Directed By: Clive A. Smith
Starring: Don Francks, Gregory Salata, Susan Roman
Tag line: "The Beauty... The Beast... The Beat!"
Trivia: This was the first English speaking animated feature film produced entirely in Canada
“The war was over…
The only survivors were street animals: dogs, cats and rats. From them, a new race of mutants evolved.
That was a long time ago…”
A rock-infused post-apocalyptic view of the future, 1983’s Rock & Rule is a unique, highly entertaining animated fantasy.
Omar (Paul Le Mat) and Angel (Susan Roman) have their own band, which performs nightly at a dingy bar in Ohmtown. Then, all at once, their luck changes: after catching one of their shows, world-famous rocker Mok (Don Francks) invites the group to his spacious mansion for the evening. As it turns out, though, Mok has more on his mind than music; for years, the reclusive singer has been trying to conjure up a demon from hell, which he plans to use to take over the world.
To open the gate to this other dimension, he needs a woman’s voice, one who sings in a specific key, and Angel fits the bill. When she refuses to join him, Mok kidnaps Angel and, with the help of his 3 dim-witted assistants Sleazy (Brent Titcomb), Toad (Chris Wiggins) and Zip (Greg Duffell), flies her to Nuke York, where, at a concert the following day, he hopes to put his evil plan into motion. But Omar and his fellow band members Stretch (Greg Duffell) and Izzy (Dan Hennessey) aren’t about to let Mok get away with it, and head to Nuke York to rescue their friend before it’s too late.
This was the first time I’d ever seen Rock & Rule and several things about the movie impressed me, starting with the character of Mok, the rocker hell-bent on world domination. Physically, Mok resembles Mick Jagger, but it’s the voicework of Don Francks that makes the aging musician so damn eerie. Mok may be the villain, but he’s also the most fascinating character in the entire film. I also liked how director Clive Smith and his team depicted a post-apocalyptic New York, called “Nuke York” in the movie (our first glimpse of the once-great city reveals that tenement apartments have been built into the side of the decaying Statue of Liberty). The majority of Rock & Rule is set in the much less interesting Ohmtown, and it isn’t until these few scenes in Nuke York that the film finally gives off a convincing post-apocalyptic vibe.
Then, of course, there’s the music, with songs written and performed by Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, and a handful of others. I enjoyed each and every tune, but it was two in particular, both by Lou Reed, that really blew me away (Reed was the musical voice of Mok, and his songs "My Name is Mok" and "Triumph" are the perfect fit for this sinister character). Also strong were the final number "Send Love Through" (co-written and performed by Debbie Harry) and the disco-esque "Dance, Dance, Dance" by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
I’m not sure how this movie slipped under my radar for all these years, but I’m guessing there are plenty of others out there who have yet to see this Canadian-produced animated musical fantasy. If you’re a fan of Heavy Metal, odds are you’ll like Rock & Rule just as much.