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Like "Wizards" and "Heavy Metal" it became one of the most popular bootleg titles of the underground animation revolution. Now, it's here, for all to enjoy.
Review by Matthew Anderson
Canadian Animated Feature Film
Company: Unearthed Films
Running Time: 77 minutes
Rated: PG for violence, language and subject matter
Thousands of years after a nuclear war, humanity is gone, supplanted by highly evolved dogs, cats, and rats. In this new world, Mok is a superstar, or at least he was. While he is considered one of the most influential musicians of all time, sales of his last record, and related merchandise have fallen a bit. Angered and frustrated, he begins a dangerous experiment to bring forth a demon that will give him ultimate power. He just needs to find the right vocal key.
That key happens to be Angel, a young girl in a punk rock band. While her boyfriend Omar is a good singer in his own right, he is a little jealous of her talent. When Mok discovers her fantastic voice, he forcibly whisks her away to Nuke York to enact his terrible plan. At first Ohmar thinks she abandoned him for a life or rock stardom, but his bandmates tell him she was taken!
Now, Ohmar and his band mates must travel across the country to rescue Angel and stop the insane Mok from destroying the world!
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: The transfer is fantastic. The colors are bright, not washed out at all. The details are fine, with no noticeable edge enhancement. There are no pixels or artifacts that were noticeable. The quality of the print is very high, and they did a great job on the clean up, only leaving some some slight film grain that doesn't detract from the viewing experience. This is the best presentation of "Rock and Rule" ever!
AUDIO: There are three audio tracks on the "Theatrical Version", a re-mastered 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound mix, a 2.0 Dolby, and a 2.0 commentary track. What I find odd is while the 5.1 Dolby Digital has more depth and subtleties, the 2.0 Dolby is a lot louder! While both tracks are excellent, I was expecting a little more rock from the 5.1. Then again, it could be my setup.
The 2.0 Dolby commentary track is pretty typical; the voice of director Clive Smith is front and center, while the movie plays in the background.
On the extras disc, the "Alternate Version", making of's and the "Devil and Daniel Mouse" shorts are your basic 2.0 mix, but they sound like the original mono soundtracks. As the second disc is more for archival purposes, it doesn't have to be a 5.1 mix.
EDITS: There are no edits to the Theatrical Version. The Alternate Version shows the original cut, featuring a different voice actor for Ohmar, and a couple of extended scenes.
EXTRAS: You want extras? "Rock & Rule" gives you extras! On the first disc, along with the movie you get the original "Making of Rock & Rule" short, a massive character sketch gallery, restoration comparison, and audio commentary with director Clive Smith.
On the "Supplements" disc, we have an Alternate Version of "Rock & Rule", "The Devil and Daniel Mouse" special, the making of "Devil", a "Drats" work print, "Rock & Rule" opening work print, another extensive gallery of various artwork, the original trailer, and a copy of the script as part of a DVD Rom feature.
STORY: "Rock & Rule" certainly isn't Shakespeare, but it isn't "G.I. Joe: The Movie" either. With a story by Patrick Loubert, and screenplay by Peter Sauder and John Halpenny, the best way to describe this film is "boy looses girl in a futuristic rock opera". While the script does meander a little, it's the characters and rock music that keep you interested.
ACTING: The acting is pretty good. Don Francks is pretty menacing as evil rock god Mok, and Susan Roman gives Angel that right mix of sexiness and innocence. Paul Lemat does the arrogant, punk ass rocker Ohmar to the max, making him both unlikable, yet at the same time, you hope he succeeds.
The supporting cast does a fine job. I love Sam Langevin's smooth voice for Mok's computer, and listen hard for "The Brain" Maurice Lamarche as a sailor.
FAN SERVICE: For a bunch of humanoid cats and dogs, some have evolved quite nicely. Scary thing is, we do have panty shots in something that isn't Japanese!
Back in 1983, on one of the many music video programs that permeated the airwaves, I was introduced to an amazing animated world of hovering police cars, driven by strange looking characters all set in an apocalyptic landscape, with music by "Cheep Trick" playing in the background. When that video finished, another started. "My name is Mok, thanks a lot!" sang this lanky, evil looking creature. The guy singing sounded a lot like Lou Reed, whom I had just discovered. Little did I know that I was one of the very few in Oklahoma to learn about "Rock & Rule", and my world was never to be the same again.
From the 70's to the very late 80's, theatrical animation had fallen on hard times. Very few animated films were being produced, and those that did make it were either box office bombs or 90 minute toy commercials. Even Disney, which had helped to pioneer animation around the world, found little to no success. It was during that time that many animators, frustrated at the constraints that standards and practices had placed on them, began working on their own projects. While many failed to generate profit, many became cult classics, thanks to repeated viewings on HBO and Showtime cable networks.
"Rock & Rule" was the end result of a three year process by Canadian animation company Nelvana, who would later go on to animate cult shows like "Eek! The Cat" and "Inspector Gadget". They even introduced the world to "Boba Fett" in the "Star Wars Christmas Special". A labor of love, the men and women who worked on this project wanted to make an animated film their way. They even turned down the chance to work on "Heavy Metal" to bring their project to life.
It's amazing how on earth this thing ever got completed. Work would be done, then scrapped as the script was re-written. They would get sued, dropped by distributor after distributor, and when they finally got one, they didn't like the work of Gregory Salata, so they had to find another actor. The odds were stacked against this movie, yet somehow it survived. While it was very popular in it's native Canada, it flopped in the US. Like "Wizards" and "Heavy Metal" it became one of the most popular bootleg titles of the underground animation revolution. Now, it's here, for all to enjoy.
