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Forbidden Zone
Forbidden Zone
Actors: Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell, Giselle Lindley, Jan Stewart Schwartz, Marie-Pascale Elfman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals & Performing Arts
R     2004     1hr 14min

Prepare to enter the Sixth Dimension, a deliriously insane world of frog butlers, topless princesses, machine-gun toting school teachers, chicken boys and the devil himself (Danny Elfman), all ruled by the lascivious m...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell, Giselle Lindley, Jan Stewart Schwartz, Marie-Pascale Elfman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals
Studio: Fantoma
Format: DVD - Black and White,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/31/2004
Original Release Date: 03/21/1980
Theatrical Release Date: 03/21/1980
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 14min
Screens: Black and White,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

The Underworld Hallucination Comedy Nightmare Sex Musical
Sir Charles Panther | Alexandria, Virginny, USandA | 02/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is weird, period. It's got an Eraserhead vibe (probably from the black/white), and I pick up Un Chien Andalou, probably from having no idea what's coming next. The dark frame corners of the B/W stock also evoke the early parts of The Wizard of Oz, conjuring dread and foreboding. Other than that, leave your film references behind, and set your mind for new experience.

You've got to watch this film at least twice, ideally a couple weeks apart, before you decide that it's the worst film you've ever seen (a typical first reaction). Now, the weirdest movie you've ever seen--yeah, that's a spot-on description-but it's not the worst, by far. Save that crucial tag for Madonna's desecration of Swept Away, John Wayne in The Conqueror, Caddyshack 2.

I saw this B/W classic for the first time in a 1984 university film class. The prof warned us that it was racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, violent, vulgar and scatological (her words). And she was and remains exactly right. I sat through the 73-odd minutes of this thing (shown on film, no less), and when it was over I wasn't quite sure what I'd seen. I remember a strange and heavy feeling of dread and confusion that hung with me for a few days, like I'd seen something deeply disturbing but couldn't yet make sense of it. But I'd also laughed, hard, at a number of the scenes in the film.

It wasn't until a good ten years later I got my hands on a bootleg VHS copy, and I bought my own copy (signed!) from the Richard Elfman web site two years ago. It was only on second and subsequent viewings that I figured out exactly what the story was, and then really started to see the subtlety of the film, to appreciate and enjoy it more.

It opens in the kitchen at breakfast, with the family in intentionally awful stage makeup, sitting in mismatched chairs on a set with ultra low-budge hand-painted elementary school play backdrops. The psychotic mom gets knocked cold by dad when she talks too much. Then they have to tie up Grandpa before the kids go to school. And that's in the first couple of minutes.

Then school, where the scenes are pure nightmare, just chaos, with the grotesque images of the teacher and students, hideous caricatures of kids that I knew, and you'll recognize as well. Then in the middle of this highly disorienting scene comes the "Alphabet Song/Swinging the Alphabet," with the "F" and "G" verses corrupted thoroughly and hilariously.

Then we descend to the underworld and by way of introduction to the Sixth Dimension, watch two guys in jock straps sing a goofy song in a boxing ring, followed by a frog-headed guy doing some soft-shoe, and a seriously creepy version of "Bim Bam Boom."

The crass racial and ethnic stereotypes flit in and out, amateurish, really, in their insertion, and having little relation to the movie itself. Right at the beginning there's a black-face guy, described as local pimp Huckleberry P. Jones, with his bad suit and boxing gloves, no less. The Hercules patriarch has a horribly dubbed Yiddish accent, and we even run across Jewish money lenders down in the Sixth Dimension. I don't really get their placement or function in the film, other than visual distraction, or misfiring attempts at comedy.

And some violence. A guy gets shot at school, although it's pantomime-corny. There is some serious fisticuffs, but it's also hammy. A knife goes right through a thigh, but it's a cheezy effect. But when Grandpa Hercules fights the gorilla he ends up literally bashing its head into ground meat, and that's a pretty disturbing close-up, even in B/W. The queen gets shot, somewhat graphically, with a little bit of blood. The two queens end up at the bottom of the pit, their bodies run through with steel blades. And Squeezit loses his head, although he doesn't really die, and the head even sprouts wings to flit around as a cheezy Sixth Dimension mascot.

And some nudity. The excruciatingly nubile Princess wears nothing but tight high-rise briefs, pumps, and gloves for the entire film. There's a wacky kind of topless cattle drive of young ladies, comical and erotic in its own strange way. There's a lot of comically strange/strangely comical frottage going on, mostly Flash and Gramps grabbing various Sixth Dimension denizens. Nothing graphic at all, but the MPAA would call it sexual content.

And fun with trivia: 1) Uber-nerds will recognize the Forbidden Zone theme as that from the short-lived Dilbert TV show from a few years back; 2) Music nerds also will recognize an original recording of "Pico and Sepulveda," which was for many decades the backing/theme song of the Doctor Demento radio show (The Very Best of Dr. Demento).

