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Heavy Metal

(Métal hurlant)

Year: 1981
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 90 min
Director: Gerald Potterton
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Executive Producer: Leonard Mogel
Writer: Dan Goldberg, Len Blum, Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, Thomas Warkentin, Berni Wrightson
Editor: Janice Brown
Sound: Peter Thilaye, Peter Jermyn, Gordon Thompson
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: John Vernon, Don Francks, Al Waxman, John Candy, Jackie Burroughs, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Harold Ramis, Harvey Atkin
Production Company: Heavy Metal Animation Company Inc.

Canada’s most successful animated feature, Heavy Metal was produced by Ivan Reitman during the tax-shelter era. Although its original box-office performance was not overwhelming, the film went on to become a cult favourite on a par with Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Heavy Metal was, through the eighties and early nineties, the single most active title in the entire Columbia Pictures library, playing midnight shows around the United States, often for months on end.

Anticipating by two decades the popularity of sci-fi animé, Heavy Metal is based on selected stories from the French and American fantasy magazines of the same name (Leonard Mogel, who executive produced the film, was the founding publisher of the U.S. version in 1974). Heavy Metal consists of six short films with storylines that mix science fiction, fantasy and sword-and-sorcerer themes with liberal doses of violence, graphic sexuality, low humour and cheeky political incorrectness. Production was overseen by National Film Board veteran Gerald Potterton, who also worked as an animator on George Dunning’s 1968 cult classic Yellow Submarine. Potterton coordinated more than one thousand artists, animators and technicians from seventeen countries working in Los Angeles, New York, London, Montreal and Ottawa.

Heavy Metal has the distinction of being the last R-rated animated feature to be released by a major Hollywood studio. Its cult status was also fuelled by the popularity of the film’s soundtrack, which spent thirteen weeks in the Top 40 upon its initial release. The film also endures as a showcase of Canadian comedy talent, with voice work from the late John Candy and fellow SCTV alumni Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis.

Heavy Metal was unavailable on video until the mid-nineties because the producers never secured the necessary rights for the music. But the theatrical release of a digitally remastered version in 1996 was a further testament to the film’s enduring popularity among connoisseurs (mostly young men) of the genre. The film won three Genie Awards, including the Golden Reel Award as the year’s best box-office performer.

Featuring songs by Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, et al.