Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

Also known as: Universo en fantasía (original Spanish language title)
Release Date: July 29th, 1981 (premiere)
Directed by: Gerald Potterton
Written by: Daniel Goldberg
Based on: original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, Thomas Warkentin, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, various
Cast: 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, Zal Yanovsky

Canadian Film Development Corporation, Guardian Trust Company, Columbia Pictures, 86 Minutes, 90 Minutes (premiere cut)

Review:

“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.” – Narrator

Fuck, this movie is so damn cool!

However, it does lack in the “heavy metal” department, as far as the music goes. That’s not to say the music is bad, this is just a lot less heavy than the title implies. Still, this developed a really strong cult following and for very good reason.

I love the rock and pop tunes in this, though. I mean, where else can you see a sword and sorcery story with sci-fi elements playout to a Devo song? Nowhere!

This entire movie is an animated anthology. The various segments were inspired by some of the stories and art that appeared in the pages of the Heavy Metal comic magazine. This is also a very adult cartoon, as it features nudity, sex and violence. There really isn’t anything here for kids but I saw it as a kid and it blew my mind. The ’80s were a different era, though. Kids today can’t watch Gremlins without needing the light on till they turn thirty.

Anyway, this was produced by Ivan Reitman and it featured a lot of his regular actors in voice roles. It’s kind of neat watching this for the first time in years and hearing John Candy, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. It almost needed Bill Murray in there to round it out but it was still pretty dope hearing these comedic legends voices pop up in something like this.

That being said, this is just a really unique experience and it still conjures up a sort of magical feeling when watching it.

Despite the action and violence, the film has a calming, chill vibe to it and I think that has a lot to do with its visual style, tone and the superb use of music to season the already flavorful meal.

Heavy Metal is a weirdly comforting movie that reminds me of a time when filmmakers were still daring and experimental and with that, often times gave us movies that were really interesting, wonderfully eccentric, bizarre and special.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other late ’70s and ’80s adult animated films.

Book Review: ‘The Conquering Sword of Conan (Book 3)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the third and final installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan collections in this series. It’s been a fun ride reading his Conan stuff in its entirety and this book didn’t disappoint.

After reading all three books, the quality between all these stories is pretty damn consistent and the ratings on these reviews only really reflect my own personal preferences of the stories collected in each one.

Out of the three, this one fits in the middle for me. It’s not full of just short stories and poems like the first volume or just collects a few novellas like the second, this book collects a handful of stories that fit somewhere in the middle.

The stories collected here are The Servants of Bit-Yakin, Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, The Man-Eaters of Zamboula and one of my favorites, Red Nails. There are some other miscellaneous things tacked on at the end.

With these stories you pretty much get what you’d expect. Conan kicks the crap out of monsters, goes on epic adventures, hunts treasure and wins over the women. Most of these, if not all of them, have been adapted into comic book stories. While I love both versions of these tales, there’s just something really cool reading them as Robert E. Howard originally wrote them.

Reading through all the Howard stories was a great experience and I’m glad that it’s a mountain I decided to finally climb in its entirety over the last few months.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘The Bloody Crown of Conan (Book 2)’ by Robert E. Howard

The Bloody Crown of Conan is the second collected edition of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories. Unlike the first one, however, this isn’t chock full of short stories, poems and unfinished works. This one primarily features three full-length novellas: The People of the Black Circle, The Hour of the Dragon, and A Witch Shall Be Born. There’s some bonus stuff tacked on at the end but these three stories are the focus of this volume.

For the most part, I liked the stories included here. Before this, I had never read Robert E. Howard’s original versions of them but I do recall two of them from comic book adaptations. Knowing Roy Thomas and his run on Conan comics while writing them at Marvel, I’m sure he adapted all three of these at some point.

I enjoyed the first volume a bit more, as that collection offered up more variety and featured more well-known secondary characters in their original literary versions. Still, these bigger stories were fun, adventurous reads.

The benefit of these novella length tales is that Conan feels more realized and complete. His character is able to develop and breathe a little bit more. This is where you really feel like you get to know him beyond just his already well-known basic traits.

For fans of the character and Robert E. Howard’s work, this is definitely something that should be read. If you’re like me and haven’t experienced these stories in their original form, you need to.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Comic Review: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps., Vol. 1

Published: March 3rd, 2009
Written by: Robin Snyder
Art by: Dave Gibbons

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

I always thought that the Hal Jordan Green Lantern was cool. However, I never really started reading his stories until the Geoff Johns era and a lot of that had to do with the art by Ethan Van Sciver, which popped off of the shelves when I walked into a comic book shop for the first time in a decade in the mid-’00s.