Lastly, get that soundtrack (Forbidden Zone). If you like a good mix of music, you'll love the CD. If you're expecting raw Oingo Boingo, you'll be disappointed. Sure, they're there, but not in the kind of depth and orchestration you're probably looking for. There's a couple old-timey tunes ("Bim Bam Boom," "Some of These Days"), lots of Danny Elfman's original score, and the sorrowfully too-short "Squeezit The Moocher." For whatever sad reason, "Pico and Sepulveda" is not included in this release.

Bottom line: This is just one of those cult films you have to be able to say you've seen. If you're looking for slick production and deep, deep artistic symbolism and staging, you'll be hugely disappointed. You may not like it at first, it being more confusing than anything, but if you've got an open mind and tend toward black humor, and if you watch it more than once, you'll enjoy it. If you're looking for something seriously off the wall, a film like none other you've ever seen, then this is the one you've been waiting for."
The coolest movie you've never seen...
Michael LaPointe | Orange County, California | 07/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Once upon a time, way back in the 1970?s, there was a magical land called Southern California. It was in this place that two brothers, Richard and Danny Elfman, devised an avant-garde musical comedy troupe, called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. In 1980, they decided to form a loose story based around some of their performance pieces and make a movie. That movie is the legendary Forbidden Zone. Since my fourteen-year old vhs tape of this movie is rotting on the shelf as I write this, I couldn?t be happier to see its release on dvd.Okay, the film is a certified nut case of a movie, filmed over the course of maybe a week in and around the LA area. It?s in black and white, not because of any artistic vision ? it was just cheaper that way. But it works ? the film is a (tribute, send up?) of 1930?s era musicals, with standout music by Josephine Baker and Cab Calloway and centers around the Hercules family and the strange portal to the 6th Dimension that exists in their basement. The world this takes place in is filled with strange imagery, amazing music, and more oddities than a sane person could hope to count. We have a human-size dancing frog, jockstrap-clad Kipper Kids, Herv? Villechaize as the king of the 6th Dimension, a chicken-boy who is able to communicate telepathically with his transvestite brother, Joe Spinell as a drunker sailor, classroom violence, a Jewish wrestler fighting a guy in an ape suit, and Danny Elfman playing Satan while singing ?Minnie the Moocher.? You get the idea; this is not a normal film. Although it borrows from the works of Olsen & Johnson (Hellzapoppin? & Crazy House), this is still a truly unique cinema experience.The advance word from Richard Elfman is that this dvd will have a re-mastered print of the film, deleted scenes, interviews, and archival footage! For any fan of Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo, or just incredibly strange films made by talented people, you simply can?t miss this one."
An amazing cult classic
G. Laur | 02/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Forbidden Zone could be the most eye-openingly bizarre film ever made, surpassing even Eraserhead. The fact that it is cheaply made and often inept is most definitely an asset - in a world this surreal conventional filmmaking techniques would seem out of place. In any case, there is no question that anyone interested in underground movies needs to purchase this. Its dismissal by critics and its unpopularity have both been unfair hamperings on its reputation. In actuality, its artistic vision is as singular and imaginative as Eraserhead's, or any cult classic for that matter. Rarely has cardboard been the vehicle for such a visionary production design.

There is so much to take note of - but I would single out the 'Bim bam boom' musical number with the mumbling boxers, the inexplicable antics in the classroom, and Danny Elfman's totally suave appearance as Satan towards the end as truly classic moments in the world of cult movies. They manage to be disturbingly surreal and amusingly silly and cartoonish at the same time. I want to extend my recommendation beyond the intellectuals and outsiders; even more conventionally-minded people may be taken in by Forbidden Zone's utter loopiness and triumphant imagination.

Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 07/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is an awesome find and collector's dream. The film, about a porthole to the Sixth Dimension and a most unusual family's discovery of it, is a bizarre low budget delight in b&w featuring original music by Oingo Boingo and vintage music by Cab Calloway and Miguelito Valdez. Another reviewer pretty much summed things up but I'd like to mention that if you're a fan of the late, great Susan Tyrrell, she's on fine display here. She plays the wicked Queen of the Sixth Dimension and sings a great song "Witch's Egg" which she also helped compose. Herve Villechaize is the King ("He's a little man but he carries a big stick"), Marie-Pascale Elfman, Viva, Toshiro Baloney and the Kipper Kids also star. This little gem is obviously not for everyone, but if you've never seen it it's worth a look. For fans of "Forbidden Zone" it's debut on DVD is a celebration. I've had the soundtrack on a Varese Sarabande CD for some time and my VHS tape is long gone. I'm truly looking forward to this release. Enjoy."