Heavy Metal. He immediately exclaimed, "What the HELL is this?!", which is probably the reaction the creators of the film were aiming for when they launched this very non-PC animated feature onto the world in the early 80s. In many ways the last gasp of the counter-culture revolution, Heavy Metal built up a large cult following over the last 18 years as it was impossible to get on home video for a long time due to problems with licensing music rights.

Inspired by the long-running illustrated fantasy magazine, the film is made up of several segments joined by a framing device of the evil Loc-Nar orb. Several animation studios around the world contributed to the film, so each segment has a different visual style, though none are up to the sophisticated level you'd expect if you've been watching recent Disney films!

The tone of the film follows that of the magazine, which means if you've still got the mindset of a drooling adolescent, enjoy gore, swearing, 70's hard rock and gratuitous nudity, this disc should keep you very happy. Hey, I had fun.

The film is quite uneven in quality, but some of the segments I enjoyed the most were:

  • Harry Canyon - Tell me if you've heard this before: A New York cabbie of the future saves a woman from aliens who are after the secret of Ultimate Evil. Yep, The Fifth Element stole so much from this story it's almost laughable. Even down to the colour scheme!
  • B-17 - Written by Dan O'Bannon of Alien fame, this is the tale of a stricken WWII bomber that is infused with a strange power that makes the recently-killed crew come to life and attack the pilot!
  • So Beautiful & So Dangerous - Combine a very cute CGI spaceship, a John Candy-voiced robot that gets lucky with a captured Earth chick and two Cheech & Chong-style aliens, and you're pretty much guaranteed to enjoy yourself...
Some people will probably have trouble with the content of this film; it's not for kids! Virtually every female character would have chronic back pain (you know what I'm saying), and gore is splashed about copiously.

  Video
Contract

I presume the source used for the DVD was the same as that used for the 1997 theatrical re-release, and despite a bit of grit and grime (which I kind of expected), the image is fairly decent when you consider the low (<$10 million) budget of the film. The PAL format is quite capable of showing most of the fine detail in the animations (especially as the disc is anamorphically-enhanced) and also does a good job of preserving colour, which is generally well-saturated. Blacks are very deep, which isn't really surprising as animation has no shadow detail to preserve!

Up close, MPEG artifacts are visible at times, with fine detail in the background occasionally acting a bit hesitant as to whether it's supposed to be here or there, but at normal viewing distances this shouldn't present any real problem. To be honest, line animation will suffer most from digital compression, as fine detail is much easier to focus on than in live action.

Watching this film on a standard TV, I couldn't help wishing that we could have progressive-display DVD players and sets now, rather than in several year's time, as moving animation shows up interlace problems very well. I noticed another review described this as MPEG 'blurring' on panning shots, but it looks to be the result of interlacing to me.

  Audio
Contract

Sadly, the audio is disappointing. The film was remixed in 1997 to showcase Sony's then-new SDDS system in a theatrical re-release, but I can't imagine the audience being too impressed. Voices and sound effects often appear to come from a different part of the screen to the corresponding visual cues, dialogue levels are wildly inconsistent with occasional distortion and the overall impression is that of a dated, compressed soundtrack. It's mixes like this that make me wish studios could sometimes just leave the original mix alone.

The musical tracks hold up well as a showcase of 70s dinosaur rock (with a couple of Devo tunes for us kids of the 80s!), and the Elmer Bernstein score is very appropriate.

  Extras
Contract

Fans of the film couldn't ask for more, really. Columbia have not only given us the film, but also the feature-length rough cut with commentary! This is a great way to see how the film was built up, as the rough cut is made up of many sources, from storyboards, to pencil tests, to near-complete footage. The commentary is a little dry, but informative on a technical level.

Add a 35-minute recently-produced documentary entitled 'Imagining Heavy Metal' where the creators look back on their film and explain what they were trying to achieve, and also fill us in on the severe time constraints they worked under (not good with animation!).

Think that's good? Then take a look at the deleted scenes (one with commentary), plus hundreds of still frames of magazine covers, production photos, concept art and cels.

This is an excellent collection of extras, and would probably sway me to buy the disc if I were hemming and har-ing over a purchase.

  Overall  
Contract

Cult films by definition only appeal to a minority audience, so I'd suggest renting before buying if you haven't seen this before. If you're a committed fan, rest assured that your money won't be wasted.


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