Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rock and Rule


   So on a whim about a year ago I put a "SAVE" out on NetFlix for the movie inspired by The Devil and Daniel Mouse (1978) by the same Canadian movie company, Nelvana called, Rock and Rulecame out in 1983 and unlike the previous offering is far darker, and 1:17 versus 0:22. 

  It's Nelvana's first feature film and was released in Europe and Canada but not in the US for some reason.  Stars Debbie Harry (aka the lead singer of Blondie for those old enough to know, she did such songs as Call Me, Rapture, and Heart of Glass, all of which were pretty intense for 1979 to 1981 and floored America at the time.  She was sort of the Pink anti-sexuality tough-girl who'd use you and spit you out and you'd thank her afterwards kinda girl.  Rock and Rule also stars work by Iggy Pop as Mok (though Mok's theme song is sung by Lou Reed, the same guy 30 years later helped destroy Metallica utterly with a little album called Lulu.. you can hear the similarities.  I admire their attempt at getting away from palm-muting every damn album and every damn song in pentatonic-minor but.. um..)  Also the movie stars Cheap Trick and and outro of Earth, Wind, and Fire.

  The movie is a post-appocolyptic rock-opera that was popular for the time, such as Heavy Metal, Streets of Fire and Kiss meets the Phantom of the Park, et. al.  Honestly, I feel bad for kids growing up now.  They have no rock heroes, albeit Gen-Y'ers had a lampoonish The Darkness 10 years ago that mocked the genre by way of Queen.  Gen-Z'ers have squat, effeminate male heroes trying to save the ecology while getting kissed by men taking psycho-warping drugs.  Aldous Huxley's dream Brave New World never seemed so poignant.  When I grew up, these themes of rock bands conquering evil were everywhere, often in medival or post-appocaylptic worlds, usually involving magical rock guitars that can shoot freakin' lazer beams, drums creating massive earthquakes and the like.  A fellow bard I chat with at work quip of guitar pedal combinations that create and summon such high-level-magic beasts and weather patterns and the dangers of certain codes based on tone and pedal colors.
  The movie is about a rock band who's female singer is discovered by Mok, a rock-sage who's computer informs him her voice can open gateways to a dimension where a demon can enter to destroy the current universe.  Hungry for power, though mistaken he can control it, he abducts her and cybperpunk-style wires her brain up to the computer to make her sing the right combination of notes.  The remaining band tries to save her.
  At first, I thought this work was by master-animator Ralph Bakshi whom had animated The Lord of the Rings (which I thought was far far far superior to the live-action version, as yes, Balrogs are NOT 200 feet tall, they're 12 feet tall, and yes, they have wings of shadow and have an energy whip as a main weapon, and Peter J. copied a lot of the scenes directly from Bakshi's time-consuming work, it takes a month to do 5 minutes of animation at that level).  Ralph also animated American Pop, Wizards, Cool World, Fire and Ice (think of an adult HeMan of which Filmation Studios borrowed from), Heavy Traffic, Spicy City (note* Spicy City episodes may not be work-safe), and the infamous Fritz the Cat which, actually compared to modern cartoons is not that edgy with only a few nude scenes.  Ralph's work is edgy and wrought with suggestive sexual content, brief nudity, and adult situations and themes and vulgar language.  Honestly, it mimics life, or at least a portion of life.  Disney hated him for it, as they embrase the sacharine of their sing-songs, all except exiled Don Bluth of Secret of NIMH, Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, Robin Hood, Jungle Book, All Dogs go to Heaven, Titan AE, etc., fame. 
  Though the vibe is the same, I was mistaken.  Ralph had nothing to do with it!  I was floored.  I adore animation.  I love all forms of it.  Like comedy, where different styles exist from Brian Regan to Andy Koffman, as long as the point is projected, it's a display of expressionism, art, and story-telling.  This truly was a hidden gem made recently available on Blu-Ray (I watched the edited DVD version) now unedited and actually comes with The Devil and Daniel Mouse included.  Debbie does a good job singing and the whole rock-opera is class-A.  I'd say it's inspired by Ralph's LoTR but mixed-in with Heavy Metal into a pot and left on simmer and add a little William Gibson's Neuromancer to boot.  The characters are pretty interesting but a bit one-dimensional, and the side-members and henchmen are goofy and unbelievable, but it's still a great romp and good fun.


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