« Movies

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

by Andrew Green

OK, so it's been pointed out to me that I almost always write about films that I did not enjoy.

There are two reasons why. First, as I have explained before, I tend to watch a lot of bad movies. Therefore, it only follows that most of my reviews would be negative. The second reason for my tendency to dwell on poor cinema, however, is probably more important and difficult to admit: the fact is that I simply find it harder to write about things I actually like. Trying to defend something (which is what I feel like I'm doing) is more complicated than panning it. In such cases, it's like I have to take a stand; try to define for another person just what it is that I've seen in something to make me consider it worthwhile. Where should I begin? What reasons should I cite? How can I praise a film without fawning over it too much? What if someone DISAGREES with me??? It's much easier to argue about something and have the force that an aggressive edge gives you when you're coming from a negative position in the first place. Just watch or listen to any news pundit show to see proof of that....

Nevertheless, I have decided to bite the bullet and try to bring a little positivity to this blog by reviewing a GOOD movie for once. And just to ease myself into the idea, I'll stick to a film that means a little less to me. I still intend at some point to post blogs about my very FAVORITE films (which, for the record, include The Fisher King, and Ed Wood), but in this case I wanted to focus on something a little weirder. In fact, today's selection is a whole LOT weirder than your average fare. It's a brilliant gem called Forbidden Zone, which may in fact be THE weirdest movie I have ever seen.

Forbidden Zone (1982)

Netflix description:
"Welcome to the Sixth Dimension -- a topsy-turvy universe of frog butlers, topless princesses, machine gun-toting teachers, chicken boys, human chandeliers and the devil himself. They're all ruled by the sex-obsessed midget King Fausto, and his insane Queen. And everything is jet-propelled by Danny Elfman's catchy, inimitable tunes."

Once upon a time, members of a performance art group called "The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo" sat down, had a long chat, and decided that it was time to expand their bizarre stage shows into the medium of film. With virtually no budget or professional motion picture experience behind them, these brave souls produced a trippy, sometimes-incomprehensible comedic musical that FilmThreat would one day refer to as "The Citizen Kane of Underground Movies". Of course, I'm talking about Forbidden Zone.

It's about a family that moves into a home in California's Venice area, and discovers a portal to another dimension in the basement. When daughter Frenchie finally gets bored enough to venture through that door, she's kidnapped by a sex-crazed king played by the midget from Fantasy Island (yes, Herve Villechaize ), and it's up to her uncle and brother to save her.

The great thing about this movie is how beautifully cheap it all is. The sets are obviously made of cardboard and construction paper...the sound is hilariously muffled...and the camera work, lighting, and sound mixing are all amateur-grade. Normally, these would all be bad things for a film, but here it actually works, since the people behind Forbidden Zone were, in fact, fundamentally talented. They give spirited, over-the-top performances, the likes of which we would expect to see from a fresh improv comedy troupe. The music is also deliciously catchy. Danny Elfman, who would go on to a hugely successful career doing music for film and television, composed the songs here (notice the similarities between the main themes for Forbidden Zone, and Dilbert the cartoon series, both of which were written by Elfman)...and of course his brother Richard Elfman, of Oingo Boingo fame, directs. Plus, the art design is inspired -- it reminds me of early Tim Burton (actually, remarkably similar to the old Beetlejuice Saturday morning show ). Watching Forbidden Zone is a chance to see experimental performance artists cut loose, goof around, and not give a darn what happens.

So many strange things happen here that it's hard to isolate examples, although I think the synopsis posted at the beginning of this review probably covers them well enough. I will say this, however: I decided that I truly loved Forbidden Zone when I first saw THIS scene, just a few minutes in:


Anyway, I found Forbidden Zone to be hilarious, innovative, and insane. Although it does start to drag a little towards the end, I cannot help but to love this movie for the geyser of creative brilliance that it is in its first 70 or so minutes. It is truly special.

5 out of 5.

**PS -- DO NOT watch the colorized version of this film. It is an abomination, as are all colorized versions of black and white pictures. **