Sunday, August 24, 2008

Forbidden Zone (Richard Elfman, 1980)

Well zap my cornflakes, you dandified harlot! Is this film is the cosmic nuts or what? A royal flush of disturbed insanity, one that managed to somehow gently caress my primary pleasure patches, while at the same time, aggressively finger-bang my left eye socket, Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone is the cinematic equivalent of a perfectly-timed pelvic thrust. A film so on target in its desire to thrill and traumatize, that I was literally poking the humid air with every extremity I could think of in a misguided attempt to express joy. In fact, I was so enraptured, that I immediately watched it again – something I've never done before. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Where does she find the time to watch surrealistic musicals made by an unorganized collection of mystic knights more than once"? Well, I don't know exactly. (What can I say? I'm not a big fan of finding out where time comes from.) However, if you must know, I actually had to cancel a speaking engagement at this hoity-toity quilting symposium in order to watch it again. But luckily for me, this annual event only exists inside my subconscious. In other words, I was able to view the film a second time. And, wow, does it ever come alive on the b-side.

Tantamount to being spat in the face by a bicephalic ragpicker circa 1902, the Forbidden Zone is a dicey jaunt through the inappropriate imagination of a mentally unwell Elfman.

Mining the stylistic credo of the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo and utilizing the wonderfully strange music of his brother Danny, Richard Elfman has fashioned a film so bizarre, so idiotic, so tantalizing, so titillating, that typed words can't seem to do it justice. The "story" basically revolves the Hercules family and the mysterious doorway in the basement of their Venice, Los Angeles, California home.

The dark, orifice-like entree leads to a place called The Sixth Dimension (a.k.a. The Forbidden Zone), a torturous kingdom ruled by King Fausto (Hervé Villechaize), a diminutive Francophile, and Queen Doris (Susan Tyrrell), a tempestuous, pantyhose-wearing control freak. One by one, each family member stumbles through the door and comes face-to-face with myriad abnormalities.

However, since the members of the Hercules clan are freaks in their own right, the transition from one fucked up dimension to another is unsurprisingly smooth.

The weird sets (co-designed by Marie-Pascale Elfman), wobbly animation (John Muto) and catchy songs make Forbidden Zone a real treat for the senses. However, it's the can-do spirit of the eclectic cast that makes the film purr so orgasmically. For starters, Hervé and Susan make such a delicious royal couple. Seriously, I could watch King Fausto gently caress Queen Doris's nylon-covered leg for hours on end.

I loved the way Susan camped it up in this film, incessantly gyrating and singing songs about being hatched out of a witch's egg. Her highlight comes when she calls Hervé a "dumb fuck." Though, she could have said it to her frog butler (Jan Stuart Schwartz) – I know it for sure she didn't say it to the human chandelier (Kedric Wolfe). Whatever.

The statuesque Gisele Lindley is gorgeousness personified as the Sixth Dimension's obligatory princess. Her exquisite nipples (she doesn't believe in wearing tops), super-tight off-white panties, black opera gloves, black heels, and long (and I mean, long - let's call them "super-long"), slender legs will drive all the heterosexual men (and discerning lesbians) in the audience mad with lust-filled dementia. I adored the way she would scoff at everyone around her. In that, she knew she was the sexiest specimen in all the land.

Don't fret all you Friends of Dorothy out there, they're plenty of scenes involving scantily clad men wearing nothing but jockstraps. The dumpy duo of Phil Gordon and Hyman Diamond provide the physical comedy as Flash and Grampa Hercules. Their obsession with rear entry dry humping had me scratching my neck for days. I mean, I've never seen so much non-consensual rear entry dry humping in all my life. (To be fair, I'd say forty-five percent of the humping was consensual.)

My favourite performance by far was that of co-writer Matthew Bright (credited here as Toshiro Boloney). The future director of Freeway and Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby plays the duel role of Squeezeit Henderson, a shy guy with low-self esteem who seeks advice from chickens (they don't call him "Chicken Boy" for nothing), and René Henderson, a transgender masochist with a penchant for pseudo-menstrual cramps. His pitch perfect line delivery and fidgety facial expressions made me smile every time, and ended up giving the bizarre musical a demented, yet heartfelt sense of wonder.

video uploaded by Richard Elfman


  1. Yeah! Love that Forbidden Zone... and the Mystic Knights. Haven't viewed it since before the war. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. Yup, another one of my favorites here.

    Three comments:

    I would have liked to have seen a screenshot of the 'chandelier'. :)

    I see you mentioned Bright's non de plume, Toshiro Baloney, which was awesome. But we have to give it up to the equally delicious make-believe name, Ugh-Fudge Bwana (he played 'Pa' Hercules). C'mon, say it with me: Ugh-Fudge Bwana!

    No review of FZ is complete without mention of the (as you so succinctly described) memorable contribution of Gisele Lindley. But tell me, Yums, I can't be the only one to have noticed her..*ahem*..oddly proportioned attributes. Maybe proportion is the wrong word

  3. Ugh-Fudge Bwana!

    Oooh, that felt good.

    Great. Now I'm gonna have watch the film again, just so I can see these out-of-tune attributes you're referring to. ;)

    "Oddly proportioned attributes" would make a great band name.

  4. This ia one of my all-time favorite movies, but it looks weird(er) in color.