Written by: Christopher Lee
From “Rock & Rule” – 1983 – Nelvana Studios
Odds are, even if you are in your mid-30’s+, you may not have seen or remember this movie. But if you have and you love it, you’re a better person in my book.
If you haven’t, there’s never a better time than now to check it out. I still kinda holds up I think. Even if it didn’t, the music is definitely amazing with contributions from punk, rock, and new wave legends of the 70’s & 80’s like Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Blondie (Debbie Harry), Cheap Trick and Earth, Wind & Fire.
As the opening dialog reveals
“The War was over, the only survivors were street animals, dogs, cats, and rats. From them a new race had evolved. That was a long time ago.”
From there, we’re told that aging rock legend “Mok” (himself looking like a conglomeration of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger), has been researching the means to open the door to a dark dimension. At this point, he has everything he needs, save a single, special voice….and now, his search has led him back to his roots, in “Ohmtown”. There’s plenty of futurism in the movie playing on the themes of apocalyptic tech and electricity, but that just lends to the films wonderful atmosphere.
From here we meet our “heroes”, Omar & Angel, and their sidekicks, Dizzy & Stretch (effectively whose characters are sort of tropes of Donatello from TMNT and Shaggy from Scooby Doo). They’re a band, and they’re performing at a seedy little club and having a bit of tension. This is what you see in the clip I posted.
Mok has found his voice.
The movie itself is a big-budget remake of a 1978 Nelvana cartoon called “The Devil and Daniel Mouse”, which had been a Canadian Halloween special, itself, if you traced back the inspiring tales, a retelling of the story of “Faust”.
“Rock & Rule” had started production in 1979 and was in constant peril over the next 4 years of it’s inception due to constant rewrites (from the studios, not certain what to do with the film, shelving and un-shelving it), a high turnover (over 300 animators worked on the film) and almost bankrupting the company (it ended up costing Nelvana around 8 million dollars, unheard of for the studio at the time, which had yet released a film produced for English-speaking audiences), was finally release 4 years later in 1983 to unfortunately lackluster reviews.
Their hadn’t really been a film like this. A (relatively) big budget animated film aimed at adults. It had drugs, bad language, “sexual situations” and what is/was considered “satanic” imagery.
In 1983, cartoons were still considered “kiddy fare” even with the underground and fairly obscure movies like “Heavy Metal” or Ralph Bakshi films like “Fritz the Cat” and “Wizards” running the back alley theater and midnight movie circuits. Unlike them, however, “Rock & Rule” had a distinct quality to it. Above par animation, a soundtrack featuring some of the bigger artists of the time. I mean, c’mon, Blondie practically DEFINED the early 80’s. Still, the film had trouble. The studios didn’t know how to market it. The theaters didn’t know when to show it. The public didn’t know what to make of it. It sort of faded away.
Had it not been for late night showings on cable TV stations like HBO and Cinemax, it may never have developed it’s following. Thanks to them and the growing convention circuits, it had become a Cult Film phenom, with copies of the hard-to-find home video versions and bootlegs of the very rare laser discs, making their way into circulation. As a matter of fact, there were two versions of the film to hunt down! The theatrical version, and the American release with a bit of editing (ohhh…we love editing don’t we?) and some different voice acting. The VHS release is actually included on the DVD released a few years back by Unearthed Films.
For me, it was always so exciting to find someone else who loved the movie, much less knew about it. Honestly, it’s sort of still like that today. I’m okay with that.
So, long story short, do yourself a favor. Go out and grab the DVD. It was released as a double disc collector’s edition that includes different versions of the film AND the original “Devil and Daniel Mouse”, along with a booklet telling a more detailed history of the production.
Here’s some AMAZING fan art by Deviantart user, Fpeniche!
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