Through that era of Green Lantern titles, I grew to love several characters and the rich mythos of that pocket of the larger DC Comics universe.

In the years since, I like going way back and reading some of the earlier stuff to get a grasp on the more classic stories. This collection is one of those, as it features stories originally published in the early ’80s.

This collection has one primary story that takes up about the first half of the book. It features Hal Jordan and other Green Lanterns as they face off against villains Krona and Nekron. In fact, this story is the first appearance of Nekron, who would grow into a fairly prominent villain over the years.

The second half of the book features short stories of what appears to be random Lanterns. It’s a collection of both origin stories and quick adventures for a plethora of Lanterns. Some of it is cool and really imaginative but not all of them really connected for me.

Still, as a more modern Green Lantern fan, this was cool to read. Plus, it features tremendous art by the great Dave Gibbons, one of my favorite comic book artists of all-time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other old school Green Lantern stories.

Book Review: ‘The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Book 1)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the first of three collected editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian tales. I’m reading these as they’re numerically numbered and I assume there’s at least a loose chronology to the placement of the stories over the three volumes.

This one features several of the famous Conan short stories that I’ve also read but about 40 percent of it was new to me.

Covering nearly 500 pages, this is packed full of a dozen or so stories, as well as alternate draft versions of many. The main part of the book has The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, The Tower of the Elephant, The Phoenix and the Sword and Queen of the Black Coast just to name a few.

Overall, this was a hell of a lot of fun to both revisit and discover stories I hadn’t yet read. Some of these were also stories I knew from the comics but hadn’t actually experienced the source material for myself.

All in all, a great, beefy book packed full of sword and sorcery adventure, heroism and monsters. What the hell isn’t there to love?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Film Review: Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Also known as: The Corpse-Makers (working title)
Release Date: October 30th, 1963
Directed by: Sidney Salkow
Written by: Robert E. Kent
Based on: the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Music by: Richard LaSalle
Cast: Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Richard Denning, Joyce Taylor

Robert E. Kent Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Your daughter is a fine specimen, too, isn’t she father? A specimen of the most deadly thing that was ever given life.” – Beatrice Rappaccini

While I’m not the biggest fan of anthology movies, this one is pretty good and it was better than I remembered.

I think that the last time I saw this was when it first came out on DVD, which had to have been more than fifteen years ago now.

I did remember the first two stories in this pretty fondly but I couldn’t recall the third and final act of the film. Seeing this now, I can see why, as it is definitely the weakest of the three.

However, the first two stories are both so good, that I can’t let the third one ruin the movie. Although, it probably should’ve gone first, as it sort of kills the movie’s momentum and pacing.

I’ve never actually read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, even though I own a pretty ancient copy of it. So I’m not sure if the order of the stories are the same in this film as they are in the novel. If so, I get why the film put them in that order.

Between the first two stories, it’s hard to pick a favorite, though, as both are wonderful.

love Vincent Price in this but then again, when don’t I love the man? The first story might take a bit of an edge, however, as I really enjoyed his chemistry with Sebastian Cabot.

All in all, this was neat to revisit and it fits well with the tone of Price’s Edgar Allan Poe movies and another anthology with him in it from the same era, Tales of Terror.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’60s and ’70s horror anthology films, specifically Tales of Terror, which also stars Vincent Price.

Comic Review: The Saga of Solomon Kane

Published: August 18th, 2009
Written by: Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, various
Art by: various
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, characters by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics (original printing), Dark Horse (reprinted), 416 Pages

Review:

Man, this was one hell of a buy! A great value in fact! I was surprised that I found one in pretty pristine condition on eBay for about twenty bucks.

This collection is pretty special, as it is magazine sized and all in black and white. It’s also over 400 glorious pages! It reprints all of the Solomon Kane magazine format stories from the original Marvel era when they had all the Robert E. Howard publishing rights from the ’70s into the early ’90s.

I’ve read probably half of these stories before, as I own a lot of the issues these tales appeared in but it’s been a really long time and about 50-60 percent of this was new to me.

It seems like this is mostly in chronological order and it allowed for it to read much better as a broader body of work, covering the large passage of time over Kane’s many adventures.

Being that this was made by Marvel, it features some great crossovers with the Marvel version of Dracula, as well as another Robert E. Howard character, Conan. There’s even a story in here that features Frankenstein’s castle.

