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With: Herve Villachaize, Susan Tyrrell, Marie-Pascale Elfman, Joe Spinell, Giselle Lindley, Virginia Rose, Jan Stuart Schwartz, Phil Gordon, Hyman Diamond, Danny Elfman, "Toshiro Boloney" (a.k.a. Matthew Bright)
Written by: Matthew Bright, Richard Elfman
Directed by: Richard Elfman
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 73
Date: 03/21/1982

Forbidden Zone (1980)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Zoning Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A mixture of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, John Waters and the Residents with just a dash of Eraserhead, barely begins to describe Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone. Other writers have compared it to Max Fleischer cartoons, Flash Gordon, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Hellzapoppin' and R. Crumb. Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum hit it on the head calling it "a black and white freak musical that manages to synthesize ingredients of virtually every other midnight hit into the cheerful consistency of bad-taste vaudeville."

Director Richard Elfman, co-writer Matthew Bright, composer/actor Danny Elfman and others were members of a theater-of-the-absurd musical troupe before they put together this movie based on their bizarre stage shows. Distributors attempted to play it as a midnight movie in 1980, then tried a normal release in the summer of 1982. But the film didn't find its real audience until the advent of home video.

In the film, a French girl called by turns "Susan" and "Frenchy" (played by the director's now ex-wife Marie-Pascale Elfman), accidentally enters the Sixth Dimension. Members of her peculiar family attempt to rescue her. After a lot of running around and singing, they defeat the evil queen (Susan Tyrrell, an Oscar nominee for John Huston's Fat City), Susan marries the dwarf king (Herve Villachaize) and they all stay. Frankly, the Sixth Dimension isn't a whole lot different from this movie's "real" world.

Forbidden Zone continuously attempts to cook up unusual imagery, such as a frog in a tuxedo, a human chandelier, a topless princess, a headless boy and babbling twins, plus animated sequences.

The music, which sounds like early Oingo Boingo, is the highlight, especially Danny Elfman himself appearing as the devil and singing a twisted version of "Minnie the Moocher."

Frankly, the movie doesn't have much going for it other than its complete, engulfing weirdness.

This crystal-clear new DVD will delight fans that found the movie in the early 80s, but new viewers may only find themselves scratching their head at one of the strangest movies ever made. Perhaps late night screenings under the influence of mind-altering substances is the answer. Either way, it's all over in just 73 minutes.

DVD Details: Fantoma has done yet another superior job on this DVD, which includes an above average making-of documentary (about 30 minutes), 15 minutes of deleted scenes, musical numbers from an earlier, similar16mm film, an Oingo Boingo music video and a commentary track by director Elfman and co-writer Bright. Elfman tries to keep things professional, but thankfully, the demented Bright -- who went on to write the Drew Barrymore version of Guncrazy and direct the 1996 Reese Witherspoon cult film Freeway -- provides a few subversive moments. The liner notes include a note from the director and song lyrics.

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