If we made a movie, it'd leave Spinal Tap
behind," declared Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi upon the recent release of Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath
. The eight-disc box set, encompassing the entirety of the epoch-defining Ozzy Era, breathlessly posits itself in the liner notes as the be-all-end-all of "heavy metal" and indeed, contained therein you'll find some of the mightiest, murkiest, terrifyingist, dunderheadedest and ultimately awesomest riffs known to mankind.
Of course, you've heard 'em all before. So, in the weeks before Ozzfest hits town, in the interest of enjoying Sabbath in an entirely new context (and because Ozzy and the boys haven't yet made that Spinal Tap-surpassing movie), we propose an experiment: Sync each of the first six Black Box albums to a different movie and crank up the tunes while watching the flick on mute, in the style popularized by The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon. What do you get? Frequently, brilliance. Occasionally, disappointment. But constantly, amusement.
Album: Black Sabbath (1970)
Film: Animal House (1978)
Synchronization Point: John Belushi yells "Toga! Toga!"
- "What is this that stands before me?" Ozzy inquires. Why, it's Flounder's car, which the frat boys will take to the Food King.
- As the riff picks up speed, the toga party begins in earnest when someone throws a keg out the frat-house window.
- Tony Iommi's first big guitar solo accompanies the funniest scene in modern cinema: An oily folk-singer guy sits in a stairway, strumming and crooning the "I gave my love a cherry" song for a throng of admirers. Belushi walks by, cycles through a series of Muppet-like facial expressions and finally grabs the guitar and smashes it against the wall as Iommi gives way to complete silence.
- The harmonica-rocking blues jam "The Wizard" immediately kicks in and accompanies the entire dancing-to-"Shout" sequence.
- As Larry debates whether to have sex with the passed-out underage girl -- complete with devil on one shoulder, angel on the other -- Geezer Butler takes a bass solo.
- Larry decides against it, deposits her in a shopping cart, rolls her up to her parents' front door, rings the bell and hauls ass outta there as Geezer cranks up the mighty "N.I.B." riff. Purrfect.
- Sadly, nothing terribly exciting is occurring during the "Do you mind if we dance with yo' dates?" scene.
- Iommi's guitar buzzes like a hornet's nest as Boon discovers his girlfriend has slept with Donald Sutherland.
- "I see a look of evil in your eyes," Ozzy Osbourne sings as Dean Wermer delivers his mission statement: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." This statement would be bombastically refuted by Ozzy Osbourne.
- "Over?" Belushi thunders. "You say, over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" Yes, Mr. Blutarsky, the CD is over.
Album: Paranoid (1971)
Film: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Synchronization Point: Title card -- "Chapter Five, Showdown at House of Blue Leaves."
- Lucy Liu's face appears in close-up as "War Pigs" begins.
- Lucy Liu beheads some dude as the "War Pigs" guitar solo begins.
- Lucy Liu and her badass ninja entourage walk slowly through a nightclub as "Paranoid" begins. The effect is more Swingers than Reservoir Dogs.
- Lucy Liu senses Uma Thurman's presence in the silence preceding the thoroughly drugged-out hippie jam "Planet Caravan." Uma is hiding in a bathroom stall during most of this song, re-creating the experience of a great many stoners.
- A close-up of Uma's eyes, fraught with menace, during the robotic "I AM IRRRON MANNNNN" intro. As the riff kicks in, she slices some chick's arm off. This is legitimately badass.
- I estimate that during "Electric Funeral," Uma kills 50 people on-camera. Interestingly, during the subsequent "Hand of Doom," she cuts off a lot of feet.
- It's Uma vs. Lucy in the snowy garden. (Note cocaine foreshadowing.) In the silence after "Hand of Doom," Lucy removes her shoes.
- Loving close-ups of Lucy during the considerable "Rat Salad" drum solo. She slashes Uma in the back and smirks -- the solo ends.
- Uma rises theatrically as "Faeries Wear Boots" begins. Lucy does not survive the song.
- "So I went to see the doctor to see what he could give me," Ozzy wails. "He said, 'Son, you've gone too far.'" This forecasts the stylistic excess of Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
Album: Masters of Reality (1971)
Film: The Shining (1980)
Synchronization Point: A terrified Wendy (Shelley Duvall) discovers the manuscript of her deranged hubby (Jack Nicholson): "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," typed over and over. "How do you like it?" Jack sneers, sneaking up behind her. She screams. Cue "Sweet Leaf." Sweeeeeeeeeeeet.
- Dude, the kid just saw the Elevator of Blood again. Hold me.
- Devoid of context or dialogue, The Shining now takes its place as the most facially overacted movie in cinematic history. Nicholson looks twelve times goofier than John Belushi. In the silence between "Sweet Leaf" and "After Forever," Wendy knocks Jack down the stairs. Jack then spends all of "After Forever" locked in a pantry, re-creating the experience of a great many stoners.
- He wakes up during the shitty instrumental "Embryo," which appears to have busted up his ankle.
- During the shitty instrumental "Orchid," the kid's doing that murder/redrum thing while holding a butcher knife. Hold me.
- "Orchid" enrages Jack, who busts down the bathroom door with an ax as if to say, "Enough with the folk shit, Slappy."
