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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query taarna. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Heavy Metal (1981)

Few movies are as "D&D" to me as 1981's Heavy Metal.  It mixes sci-fi, fantasy, horror, with a great soundtrack and more than a few members of SCTV.  

Heavy Metal (1981)
Heavy Metal (1981)

I picked up the Heavy Metal Blu-Ray a while back and frankly the transfer is fantastic.  Hearing the music in Dolby 5.1 surround is amazing.  It is hard to properly critique a movie that made up so much of my teenage years imprinting that instead for tonight I wanted to talk about how Heavy Metal is the perfect movie for NIGHT SHIFT.

Before that let's take a moment to take in that poster.

Taarna. Resplendent on the back of her mount, flying, sword aloft. While her armor might be more 80s stripper, she obviously is a warrior. It is some of Chris Achilléos' best work.  I have talked about how White Dwarf always had a Heavy Metal feel for me.  This is one of the reasons. 

Ok. On to NIGHT SHIFT.  Heavy Metal is an anthology. Many stories linked together are a semi-related arc. NIGHT SHIFT is like this in its "Night Worlds" connected, but their own thing.  If this is also the vibe you get from "Twilight Zone" or "Tales from the Darkside" then you are on to what was going on in our minds as we put this all together.  The Night Companion only adds to this.

"Soft Landing"/"Grimaldi"

Our opening sequence and framing episode let us know what is going on here. This is SciFi, and Horror, and Magic.  Astronaut Grimaldi lands on Earth with his Corvette to bring a gift to his daughter.  A gift that kills him and traps the girl showing her images of horror.  We learn that it is the Loc-Nar an object/power/intelligence of timeless evil. 

"Harry Canyon"

The crankiest New York cabbie this side of Corbin Dallas picks up a girl who has a strange object.  An alien artifact, the Loc-Nar from the opening sequence. While it is taking place 50 years after the movie was released, it is only 10 years from now.  No aliens, no flying cars.  We are never getting flying cars. We also get the first indication about the sex and violence this movie has. I remember the discussions about it in school, "It's an R-RATED cartoon!"

Of note for me, some great Stevie Nicks here. One other, but I am saving that one.

While the setting is "futuristic" there is nothing here that could not be done with NIGHT SHIFT.  The Loc-Nar is described as "alien" but there is a solid magic vibe about it.  In fact there is also a lot here for my Black Star game.  More on that as well.


Is Sword & Planet to the letter.  OR at least how we always suspected it would be.  Here the Loc-Nar is a small meteorite that transfers Dennis across time and space into a muscle-bound, hairless barbarian Den. He rescues a girl about to be sacrificed to Uhluhtc (yeah read that one backwards) and gets paid with the only reward she has.  Den gets pulled into a power struggle between a Queen and Ard. Both want the Loc-Nar. Ard gets Den to steal it back, the Queen seduces Den into keeping it with her.  In the end, they both betray Den and try to sacrifice the girl anyway.  Den defeats them not with his strength, but his geeky knowledge of electricity to kill them both.  The Loc-Nar tells us that some are strong enough to walk away from it.  It flies off into the sky and lands on a space station orbiting Earth.

"Captain Sternn"

In the future, there is a trial for Federation Captain Lincoln F. Sternn. He is charged with a laundry list of crimes and his lawyer is hoping he gets his sentence reduced to "burning his body in secret so no one desecrates his corpse."  Sternn has an angle though he has paid off a shulb, Hanover Fiste, to testify on his behalf.  Fiste found the Loc-Nar, now the size of a marble, and slowly he comes a hulking brute that attempts to destroy the station to get to Sternn. Eventually, Sternn pays off Fiste and jettisons him out of an air lock. His severed hand, still holding that Loc-Nar lands in a B-17 bomber during WWII.

The Loc-Nar here shows more ability to change size and travel in time and space as it needs. It can also mutate those as it sees fit.  I have to admit I have ALWAYS wanted Capt. Lincoln Sternn in a Star Trek adventure as a corupt captain.


