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Sci-Fi Has Raunchy Appeal for Those Drawn to ‘Heavy Metal’

<i> Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lance writer who regularly covers film for the Times Orange County Edition. </i>

UC Irvine tends to like its movies made of flesh and blood. During the past several years, there’s been only one animated feature--the 1955 British adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm"--included in the college’s generally eclectic film series.

Now the spirit of cartooning has returned to UCI, at least for one night. “Heavy Metal,” a collection of sexy, sci-fi-oriented tales, will screen Friday evening as the latest installment in the “Global Fishbowl” series.

This isn’t “Bambi” or “Snow White.” But for a high schooler or a college freshman (emphasis on the man, as much of this is boy-fantasy stuff), “Heavy Metal” is a dreamland of jokey-crude eroticism and frantic animation.

The movie appeals primarily to the generation that began receiving its more formative visual input from Nintendo and an array of New Age comics with futuristic and libidinous overtones. Most likely, professors won’t get “Heavy Metal.” Neither will square parents, such as those who complained it was too raunchy and violent when it was released in 1981.

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All this, of course, just makes “Heavy Metal” a thick slab of prime cult, something the kids can call their own.

Featuring the voices of Harold Ramis and the late John Candy, among others, the film veers from story to story, using the animation styles of such artists as Richard Coren, Angus McKie and Neal Adams. While most of the episodes try (sometimes desperately) to be outrageous, a few stand out for their pervasively peculiar qualities.

An example is the tale of Taarna, a sword-swinging babe in S & M gear astride a flying thing that looks part bug, part chicken. Like many of the creations in “Heavy Metal,” Taarna occupies a surreal universe that has its violent side. She dispatches baddies with aplomb, looking hot (for a cartoon character) even when the story turns silly.

More earthbound is Dan, a science-minded loser without a clue about sex. He frets about losing his virginity until a bizarre transformation turns him into Den, a big-muscled stud the girls find irresistible. From a guy who couldn’t get any to a hunk that gets more than he needs--talk about your teen-boy fantasies!

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Anyway, it’s the imagery that’s meant to be the star of “Heavy Metal.” And it can be impressive, although anyone accustomed to the more sophisticated work being done by fringe animators may be disappointed. In comparison, the art looks a bit old hat, but it still represents a major step in the evolution of the medium.

Besides, the music has a cool side, especially when strains of Devo and Donald Fagan seep through all the graphics. For those who like it noisier, if not better, there’s also Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Sammy Hagar and other rowdies breaking up the soundtrack.

* What: “Heavy Metal,” an animated feature.

* When: Friday, Jan. 27, at 7 and 9 p.m.

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* Where: The UC Irvine Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road and head south to Campus Drive and take a left. Turn right on Bridge Road and take it into the campus.

* Wherewithal: $2 to $4.

* Where to call: (714) 824-5588.

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MORE SPECIAL SCREENINGS

A Day on the Grand Canal With the Emperor of China

(NR) Artist David Hockney leads a journey examining a 72-foot-long Chinese scroll in this film that screens today, Jan. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 Main St., Santa Ana. Included with the price of admission, $1.50 to $4.50. (714) 567-3600.

Blue Skies

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(NR) Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire play former show business partners vying for Joan Caulfield’s attention in this 1946 film that features Irving Berlin songs. The film, directed by Stuart Heisler, screens Friday, Jan. 27, at 12:45 p.m. at the Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay St., Cypress. FREE. (714) 229-6776.

Will My Mother Go Back to Berlin?

(NR) Award-winning documentary about a woman split between the new life she made for herself in Israel after World War II and her childhood home of Berlin, a place she vowed never to return to. The film screens Monday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Tikvah, 1600 N. Acacia, Fullerton. Producer-director Micha Peled, whose mother is the focus of the film, will be present for a discussion afterward. $5. (310) 697-1202.


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