A lot of the stories here are adapted from Howard’s literary Solomon Kane tales. Having recently read the definitive collection of the literary work, it was really cool seeing some of the same tales brought to life with great art.

All in all, this is now one of my favorite things in my graphic novel collection. It’s a beast of a collection but it’s also something I know I’ll go back to and revisit again and again for the rest of my life.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other comic stories that were featured within the pages of the original Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

Book Review: ‘The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane’ by Robert E. Howard

I have only read a few Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard and that was a long time ago. I’ve always loved the character, however. Especially, when he appeared in issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, as well as his own classic comic book series from his original Marvel run. I also like the film adaptation, quite a bit, as it has grown on me since I reviewed it for this site a few years back. I may need to update that, as I have a higher opinion of the movie now than I did after my original viewing of it.

This nice, thick book collects a lot of the iconic Solomon Kane stories that Howard wrote. I’m not sure if this is all of them or most of them but it does feature the stories I’m either familiar with from the comics and from what I’ve learned about the character’s history.

I enjoyed this pretty immensely, which I kind of expected to, but it exceeded those expectations and as far as a big collected body of work, this may be my favorite book I own by Robert E. Howard. Granted, I plan on reading the collected editions of Conan soon, as I have only read about a third of his short stories.

Solomon Kane is a very different hero than either Conan or Kull, however, and it was cool seeing Howard writing what I still consider to be sword and sorcery but quite unlike his better known “barbarian” heroes.

I love that this takes place on Earth in a historical time and that it connects to the real world closer than Howard’s prehistorical fantasy stuff.

Additionally, every story here had purpose and serious gravitas. I also liked all the colorful characters that weaved in and out of these tales, as well as the monsters and the Lovecraftian influence on them.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane should definitely be in anyone’s library who enjoys fantasy, action and horror. It’s a perfect blend of these three things, written by one of the greatest American authors that ever lived.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘Kull: Exile of Atlantis’ by Robert E. Howard

While this doesn’t collect all of the Kull stories by Robert E. Howard, I believe that it collects most of them. I feel like this nice, thick collection definitely gives you a lot of Kull to chew on and digest and honestly, this was all really solid without a dull moment to be found.

I believe that all of these stories are in chronological order to Kull’s life and not necessarily to the publishing date. They seem to be in order, anyway, as some stories have characters that connect to other stories and past situations sometimes get a mention.

Other than Kull, we do get mention of his big enemy Thulsa Doom. However, he doesn’t really have a presence here and I’m not sure how big of a presence he had in the actual short stories that Howard wrote. Doom did appear quite frequently in the Marvel comics series, though.

We also get a story where Kull meets another great Howard warrior, Bran Mak Morn. I think this story was originally written as a Bran Mak Morn tale but it was cool that it was included here, as it shows Howard sort of envisioned his stories within the same shared universe, which also exists within the realm of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. In fact, the two men were great friends and inspired one another.

For those who don’t know, Howard created Kull before his most famous character, Conan. The two have some similarities that are obvious but their personalities differ and you really get to see that, here.

Also, there is at least one story in this book that would be reworked and rewritten later as a Conan story.

For those who love Robert E. Howard’s work or are simply sword and sorcery fans, this is certainly something you’ll want to read and add to your library.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: anything else by Robert E. Howard, also the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Book Review: ‘The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard’

I’ve always loved that H.P. Lovecraft never really gave a shit that other writers would tap into his Cthulhu mythos. In the case of Robert E. Howard, the two had become good friends whose work influenced each other. So, naturally Howard wrote some Lovecraftian tales and even merged some of his most famous characters with those existing in Lovecraft’s literary universe.

The first story in this anthology collection sees Howard’s Kull of Atlantis crossover into Lovecraftian horror. Granted, this also happened in some works featuring Conan the Cimmerian, as well.

My favorite story in the collection was the second one, which was originally a novella. The story is called “Skull-Face”. The story is about a British man who smokes opium, has weird visions and then discovers that there’s something real and sinister afoot.

As I was reading “Skull-Face”, I kept envisioning Peter Cushing as the main character and it read like something that could’ve been adapted greatly by Hammer Films in the 1960s.

The rest of the stories were also pretty solid but my mind kept drifting back to “Skull-Face”.

All in all, this was really neat to read as it merged two of my favorite fantasy authors’ worlds together. Sure, Lovecraft influenced Howard’s sword and sorcery tales but this thick volume went beyond just the stuff I’ve read involving Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other works by Robert E. Howard, as well as the literary work of H.P. Lovecraft.