This was for the longest time one of my favorites. WWII and zombies.  The Loc-Nar turns all the dead airmen into zombies to attack their former crew. What is not to love. This one is pure horror.

"So Beautiful & So Dangerous"

This one has the Loc-Nar and it is assumed that there is a related cause with all the "mutations" being reported.   While this is a fun one, it is really just an excuse for robot sex, drug jokes, and the animators to draw naked women.   Though it can also be seen as a palette cleanser before the ultimate story.


Honestly, I could do an entire post on this one.  Taarna is absolutely a "Chosen One" from NIGHT SHIFT. The scene where she flies to the temple and puts on her armor and retrieves the sword of Taarak might be some of the most-watched animated sequences in the history of animation.  I admit it. I still get chills when I hear the voice of Taarak start "To defend. This is the pact..."

In this segment, the Loc-Nar is showing the young girl his final triumph. It has grown huge and crashes into a mountain on some distant planet.  Pilgrims go to seek it out, but they are buried in green lava, only to come out transformed into homicidal monstrous barbarians.  They attack a city and kill everyone, but not before the council of elder can psychically summon Taarna, the last of the Taarakians. 

Taarna never speaks. But she hunts down the barbarians with the intent to kill them all.  She manages to get a few, but she is captured and tortured by their leader.  Taarna escapes, reclaims her mount and manages to kill the leader. But she is gravely wounded and she, and her bird, are dying.  In a final act of sacrifice, she flies up, holding the Sword of Taarak high she plunged into the Loc-Nar, destroying it there and back on Earth with the little girl watching.  The girl runs for safety as her home and the Loc-Nar explode.

A new bird mount lands in her yard and as she mounts it to fly away her hair turns white and another Taarakian is born.  Go ahead. Tell me Buffy didn't crib notes from this. 

If your characters can't be as epic as Taarna are you really even PLAYING?

Heavy Metal

One of the best songs in a stellar soundtrack is Blue Öyster Cult's "Veteran of the Psychic Wars."  The song is about Elric of Melniboné or Hawkwind or any Eternal Champion.  A solid case is made here that the song, here, is about Taarna.  The Veterans of the Psychic Wars might be Eternal Champions, but the Veterans of the Supernatural Wars are Chosen Ones.

Don't forget NIGHT SHIFT The Night Companion is nearing its last few days.  Give us some support. If we hit the stretch goal I will give a new Night World and this will keep me out of trouble for a while.


Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Featured Artist: Chris Achilléos

Chris Achilléos in 2013
It has not been a good week.  In addition to Anne Rice and Mike Nesmith, we also lost British Cypriot painter Chris Achilléos.  He was 74.

Achilléos' book Sirens was one of the first art books I ever bought.  I think my brother (who is an artist) still has it.  I'd later go on to pick up his Beauty and the Beast and Medusa books. 

I loved his art from Heavy Metal (and sometimes White Dwarf) magazine as well as the British covers of the Richard Kirk Raven novels.  But it was his art of Taarna of the Heavy Metal movie poster that most people know him.



Chris Achilleos 01

Chris Achilleos 02

Chris Achilleos "Tanith"

Chris Achilleos

Chris Achilleos "Elric"

Let's not forget his Raven covers for the British publisher Corgi.

Raven: Swordmistress of ChaosRaven: Swordmistress of Chaos

Raven: Swordmistress of ChaosRaven: Swordmistress of Chaos

Corgi Books

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

End of an Era: Heavy Metal Magazine

Recently I read on fred's HM fan blog that Heavy Metal magazine is no more.

I have often said that Heavy Metal (the music, the magazine, and the movie) was/were as much of an influence on my early 80s gaming style as were the likes of Dragon magazine, White Dwarf, and really, far more than most of the Appendix N books.

The news comes to us via Bleeding Cool and Multiversity Comics.

