Anyone who is a fan of music, especially heavy metal, should watch this fascinating, funny and sometimes sad documentary about the infamous Canadian metal band Anvil, from writer and director Sacha Gervasi. Though listed as inspiration to countless other bands, true success has eluded original Anvil founding members Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner, in their 30 plus years (now 40) together, and this documentary follows them as they continue trying. With a doomed European tour and efforts to put together their 13th album, the band simply refuses to quit despite constant adversity and disappointment. As a metalhead and former band manager myself, this brought back a lot of memories and had me rooting for these old rockers who won’t give up or grow up! Party on dudes!
NOTE: Since this documentary premiered in January of 2008, Anvil has changed bass players a few more times and recorded five more albums to date!-MZNJ
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS (1988)
Pretty much the best documentary ever on the 80s heavy metal scene that centered in L.A. and ran roughshod for over a decade till Grunge took over in the early 90s. Penelope Spheeris (Suburbia, Wayne’s World) tells the story using the voices and music of not only some of the top bands like Poison, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Motörhead and one of the godfather’s of heavy metal, Alice Cooper. We also get interviews with fans and wannabe stars like members of Odin, who never got signed, members of Vixen, whose star shown briefly and members of London, who had bandmates that went on to join some of the most famous bands of the era, but never found fame themselves. As nostalgia, it gives one a perfect feel for the music, outrageous fashions and the decadent lifestyles that came with it. It’s all the hair spray, mascara and glitter you could want with some refreshingly honest feedback from the people whose music created the scene and those who lived as part of it. We get some outrageous interviews such as KISS’ Paul Stanley, who delivers his words of wisdom from a bed filled with gorgeous women, Ozzy Osbourne, as he makes his breakfast of bacon and eggs and the most notorious segment with W.A.S.P.’s Chris Holmes, giving his interview piss drunk while fully clothed in a pool and with his poor mom sitting in a chair right there the whole time. It’s a lot of fun and in Holmes’ case, makes you cringe a few times. We also get the opposing viewpoint of this whole scene from some hilarious interview segments with a parole office who talks about “de-metaling” the kids under their charge and the demonic influence of the music and it’s makers. Spheeris basically let’s it all speak for itself and we are all along for the wild ride.
As a metal head myself, who was in clubs here in New Jersey and NYC almost every night during the 80s, seeing bands like the ones here, this documentary is a wonderful and nostalgic look at a time sadly gone forever. Even if some of the interviewees induce giggles today, at the time, they were people who were simply passionate about the music and life that went with it and this documentary captures it all at the time it was taking place…though sadly right before it’s fall. If you were a part of that scene, as I was, this is a wonderfully nostalgic look back at a one of a kind decade in music. If you are someone interested in what it was like back then, this is a fun and sometimes rib-tickling look at the lunacy and decadence that swept the music industry during this incredible period in music history.
3 and 1/2 guitars
Track Listing from the Soundtrack CD
1. “Under My Wheels”- Alice Cooper 3:22
2. “The Bathroom Wall”- Faster Pussycat 3:54
3. “Cradle To The Grave”- Motôrhead 4:12
4. “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide”- Armored Saint 3:03
Heavy Metal is a Canadian animated, sci-fi anthology inspired by the classic magazine of the same name. It’s a series of stories, some based on tales originally from the magazine, others written for the film, that are each directed by a different filmmaker and animated in different styles and techniques based on the work of the artists who drew for the magazine, like Bernie Wrightson, Moebius and Angus McKie. At the center of the stories is a powerful and evil force in the form of a glowing green orb called the Loc-Nar. The effects of this evil and the desire of those who wish to possess it’s power are the common theme throughout the film that links all the stories together. And true to it’s name, the film is filled with songs from bands like Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, Devo and Sammy Hagar.
Heavy Metal is a real blast, filled with some really cool animation and a diverse selection of stories that are filled with the same elements of sex, drugs, horror and sci-fi fantasy that have made the magazine famous. Some of the stories are more humorous, like the fantasy Den, where a nerd (voiced by the late, great John Candy) is thrust to an alternate dimension where he becomes a Conan-like hero, or, the amusing Captain Sternn (Eugene Levy) who is basically a smug jerk whose bad deeds are catching up to him. Then there are more serious stories like the Dan O’Bannon written B-17, about a WWII bomber with a zombie problem, and the bloody fantasy Taarna about a female warrior who is the last of her race and faced with saving her planet from an evil tyrant and his Lok-Nar empowered mutant army. Heavy Metal is a classic and it is sure to bring out the horny teenage nerd in all of us with it’s big breasted heroines, muscular heroes, ample amounts of sex and nudity and plentiful blood and gore. There are some great vocal talent, such as the before mention Candy and Levy, along with Joe Flaherty, Percy Rodriguez and Richard Romanus, that add life to the colorful and varied characters that populate the numerous stories. Add to that one hell of a soundtrack, which I proudly own as well and you’ve got a fun night at the movies.
A favorite of mine since I first saw it in 1981 and a deviously fun cartoon for adults and the teenage geek that we all have within us. A classic!
Our second feature is appropriately also a Canadian animated flick with a great soundtrack, that tells the story of a future where humans are gone, but animals have evolved to take their place. In Ohmtown, Omar (voiced by Greg Salata in the original version and Paul Le Mat in the US release, sung by Robin Zander) and Angel (voiced by Susan Roman, sung by Deborah Harry) are a boyfriend and girlfriend who are also in a rock band trying to achieve every musician’s dream of stardom. But when the band is heard by mega-rock star Mok (voiced by Don Francks, sung by both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop), he wants Angel to become a solo star and leave the band behind. She refuses, but he kidnaps her anyway and hypnotizes the band, making them think she’s abandoned them. Soon Omar finds out the truth and even worse, that Mok actually has a far more sinister plot in mind, to use Angel’s voice to unleash a demon and now Omar and his band-mates must race to Nuke York to rescue angel and defeat Mok’s plan, saving both Angel and possibly the world.
Rock & Rule is a fun animated rock and roll adventure that would be a good time even without the top notch vocal talent. But adding to a fun story, we get some memorable songs sung by the legendary likes of Cheap Trick, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry…that’s an awesome line-up in most any music lovers book and their voices perfectly compliment the characters and story-line. The film moves at a fast pace and is filled with an entertaining assortment of colorful characters brought to life by equally colorful and vibrant animation.
The film was hard to find for a while and then was available on DVD and Blu-ray, but now seems to be out of print again. Availability issues aside, it’s a fun, colorfully entertaining animated flick with a lot of great music by some classic artists giving us a nice ear candy coating with a classic good vs evil story at it’s center. A cult classic and a real treat.