Rock and Rule: aka Drats! The Movie that Could

After much delay looking at multiple retro animated series and a possible investigation of a “minor” event that happened 20+ years ago, has plagued my mind and caused a delay. I have to remember above all the questions I take on I have to keep in mind that I am reviewing movies after all. If my curiosity is still not satisfied I could always pick up an investigation/expose later on. I will go into further detail about my thoughts at the end of this post.

"I got your uppers and downers, inners and outers, screamers and shoutas, and things that make you go sideways"

“I got your uppers and downers, inners and outers, screamers and shoutas, and things that make you go sideways”

After my first two posts, I was speaking to my sister about what movie I should review next. She tells me I should inquire on a film called Rock and Rule, a film that had the hopes of the late 80’s comic book community then flopped in box offices. My sister never saw the film before, but heard about it from her co-workers and when she saw a clip of it on the internet she said it looked “really smooth”. I do love when I find films I haven’t seen before and especially when it has a cult following. Thanks to some research and the internet I have gotten hold of two versions of the film Rock and Rule.

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The story of Rock and Rule is presented to us shortly after the title card. It is about a post-apocalyptic world where hybrid human rat/dog people live not so differently from the present world. An entertainment superstar named Mok is searching for the perfect voice to help him raise a demon. But the story goes back and forth from Omar lead singer of the unnamed band of Ohmtown and Angel, Omar’s piano player who also can sing and is the voice Magic Man Mok is looking for. After Mok sees their show and the two not-so-secret lovers make up shortly on their artistic differences, the band mates are invited to Mok’s house to talk business. Mok instead drugs everyone and separates the band taking Angel to Nuke York (which sounds like everyone is saying it as “Nuke Gyawk”) to play a sold out concert to raise a demon. Omar and the other band mates Dizzy the drummer and Stretch the annoying bass player make it to Nuke York only to be brainwashed and sent back to Ohmtown. After Mok and Angel play Nuke York and fail to raise the demon its back to Ohmtown for the power plant should supply enough energy for the task at hand. To not give the ending away, it is the power of “One voice” that saves the world and rainbows flood the sky.

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The story took a long time to develop and the ending seemed to fall short of it feeling like the world was ending with the rise of the demon, along with a really cheesy last scene as the credits rolled. There were many different characters to keep track of and sadly I think only two had any depth and more disappointingly it was not any of the main characters. Cindy(aka Cinderella) who was the secret sister to Mok’s henchmen brothers was really enjoyable to watch in her naivety and the way she was animated. And unlike her brothers (Toad, Sleazy and Zip) she was the only one who owned her skates, where her brothers moved as if the skates were a plague on their feet. Zip, the dumber of the henchmen brothers tried to redeem himself at the end of the movie questioning Mok if what they were doing was evil. Very disappointed that the main characters were dry and out of the five characters Mok was the only one I slightly┬ásympathized with which was probably not the intention of the writers.

Cindy aka Cinderella

Cindy aka Cinderella

The quality of the animation was okay, with moments of weird stress and not so quick actions. My major issue with the way it was animated was that we usually never see a whole character. Most of the time you can see the characters as legless torsos, so the most action poses you will find are in sitting positions or the club scene early in the film as well as Club 666 after the midway mark. I believe this affects the interest of the movie because we start to feel like Nothing is happening; characters are just talking with a good amount of gestures. It almost felt like all the unnecessary events where the characters were still or just talk heads where animated and quarrels where avoided. For example, toward the end of the film Mok and Angel get into a mild dispute where we see Mok go as far as choking Angel. As Mock moves off-screen, we can hear him going into a fit of rage and then the screen goes black. We can still hear him. Not like it is a transition to another scene. I timed about 20 seconds, until the flashlight of one of the henchmen looks for Mok in a storage closet. At first I thought it might have been censored, but in both films the same black screen happens! If we would have seen Mock break down, or react we the viewers can make a clearer line of “Mok is the bad guy. He went completely crazy!” Sadly I could only dream of seeing that side of him.

Mok being discovered in the closet. This was a by chance capture of a short moment of Mok's breakdown

Mok being discovered in the closet. This was a by chance capture of a short moment of Mok’s breakdown

A great concept to animate was the event in Club 666 and right after they leave to club to the foggy streets. Club 666 was animated to be an “antigravity” club, which was a lot of fun. Seeing different people dancing in a spiral, flirting and pushing drugs seemed to really capture a packed night club. Angel and Cindy seemed to be part of a different world compared to Omar, Dizzy and Stretch who seemed like they were looking around the club for chicks while the girls(more Cindy then Angel) who just wanted to dance. When they move out the club, everyone is out in the foggy streets calling out to each other while moving from different plains of views. It’s not a new technique but it has a nice touch and pulls the viewer’s attention.

An officer that yells "Get off the street"

An officer that yells “Get off the street”

Another concept I really enjoyed was the setting of Nuke York (aka Nuke Gyawk). The dark and almost damp setting had the iconic Statue of Liberty and Radio City Music Hall had original looking transformations reflecting overpopulation and the great divide of the rich and the poor. The NYPD cargo freight made me laugh, for it does not seem terribly farfetched for current New York.

NYPD Cargo bus or patrol vehicle

NYPD Cargo bus or patrol vehicle

When you first see Rock and Rule, I am certain the movie Heavy Metal 2000 comes to mind. But this film is like a light-hearted Heavy Metal. Originally targeting as a kid friendly rock opera it proves to be little of both. It’s very hard to make a movie about or inspired by rock and roll to not mention sex and drugs. Although a good amount of sexual situations happened in the Club 666 scene, lust and romance was pretty well avoided. Drugs on the other hand, went from abstracted balls of light called Edison Balls to Mok clearly snorting cocaine as part of a “wake-n-bake” routine. The opera part of the movie was very easy to look over, with no real songs sticking with you. From what I have found, it is true that Earth, Wind and Fire did make a song for the movie titled “Dance, Dance, Dance”, not a masterpiece but one to the better songs. “My Name is Mok” by Lou Reed also was pretty memorable with some amazing lip animation, repetition and graphics but terribly animated back-up dancers.

Stoned face on 'Edison Balls'

Stoned face on ‘Edison Balls’

Snorting what looks to be cocaine through a witch's ring. Kinda Classy

Snorting what looks to be cocaine through a witch’s ring. Kinda Classy

So when watching this movie from start to finish, I noticed to company name Nelvana. During my time growing up in the 90’s, the Nelvana Logo was iconic because I remember it in many Saturday morning cartoons and some children’s shows. And from what the film wikipedia page says, this film was Nelvana’s first full length feature and entirely produced in Canada. Which is pretty impressive. This also led me to question why I had two almost similar versions of the film; it seemed that based on voice actor quarrels there was a remastered American version which had terrible voice acting from Paul Le Mat as Omar, then a Canadian version that had Greg Salata as Omar with addition scenes and a slightly different ending. The Canadian copy is in rough quality, because supposedly the original film was destroyed in a fire. Hearing about the fire, I searched the internet for several days looking for any reports of a studio fire and I found no records. I would hope in the future to uncover some more facts about this film, for the backstory is way more interesting than watching it.

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