Glenn Kenny
June 14, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After languishing in limbo for years, the seminal animation anthology Heavy Metal has finally made it to video, with some new footage (an alternate version of the opening-credit sequence), a spiffed-up surround soundtrack, and a terrific transfer. Animation nuts clamoring for the home release of the movie — the granddaddy of MTV’s Liquid Television — would seem to have much reason to rejoice, since for 15 years they’ve been able to see just a handful of showings on TV, poorly duped bootlegs, and a brief theatrical rerelease last March.

An offshoot of the ”adult” comic magzine of the same name, the Canadian-made Heavy Metal employed some impressive talent from the movie and animation worlds — Ivan Reitman produced, a cadre of top artists (including Mike Ploog and Howard Chaykin) contributed designs, and the likes of John Candy and Animal House‘s John Vernon provided voices. Unfortunately, the six stories (most based on series that ran in the magazine, such as the desert-hero saga ”Den” by Bat Out of Hell cover artist Richard Corben) are framed by uncompelling nonsense about a glowing green ball that represents total evil. And with the exception of the movie’s stunning finale, the warrior-woman chest- and gore-fest ”Legend of Taarna,” the animation is pretty stiff. Most of the material — surprise — panders to hormonally crazed adolescent geeks: Busty women abound, as do stoner robots, spaceships, awkward sex scenes, and beheadings.

Elmer Bernstein’s sweeping score is appropriately epic, but the rock stars dotting the soundtrack (Journey! Nazareth! Solo Eagle Don Felder!) are so lame it’s hard to believe that the video was held up in part because of difficulty in securing music rights. As colorful as Heavy Metal may be, it’s pretty weightless in the wake of its offspring. C+

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