Forbidden Zone

From Academic Kids

Forbidden Zone is the title of a 1980 science-fiction/comedy/musical cult film directed by Richard Elfman with music composed by Danny Elfman.

It was a bare-bones, underground production, filmed in black and white, but it did have some well-known actors, including Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell, and Viva. Others of note in the cast include the director Richard Elfman, musician and composer Danny Elfman, director Matthew Bright, the Elfmans' theatre group The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo and Martin von Haselberg, one of the Kipper Kids at the time, and later the husband of Bette Midler.

The movie is a memorable experience for anyone who has ever seen it, although the nature of those memories is highly personal, and not uniformily positive. Even its fans consider it to be a bizarre, profane, politically incorrect, chaotic and cartoonish film, but these are often considered to be among its strong points. Most commentary on the music is positive - it is a peculiar but winning combination of 1940s big band and jazz music (characters lip synch to Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker and others) and original music. The influence of Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1930s (such as Betty Boop) on the film is obvious to those familiar with them. One cast member aptly described the movie as "having the power to delight and appall, often simultaneously". An amateur reviewer described it "as about as twisted and chaotic as cinema gets", as well as a "beautiful surreal masterpiece". The movie serves up its flaws knowingly and gleefully, which perhaps helps convert them into strengths.

Some highlights of the movie are Danny Elfman, as an over-the-top Satan, Susan Tyrrell's surprisingly good dancing and singing of Witch's Egg and the simple, but very effective animated sequences of animator John Muto.

Danny Elfman recycled the title song of this movie as his theme song for the animated television series Dilbert.

The plot is a science fiction standard - saving a damsel in distress from an evil king in another dimension, but the difference is in the details. Everyone and everything, both in the real world and in the 'Sixth Dimension' is wildly dysfunctional. For instance, at the school of our heroine Frenchy Hercules (Marie-Pascale Elfman), we see frequent gunfights in the classroom - sometimes between the students and the obviously transsexual teacher. All of Frenchy's family are mentally unbalanced, mentally deficient, or usually both.

Frenchy decides to ignore the warnings she's received to avoid the hole in the basement wall in the family's new house and winds up a captive in the Sixth Dimension. There, King Fausto (Hervé Villechaize) and Queen Doris (Susan Tyrrell) interact malevolently with her, each other, a tuxedo-clad frog-faced minion, naked slaves, a human chandelier, boxers dancing in athletic supporters, Satan and his minions, and eventually, Frenchy's rescuers. These are her brother Flash, played by an old man in a too-small Boy Scout suit (Phil Gordon), her homicidal wrestler grandfather (Hyman Diamond), and a classmate Squeezit, also known as the 'Chicken Boy' (Toshiro Boloney aka Matthew Bright), who is also trying to save his identical twin brother/sister Renee.

Eventually, after significant depravity and a lot of odd, but interesting dancing and singing, the situations resolve themselves, and King Fausto replaces Queen Doris with Frenchy, with everyone still alive looking toward a great future as they plan to take over everyone and everything in the Galaxy.

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