- Movie Rating -

Forbidden Zone (1980)

| March 21, 1980

I have a colleague who regards Forbidden Zone as a twisted masterpiece.  Having now seen the movie myself, I can’t say that I agree.  I don’t know through what prism he was seeing this film, so I’ll just chalk it up to ‘let’s agree to disagree’.  He has a specific taste.  Bless his heart, I wish him well. 

Forbidden Zone is a musical, by and large, and it is a lot of other things too.  It’s a whole lot of everything and nothing at the same time.  Its a little psychedelia here, a little Dadaism there, a strange gourmand of bad taste, a dash of racism and broad leanings toward sexual debauchery although it never quite reaches that off-ramp.  Once we are expelled out the other end of Danny and Richard Elfman’s exercise in craziness and style we discover that it is just that – craziness and style.  You would be hard-pressed to call it entertaining, let alone a masterpiece.

Filmed, for some reason, in black and white, the movie looks and feels like a long-form music video that might have only been barely passable at that format’s six and a half minutes.  It might have been the perfect format for The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, but again, it gets really tiresome, really fast.  

Like a music video, it throws images at you at random with a style borrowed from gorging on old movies and bad television.  It was shot on 35mm and seems to reel in elements seemingly from flipping random channels on television.  A lot of the universe presented in this movie borrows style from the old Max Fleisher cartoons with odd fluid movements and odd Wonderland-style characters who appear and disappear at random.

What passes for a story involves the Hercules family whose young daughter Frenchy (Marie Paschel-Elfman) discovers a door in their basement that leads into The Sixth Dimension ruled by King Fausto (Hervé Villechaize), a horny old sort who is the thoughtless dicatator of The Forbidden Zone, a small burrow of the dimension.  Fausto falls in love with Frenchy (if that’s what we can call it) and this affection angers the king’s lady Queen Doris (Susan Tyrrell).  So, it’s up to the rest of the Hercules family to rescue her form this insanity.

There really isn’t much more that I can say here.  The results will vary.  Either you will eat up this nonsense or you won’t.  I didn’t.  I didn’t go in looking for it to make any sense but at least have some element that I could put my feet in.  But this is a movie that seems resistant to that.  I appreciate the Elfman Brother’s energy and passion, but their film is random, messy, and unintelligible.  To those who deem it a masterwork, I wish you all the best.  I am indifferent, so I’ll move on.  I’ve got things to do.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Musical