- "Heeeeeeeerrre's Johnny!" he infamously bellows, during the "Lord of This World" solo. This is legitimately badass.
- Scatman Crothers gets busted up with an ax as the ballad "Solitude" begins. Attention Wimpy White Guy aficionados: This is a great song.
- As the really weird shit goes down -- the oral-sex dude in the bear suit, the face-cracked-in-half guy, skeletons in the dancehall, the climactic Blood Elevator -- Ozzy bleats through "Into the Void": "Back on earth the flame of life burns low/Everywhere is misery and woe/Pollution kills the air, the land, the sea/Man prepares to meet his destiny." Can it, Ralph Nader. Cool drums, though.
- As "Into the Void" fades out, we leave Jack stumbling helplessly through the snow maze. (Note cocaine foreshadowing.)
Album: Black Sabbath Vol. 4 (1972)
Film: The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
Synchronization Point: The beginning.
- This didn't work at all. Very disappointing. True, it's fun to watch the old French lady massage her bicyclist grandson's calves with an eggbeater during the beloved ballad "Changes," which sounds in this context like a rejected Cheers theme. But the rest is muddled and confusing. Ozzy doesn't mesh well with experimental, weird-ass animation. To make any sense of it, you'd pretty much have to be wandering through the snow maze.
Album: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
Film: Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Synchronization Point: "Conan, what is best in life?" "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!"
- BOOM. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" launches. During the course of this song, Conan is freed from slavery, runs around a lot, slaps around some wolves, tumbles down the stairs into a dungeon and steals a ludicrously oversize sword from Kron's tomb. "God knows as your dognose/Bog blast all of you," Ozzy yelps incomprehensibly as Conan lifts it to the sky.
- "A National Acrobat" unfolds during this whole makin'-out-with-a-witch business. We'll wait thirteen years for a more absurdly overacted sex scene (Showgirls).
- "Ha ha!" Ozzy snorts as we get a look at Conan's furry traveling outfit. It looks as if he's wearing your couch.
- Conan enjoys some rotisserie chicken during the "Acrobat" guitar solo, which segues nicely into "Fluff," a rather aptly named folkish instrumental that sounds like the Rod Stewart Unplugged band warming up. Conan gets so bored (the tune is four minutes long) that he ingests some sort of snow maze-esque powder, staggers around mindlessly and punches out a camel.
- As the salacious "Sabbra Cadabra" begins, Conan meets his love interest, Poor Man's Linda Hamilton.
- "Feels so good I feel so fine/Love that little lady always on my mind/Gives me lovin' every night and day/Never gonna leave her, never goin' away." What's more disturbing: those lyrics or the guest keyboards from Rick Wakeman?
- Conan attempts to dude up the wussy proceedings by whupping the giant snake's ass. There is profound silence between the snake's death and "Killing Yourself to Live." But soon he's all lovey-dovey too, romancing Poor Man's Linda Hamilton throughout the guitar solo.
- "Smoke it! Get high!" someone shouts during Ridiculous Sex Scene #2. By song's end, Conan is washing her feet.
- "Who Are You" and its cheesy-ass WE-ow WE-ow keyboards take over as Conan and Poor Man's Linda Hamilton are apprehended by Max von Sydow (!), who is inexplicably dressed like Santa Claus.
- During "Looking for Today," Conan seems to wander into a Polyphonic Spree video -- hippie dudes prancing among flowers. He eventually falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he's in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Black Sabbath seems to have employed an orchestra.
Album: Sabotage (1975)
Film: Amélie (2001)
Synchronization Point: A suicide jumper -- leaping off a cathedral, mind you -- lands on and instantly kills Amélie's mother. Subtitle: "Amandine dies instantly."
- The subtitles to this French flick help tremendously. "His unsociable tendencies increase," the narration notes of Amélie's father as the "Hole in the Sky" riff gathers steam.
- "I don't believe there's any future in cars," Ozzy sings, showing poor economic foresight (though, admittedly, there are very few cars in this movie).
- The dowdy widow reads a love letter from her beloved husband during "Symptom of the Universe": "Take my hand, my child of love, come step inside my tears/Swim the magic ocean, I've been crying all these years/With our love we'll ride away into eternal skies/A symptom of the universe a love that never dies." The love letter is far less embarrassing.
- "Get out of my life!" Ozzy screeches as Amélie and her love interest meet for the first time.
- The actually-quite-badass riff to "Megalomaniac" sounds incongruous next to a scene centering around a garden gnome.
- "SUCK ME!" Ozzy thunders as Amélie searches for Monsieur Bretodeau. Dude, this is a romantic comedy.
- "Amélie has a feeling of absolute harmony," the narrator announces during the "Megalomaniac" guitar solo.
- Amélie makes pasta during "Supertzar," the doofy choral instrumental and leading indicator of the whole '90s nü-metal misspelling craze. She also imagines her own death and steals the aforementioned garden gnome.
- "Am I going insane?" Ozzy demands as the lovers meet again.
- As "The Writ" fades out, someone announces, "A woman without love wilts like a flower without sun."
None more black, my friends. None more black.