Heavy Metal Movies (Bazillion Points), written by Mike “Beardo” McPadden is a project the likes of which any metal geek-movie geek fusion would be proud to have accomplished in their lives; proof that they have indeed seen more movies than you, and can tell you how headbangingly awesome each is in their own way. Indeed, this titanic titanium tome does indeed show, rather than tell the sheer amount of neck-snapping cinematography observed by one man needed to even dare a book of this lethal thickness. From A to Z, it’s an outpouring of movie mayhem and magick from teenage stoner boners to Nordic loners; rockumentaries and mockumentaries; canon appearances by the metal gods on screen and on record; from swords to spaceships, and from monsters to Manson (Editor’s note: both Charles and Marilyn), this book packs it all in, dating from the silent era Nosferatu (1922) to the modern Hollywood bombast of The Hobbit (2012) and a whole hell of a lot of stuff in between that inspired distortion, patched denim, leather, and poor hygiene worldwide.
No small undertaking, indeed, and it is by no means exhaustive —there’s only so much movie madness a man can take, what with repeated viewings— but after the decades of retinal abuse, surround sound pounding, and mental torment the equivalent of ten thousand screaming Metal shows, with enough theatre expertise to fill a million beer-drown’d dive bars, is it worth viewing?
The first thing to take into account is that not every movie will get equal attention. It’s clear which movies Mike is not entirely familiar with, as some get a full, comprehensive summary, and others read like a short IMDb synopsis. The subjective nature of movies also may lead you to find yourself disagreeing with him from time to time. For instance, he totally trashes the 1995 Judge Dredd, but gives praise to How To Train Your Dragon (2010); no bueno for me there, bud. Nevertheless, you’ll find great joy in flipping through at random, finding movies you’ve either seen and loved/hated or only heard of; from underground foreign titles that only exist on VHS to the readily available titles in a store near you, you’ll not be stuck for heavy viewing material.
All eras of metal mania on the big screen are represented, and no genre is left untouched, except perhaps romance, because romance isn’t metal. Half the fun of looking through this book is seeing the posters of movies both familiar and obscure, drinking in all of the imagery and titles that inspired rock, metal, punk and hardcore’s unique sense of aesthetic. While the weight of the book and the inclusion of so many titles show that a lot of thought and work went into its making, it does fall short with the apparent lack of peer editing.
For instance, the Eraserhead review reads awkwardly, mentioning Jack Nance’s iconic hairdo twice, in amnesiac fashion. As entertaining as the ‘reasons’ for why a movie is metal are —marked none-too-discretely by pentagrams—, an index would be oh-so helpful; what if I want to specifically flip to more post-apocalyptic movies, movies specifically with metal soundtracks, or ones that deal with censorship, or have fun with possessed nuns? He misses the chance to reference grind band Maruta’s name in relation to Men Behind The Sun (1988); how many other small oversights have there been that steal from the overall potential richness? The book is, frankly, quite messy due to the lack of features that make it easy to selectively navigate, but as I mentioned, it’s best for flipping about aimlessly. Be prepared to hellhound-ear this thing to hell.
Where the book fails, however, its strengths are there to remind you that it’s all in good fun. Sure, it’s not a definitive encyclopaedia with every single cool moment delineated scientifically for your judgmental camera of a brain. It’s a book by a geek, geeking out in print, for other geeks to enjoy. Want to know about every Metallica documentary, every Alice Cooper cameo, and just how many Z-grade alien movies you can watch without cooking your brain? If you’re willing to have a chaotically heavy and at times, brutally eggheaded read under 666 pages, by all means, go for it.