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Forbidden Zone
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from votes
Release: 21 March 1980 (USA) /

Forbidden Zone

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Musical
Director: Richard Elfman,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: A mysterious door in the basement of the Hercules house leads to the Sixth Dimension by way of a gigantic set of intestine. When Frenchy slips through the door, King Fausto falls in love with her. The jealous Queen Doris takes Frenchy prisoner, and it is up to the Hercules family and friend Squeezit Henderson to rescue her. Written by Scott Murdock <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews

I avoided this film for years even though I seek out movies that appear to have been created by people with "unstable" minds (Jodorowsky, Ken Russell, Lynch and Jess Franco). The problem was the box cover art. The cartoon of Susan Tyrrell is so lurid and 80's it was really off-putting. And the promise of "offensive" humor made it sound like a low-rent John Waters movie. I've gone beyond "it's fun to be shocked" movies and demand some quality.

How surprised I was when I finally gambled on this one! I had seen the last minutes on IFC or some cable station late one night while flipping channels. My first thoughts were probably like anyone's would be..."What. The. Hell?" There was "Tattoo" from "Fantasy Island," a bunch of tap-dancing bimbettes, dice, a French woman, a guy in drag, two bald-headed freaks in their jockstraps...and a guy in a gorilla suit (with a bra on, no less!) All jumping around singing, "The Forbidden Zone!" like they had drank about 6 quarts of caffeine! The image rivaled Fellini!

I finally rented the beautifully re-mastered DVD after still more concern about just what this movie WAS exactly. I was absolutely riveted for the entire running time. I can't think of a single movie in history like this one, and I've seen some real corkers! The opening musical number, using an old recording of the song "Some Of These Days" as a background track, is eye-poppingly brilliant. I still don't know how it was done, certainly not with the skills and technology of a low-budget filmmaker in 1980. But it speaks to me on an unconscious level, dark and brooding yet fanciful and jolly (the slick dancing butler who appears out of nowhere is one of the most delightfully ridiculous and satisfying surreal moments I've seen in years). I was very skeptical that the momentum and creativity could be sustained, and it never did reach that peak again (although the "Pico And Sepulveda," "Witche's Egg" and Alphabet numbers come close), but it couldn't have...I don't think it IS possible to sustain that level forever, it would drive the viewer away.

The plot, involving a family discovering a door that leads to the 6th dimension where a queen and king (the unbelievably game Ms. Tyrrell who deserves an award of some kind for her brave and perfect-pitch performance, and the charming Herve, who she was apparently dating at the time?), is absolutely superfluous, merely an excuse for the music and visuals, and I'd have it no other way personally. It's like "Alice In Wonderland." Any adaption that tries to assign a "story" to the proceedings has missed the point entirely; like a dream, there is an internal logic...but the rules and boundaries of reality are not welcome!

The film is creaky in places, of course...it shows it's no-budget roots frequently, the pace is so hectic as to be head-ache inducing in certain parts and most dismaying of all is the constant interruption of lewdness just for the sake of lewdness, as if the filmmaker's were all horny teens who wanted to get as much naughty sex and dirty humor in as possible (Hint: the probably were!) The acting is by-and-large, with the exception of the foul-mouthed, shrieking, Disney-queen-from-hell Ms. Tyrell, pretty amateurish, even though everyone throws themselves into the production full-force (the screen writer bravely spends the whole film running around in his underpants!) But what it lacks in maturity it makes up for in execution. I kept sitting there shaking my head...these are real dancers, the choreography is wonderful, the animation and effects are stunning...and you can't ignore the score!

I don't know how much tinkering has gone on with this re-master, but the things that Danny Elfman was doing with the film score, weaving it in and out with old 30's recordings and New Wave stylings, as well as his more familiar ska style of the 80's...it's just breathtaking. If you are any sort of fan of Elfman's work, soundtrack or otherwise, you probably already have this music. If you're still new to it as I was, you'll become an instant fan. You cannot deny it, Elfman is a genius.

Like anything that seems completely nonsensical at first (example, Fellini's Satyricon), a lot of things in this film probably make more sense the more you delve into it. The DVD features explain that the "tone" of the film is an attempt to capture the live performance style of Elfman and his early "Oingo Boingo" incarnation, as a theatrical troupe. There's the obvious reference to Fleischer/Betty Boop cartoons that don't get seen much anymore. I have no idea who "The Kipper Kids" were but I assume audiences at the time would have recognized them. Certainly Herve was recognizable, if hardly comforting, in the weird world of this film.

I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that the man at the helm of this film, Danny Elfman's brother, admits that he was not inspired to make this movie by the use of any drugs. All too often in today's world we are prone to assume that the only way someone can come up with something genuinely original, creative and surreal is to assume that chemicals are responsible. Certainly I can imagine the experience of watching this film in an altered state of mind would be a "trip." However, hats off to people who find and appreciate the merry lunacy and joyfully insane magic that can be found in the every day world...if you care to look! I'm sorry that the film didn't take the director anywhere, but not surprised...it's not something I would easily recommend to just anyone...but I'm glad Elfman seems to have enjoyed a revival of his project, and is getting some recognition

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