Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hell Bent for Cinema: Mike McPadden's Heavy Metal Movies

Music and film are two constructs that fit so perfectly that they might as well be sending each construction paper hearts with glitter glue lovey words. With something that can be as epic, brutal and at times, goony as heavy metal, it is always natural for it to cross-pollinate with the wild world of film. Luckily for us, someone was ballsy, brave, educated and, yes, metal enough to traipse these curious waters. That man? Mike McPadden and his book, Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos &Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-ScreamFilms Ever! 

This is a book, nay, a tome, that loves metal more than the older brother of your best friend in junior high who used to sell skunk weed to underage kids at the roller rink. Even more than that acquaintance you once had who could quote Rush's “Fly By Night” by heart, worshiped at the altar of Ronnie James Dio and happened to have at least one 8-sided dice in his/her pocket. In fact, the only way this book could be more dedicated to the genre of heavy metal is if it was spit shining the studded codpiece of Blackie Lawless himself.

The one and true Thor

One of the first things that stands out about about Heavy Metal Movies is its sheer density. Even as someone who is both a professional (yes, because I am that fancy) film writer and a longtime heavy metal music fan, I was shocked that there were that many movies that fit the criteria. Which is really a testament to the tireless research McPadden put into this book. The expected titles are written about, including for my money, the most uber-metal film of them all, ROCK & ROLL NIGHTMARE starring the one and only true Thor, the Canadian hard rock god. Seriously, forget about The Avengers and all of that and pick up ROCK & ROLL NIGHTMARE. In a fair and just world, every movie would have the hulky, blonde presence of Jon-Mikl Thor. 

But the flip side of that is a film like ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE. Initially, that may seem about as heavy metal as a Stryper concert, save for one very key detail, which is the presence of death metal legends Cannibal Corpse. Having seen this film years ago, how I forgot about Cannibal Corpse being in it is beyond me. Maybe that detail got lost amongst the singing operatic butts, Udo Kier (whom, some could argue, is even more metal than Cannibal Corpse themselves) and the lame, even at the time of the film's release, CRYING GAME twist ending. Even better, is that McPadden then informs us that the sole reason that the band responsible for some of the most grisly album cover art and music in the annals of metal, is even in the movie itself, is due to VENTURA star himself, Jim Carrey. The mental image of Jim Carrey rocking out to some supreme death metal trumps everything that is actually in ACE VENTURA. 

The book itself opens up with, appropriately enough, an interview with the godfather of horror-rock himself, Alice Cooper. (I type this as the ghost of Screaming Lord Sutch grimaces from the afterworld. It's okay, I love them both.) Cooper, having not only integrated horror movie ambiance and imagery with his stage shows, also has acted in such notable scary movies as John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the Italian-oddity MONSTER DOG and the ooky-spookiest of them all, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. With a pedigree like that, as well as a hilarious cameo in WAYNE'S WORLD he is the perfect interview to set the tone for Heavy Metal Movies.

As ambitious as it is epochal, with a resume like Mike McPadden's, it feels like a no-fail formula. Here is a writer that was practically built for the job. His background includes working for Hustler back in the 1990's and even writing the script for the Skin-a-max staple ANIMAL INSTINCTS 3 (under the pseudonym Selwyn Harris, which are both nods to the legendary Grindhouses of NYC) and being hip enough to include a Steve Albini reference. How many “erotic thrillers” included references to the famed producer and former member of Big Black? Only one and McPadden wrote it. In addition to helming the seminal early 90's zine, Happyland, he also currently dips his toes into the trash culture waters with his site, McBeardo

All of this experience shines well in Heavy Metal Movies, with there being a sweet balance of humor, fucking A attitude but all with an undercurrent of being smart and impeccably researched. This is one of those films books where you may learn something new, but even if you don't, you are gonna have fun reading it one way or the other. Kudos to both McPadden and the publisher Bazillion Points for not only releasing this work but having it laid out in such a comic-book fun level.

For fringe-film culture fans and heavy metal converts alike, Heavy Metal Movies is the book equivalent of the cover art for Anthrax's appropriately named debut. But in lieu of a iron studded wrist going through your skull, you get some wicked writing and the only film book to my knowledge that intentionally has 666 movie reviews. It's enough to make the dark lord proud.

Copyright 2014 Heather Drain


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