While I have not read HM in a long time, it was part of my D&D experience as much as anything. I even rank Taarna among the celebrated heroes of fantasy, right along with Conan, Elric, Frodo, Fafhrd, and the Gray Mouser.

Heavy MetalHeavy Metal Movie

White DwarfHeavy Metal Special Taarna

This is not an age that is kind to the printed word, less kind even to the printed word on paper. I don't hold out any hope that HM will return in a new form any more than I hope that Dragon will.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Flashback 1982

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos!

Tonight I want to pay homage to the years that really got me going D&D wise.  1980, 1981 and 1982!

So this morning I was reading Arlee Bird's blog Tossing it Out.
Lee is the brains behind so many great blog challenges including the April A to Z challenge.

This morning he was talking about music and it's relationship to people.  For me though music has always been about the times it was in or what was going on when I heard it.  The cue for me to switch gears tonight and focus on 1982 was his use of the fantastic Alan Parson's Project, Eye in the Sky.  The meaning of the song of the same name is debated; is it about 1984, security cameras or something else.  For me this song will ALWAYS be about the module B3 Palace of the Silver Princess.  The "Eye in the Sky" in this case is the evil creature/god Arik and his ruby eye.  This song was on constant rotation the entire time I bought and first ran this adventure.

From the same album is a song my younger brother and I loved, "Psychobable". To me the song was more about horror and nightmares and that certainly had a huge effect on the style of game I ran even back then.  This was only compounded when I got my first copy of Chill.
This video is an odd one but I really like it.  The creator re-edited an old Orson Welles student film to go with the song.  For me it just fits.

Few albums are more "D&D" than Blue Öyster Cult's Fire of Unkown Origin and few songs more so than "Veteran of the Psychic Wars".  Let's look at the song's pedigree for a moment.  It was co-written by Micheal Moorcock, author of the Eternal Champion series. It is about the greatest, or at least the most popular of all the Eternal Champions Elric of Melniboné.   The song also appeared in the movie Heavy Metal.  On the releases I saw this was during the Taarna sequences.  The song is an ode to any D&D character ever. It is practically a Grognard anthem.  I would revisit the imagery myself during the years I was running my "Willow & Tara" game, Episode 5: Veteran of the Psychic Wars.

Last week I talked about how much Stevie Nicks influenced, well, pretty much everything I have ever written.  "Leather and Lace" was another song from Bella Donna that I loved.  This one I also connect to B3.  In particular the love story of the Princess and the White Drake.  In the original version of the adventure (written by Jean Welles) he was the bad guy.  In the revised version (by Tom Moldvay, the hero of 1981!) they became lovers instead.  I have to admit I like his version better than hers.

In the opposite direction of the sentiment of Leather and Lace we have Greg Kihn, whom I always associate with the start of the "video age".  "The Breakup Song" was from Kihn's album Rockihnroll.  The truth is, just like the song says, they just don't write 'em like that anymore.

This is one is kind of a cheat. I loved this song back in the day, but never associated it with gaming till much, much later.  Donnie Iris' "Ah! Leah!" from Back on the Streets.  Though it was out in 1980 I am sure I never heard it till 81.  Like Veteran of the Psychic Wars this song became part of the "soundtrack" of music I listened to when working on the Buffy RPG and then later Ghosts of Albion.  "Leah" was immortalized in my game universe as the name of the woman that married Tara's brother Donny in "Strange Sort of Homecoming" (which itself is named for a Sting song).

"Let me be the one to say when I've had enough..."

Sum songs capture an age perfectly.  Others only capture the feeling, and in retrospect are perfect.  Santana's "Hold On" is that sort of song.  It's too Latin sounding to be really part of the early 80s. But yet here we are and this song is perfect at describing the time.  The first track released from 1981's Shangó.

Got to concentrate, file away
Every last detail
Don't want to lose what's going down
I want to remember everything I'm feeling
Should time try fading or stealing something away.

What are your favorite memories from 1981 and 1982?