Heavy Metal (1981) – Beyond Genres #16
heavy metalnineteen eighty one.
Directed by Gerald Potterton.
With Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon and Zal Yanovsk.
If you are a heavy metal completer, you might want this new region-free Umbrella Entertainment movie release, which features all the bonus content from the Sony Blu-ray, but also includes a new commentary track.
Yes, another review of the cult classic animated film heavy metal, this time on a region-free Blu-ray from Australian company Umbrella Entertainment as part of their Beyond Genres series. I’m not going to rehash my thoughts on the film – you can read my review of Sony’s excellent 4K SteelBook version for that – but I thought I’d dig into what separates this edition from that one. (The Sony version also includes a copy of the sequel Heavy Metal 2000plus digital codes for both movies, neither of which you’ll find here.)
It was unclear if this Sony 4K edition featured a remastered copy of the film, but given the relatively low fidelity of the animation compared to other animated films of the time, I believe there is no a that so far you can do heavy metal looks better on disk. Whether you watch it on Blu-ray or 4K, you’ll likely get picture quality on par with how it looked when it first hit theaters in 1981.
Any improvements offered by the 4K version of heavy metal is very lightweight at best, which tends to be true when comparing a lot of movies on 4K to their Blu-ray counterparts. Unless the studio botched the Blu-ray with too much image processing, which happened on some movies (Terminator 2 is a notable example), 4K will give you a marginal picture improvement on most 4K players and TVs.
You really need a high-end setup to get the full 4K experience, and even then we’re talking about viewing finer detail, things like seeing more pores on Malcolm McDowell’s face in the big opening shot of A clockwork orange. I’m not saying this, however, to hit 4K – I took the leap, as I like to be on the cutting edge. I’m just pointing out the likely reason why 4K didn’t gobble up as much market share as Blu-ray in its early days, because that format was clearly a vast improvement over DVD. The image quality gain of 4K is rather incremental.
So that said, I guess the version of heavy metal on this disc is comparable to the Blu-ray that accompanies the Sony 4K release, although it’s not just the same disc repackaged by Umbrella – they’ve carried over the bonus features from that other disc and added one new , so the main menu is different. I don’t know if this new bonus feature is unique to this release or not – more on that in a moment.
Like the Sony Blu-ray, this disc contains the following extras: the first cut of the film, with or without commentary by writer Carl Macek; the 35.5 minute documentary Imagine Heavy Metal, which is a full throwback to the making of the film; and some deleted scenes. The Sony 4K disc includes a new look at the film with heavy metal producer Ivan Reitman, filmmaker Kevin Smith, actor Norman Reedus and others – that extra isn’t here.
The new bonus feature found on this disc is a commentary track on the film. It features Macek reading his book The art of Heavy Metal: Animation for the 80s, so it’s not specific to what you see on the screen. The book delves deeper into the making of the film, starting with the initial idea that attracted Reitman to the project.
While the comedy film director and producer might have seemed like an odd person to get involved with heavy metalMacek points out that National Lampoon owned the magazine at the time (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman bought it later), so Reitman’s production duties on animal house brought him into Lampoon’s orbit. He saw an opportunity to do something interesting with animation, as there were few adult animated films at the time (apart from the works of Ralph Bakshi), and he pushed the studios to animation involved in the project trying out little-used techniques. at the time.
Macek’s book was first published in 1981 and updated in 1996 with an afterword to reflect the sequel that was in the works at the time, as well as the film’s evolution to cult classic status. This commentary track reflects the updated version, and while you might assume it was too long to cram heavy metalThe 90-minute running time actually ends with about 14 minutes remaining in the movie. I’ve never read the book, but I guess its 128 pages are heavier on illustrations than text, given the title, making it a good choice for a commentary track.
I don’t remember ever coming across another commentary that was the spoken version of a book, so it was an intriguing approach. One good thing about this is that it ensures there is no dead air or tangential commentary, since the speaker has everything they need to say in front of them. I wouldn’t mind seeing this idea tried in other versions of home videos as well.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★