The plot of "Rock & Rule" isn't anything different, although at the time, it was a pretty complex for animation. Mok, an aging rock god who feels his star is falling, embarks on a plan to make the world as miserable as he is. A little insane, but certainly a genius, he travels from town to town, looking for the key to unlock evil. Where does he find it? In Angel, and ingénue in a low rent metal band. It's sort of like "American Idol" only with demonic forces. From there, it's the seduction, or rather the overpowering control, of the music industry that brings Angel into Mok's high paced world.
At least that's what Ohmar thinks, when he sees Angel leave with the rock star. The truth is, she has become an unwilling accomplice to his evil plan. From there, it's off to the races as Ohmar and his buddies attempt to rescue their Angel from a fate worse than death!
Certainly, there isn't anything deep or complex in the plot, but the characters are very interesting, going beyond simple "good and evil" types. Mok is a compilation of every arrogant, self absorbed, musical genius that you have ever watched on the E! Channel. He is vain, conceited, and his favorite subject is himself. Even his songs, "Triumph" and "My Name Is Mok" are all about him. Thanks to the purring voice acting of Don Francks, you can't help but recognize Mok's charisma, while being repulsed at his spoiled rock god persona.
Then you have Ohmar, your typical street punk trying to make it big. In many ways, he is just like Mok, only he lacks the coolness to mask his arrogance. He pouts when things don't go his way, he runs roughshod over Angel, refusing to let her sing her song during their set at the local club. The only difference between him and Mok is that Ohmar wants to do the right thing, only his mouth keeps getting in the way. Paul Lemat plays Ohmar very well, injecting the right amount of snide cynicism for the character.
Angel the catalysis of all the events in "Rock & Rule", really doesn't get much in the way of character development. Most of the movie is spent with her either trying to sing her song, or escape from Mok's clutches. She does love Ohmar, and wants nothing more to share her "success" with him. But Mok's evil plan and Ohmar's big mouth don't quite go together. So she winds up separated from her love, while he spends half the movie convinced she was using him. Susan Roman makes the most of her role, playing the ingénue role to a T.
The animation is quite well done, and uses many of the advanced techniques that were available at the time. Back lighting, multipack shots, silt-scan, model work, and even some very early computer graphics where combined to make this film. Everything moves pretty fluidly, but it does lack some fine details and shadowing in certain scenes. While "Rock & Rule" may not impress the anime savvy, it still holds up well 20+ years later against "Rescue Heroes" (which Nelvana also animated).
The most important element that makes "Rock & Rule" such a landmark achievement is that they got original songs from some of the biggest artists of the time. Lou Reed, Debbie Harry from Blondie, Cheep Trick, Iggy Pop and "Earth Wind & Fire" contributed to the soundtrack. Every single song is a masterpiece and showcases each of their amazing abilities.
Debbie Harry's singing voice for Angel is sublime. Considering her punk background, it would fit that she would be the one to give our punk rocker Angel a voice that can send evil back to the dark place it came from. Robin Zander and "Cheap Trick" provide Ohmar and the band their hard rock edge. "Born to Raise Hell" kicks ass, while the acoustic "Ohm Sweet Ohm" will have you going "wow"!
Debbie Harry and Robin Zander are great on their own, but when you combine the two, it's even more impressive. Their duet song "Send Love Through" is one of the powerful rock songs ever made. They harmonize incredibly well, even though they were not even in the same studio when it was recorded.
Avant guard singer Lou Reed delivers two outstanding tracks, each encapsulating the character of Mok. "My name is Mok" is one of those songs that never goes away. If your not singing along with it, you have totally missed the coolness factor of this movie.
Over the past few years, we have seen many of these great animated experiments brought to life on DVD. "Wizards", "Heavy Metal", and even the X-Rated "Fritz the Cat" have received the digital treatment. Yet, "Rock & Rule" seemed destined never to appear on DVD, until Stephen Brio at "Unearthed Films" discovered that the rights were available. A fan of these animated gems himself, he quickly snatched it up, and gathered as much material as he could to give "Rock & Rule" the presentation it so richly deserved.
The presentation is fantastic, much better than the releases of "Wizards", or "Heavy Metal". The transfer is beautiful, showing every little detail that 10th generation bootleg VHS copies has long since lost. The audio is top notch, one blowing your ears off, and the other giving you a true surround sound experience. Even the audio commentary is mixed well. This may be the first time I can clearly hear the movie playing in the background. Even the menus capture the spirit and the flavor of "Rock & Rule". I doubt there are any films from the 80's have ever sounded or looked this good.
The extras will also enhance your joy with this release. Unearthed Films could have just gone the simple route, providing a gallery, the original making of, and the trailer. Instead, they went all out, including the many influences and behind the scenes items that helped "Rock & Rule" come to life. They even saw fit to include an "Alternate Version", the one that aired on the CBC network. The quality isn't anywhere near as good as the "Theatrical Release", but it does show you how some changes can effect the outcome of an entire project.
In case you were wondering, most of the restored footage in the "Alternate version" expands on some key scenes, and changes the ending just a little bit.
My favorite extra was the "Making of Rock and Rule" feature on the first disc. Getting to see Debbie Harry record her songs, as well as seeing the animation process is something I always enjoy watching. Unearthed Films also threw in a restoration comparison, using the alternate "Ring of Power" opening as one of the examples. You can really see how much work Unearthed Films put into the production.
Let the angels sing, "Rock & Rule" has finally made it to DVD! One of the grandest experiments of the independent animation revolution has been brought back as one of the best DVD releases ever! If you are a true fan of all animation, or an just an 80's baby, you have to get this! If not, then you are missing out, you poser!
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