[Happy 35th Birthday!] Heavy Metal (1981)

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Director: Gerald Potterton

Cast: Harvey Atkin, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Marilyn Lightstone, Harold Ramis, Richard Romanus, Alice Playten, Roger Bumpass, Joe Flaherty

Screenplay: Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum

86 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, folks, 35 years ago today, a little animated film came out. No, it wasn’t a Disney film. Not even a little. No, I’m talking about 1981’s Heavy Metal.

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Heavy Metal is a collection of stories based on those from the original source comic book. Each of these stories is connected through a mystical object, a green glowing orb called the Loc-Nar. There is the story of Harry Canyon (Richard Romanus, Mean Streets, Point of No Return), a taxi driver in 2031 New York who gets in too deep with a beautiful woman on the hunt from the gangster Rudnick. The story of Den (John Candy, TV’s SCTV, Spaceballs), a nerdy teen who is transported by the Loc-Nar to Neverwhere and becomes muscled hero bent on defeating a villainous cult. On an orbiting space station, Captain Lincoln F. Sternn (Eugene Levy, Best in Show, Finding Dory) is on trial when the Loc-Nar intervenes. The stories are each interesting in their own and contribute to an overall mythos by which the film is centered. To go in depth would ruin the fun of watching.

The film starts with a Loc-Nar monologue and immediately jumps into Soft Landing, a hell of a way to open a movie and further proof that opening titles work when done right.

The movie is crass and misogynistic and gory and erotic, and through all that, I love it. Heavy Metal has eye-popping imagery and gorgeous visuals (however dated) combined with a kick-ass soundtrack featuring hard rock music from the era. It is a time capsule of teenage boys in the 1980s, and it is epic.

I would have liked to have seen more connections between the different stories. It felt like they were shoehorned together some (and I know full well that this was the case as the Loc-Nar didn’t appear in most of the comic book stories depicted).

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I love Heavy Metal (the sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, not so much) and I hope for the long-awaited third film to show up one day down the road. This is a film like no other, only barely similar in tone to some of Ralph Bakshi’s work, but don’t let its uniqueness take you out of it. This is a tremendous feat in filmmaking that has been all but forgotten.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 35th Birthday!] Airplane! (1980)

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Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

 

Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen

Screenplay: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

88 mins. Rated PG.

 

As a child, I was a bit of a goofball, like many kids are. My influences were of a particular variety like Jim Carrey, Harold Ramis and, most notably, Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, Stan Helsing). Early in my childhood, I connected to Nielsen’s brand of comedy. His form of wordplay and parody combined with his perfect timing allowed for some of the greatest moments in comedy. 35 years ago, the first film featuring Leslie Nielsen as a comedic performer, Airplane!, was released, and its time we look back on it.

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When Ted Striker (Robert Hays, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Sharknado 2: The Second One) follows his stewardess ex-girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty, She’s the Man, Confessions of a Shopaholic) aboard her next flight, he isn’t aware that a freak food poisoning incident would leave him the only man capable of flying the aircraft, and his drinking problem coupled with his regrets from the war have taken a toll on him. Now, it’s up to Striker, Elaine, and Dr. Rumack (Nielsen) to save the passengers and land the plane.

Airplane!, from the writer-director group of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, is the first true win for the three filmmakers. They took the script for the film Zero Hour, purchased up the rights, and turned it into one of the most quotable films of all time. Their decision to cast serious actors reading satirical dialogue is what makes it as hilarious as it is.

The directors set the tone perfectly from the first moment with their spoof of Jaws. From then on, they send up films like Saturday Night Fever with their gags about the beginnings and endings of Disco.

The film is a slow burn the first viewing. The directors have such a unique style that if you don’t know what you are getting into, it might take a bit to get it. Their comedy requires your full attention and that’s why it doesn’t happen anymore in recent films.

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Airplane! Is a comedy masterpiece, still as good today as it was 35 years ago when it first graced the screen. It ushered in a new subgenre of comedy that lasted almost three decades. Nielsen was ushered with it, and his career met new avenues.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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