Forbidden Zone (1980)


A suburban family discovers that the basement of their house contains a door that leads to the bizarre Sixth Dimension. After the family’s curious daughter, Frenchy Hercules (Marie-Pascale Elfman, Hot Tomorrows), falls through the door, members of the Hercules family, and Frenchy’s best friend Squeezit Henderson (Matthew Bright, Freeway), embark on a rescue mission.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Twisted, wickedly funny, irreverent musical for adults, the kind of thing that can’t be easily categorized. Deliberately cartoonish, Forbidden Zone is an outrageously subversive sing-along for people who claim to have seen everything — you don’t know whether to laugh, scream or run away in disgust. But there’s method in madness. The production design is imaginative, the songs are fun, and the performances are a hoot.

The brainchild of Richard Elfman, who co-produced, co-wrote and directed the film, Forbidden Zone makes The Rocky Horror Picture Show look like a Disney movie. It has nudity, violence, sex, racism, everything but the kitchen sink. If Elfman’s, the elder brother of composer Danny Elfman (Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and Batman), goal was to rattle the viewer with grotesque images and demented musical numbers he succeeded all too well. Elfman has acknowledged being influenced by The Jazz Culture, Max Fleischer’s cartoons and The Big Band Era of the ’40s.

The cast is clearly having a blast. Hervé Villechaize (Tattoo in TV’s Fantasy Island) as King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension, the inimitable Susan Tyrrell (Fat City) as Queen Doris, Phil Gordon (Back Roads) as Flash Hercules,  Jan Stuart Schwartz (The Incredible Shrinking Woman) as the Servant Frog and Joe Spinell (Rocky) as Squeezit’s Father — they’re all fantastic!

Mostly known for writing The Simpsons theme song, the younger Elfman wrote the film’s music score. He also plays “The Devil.” Elfman has a great singing voice, something he would later demonstrate as voice of Jack in The Nightmare Before Christmas, and he has the movie’s best musical number, the hilarious “Squeezit The Moocher (Minnie The Moocher).” Elfman also sings the title song (with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo). Three of my other favorites songs are “Queen’s Revenge,” “Pico and Sepulveda” and “Alphabet Song.”

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Forbidden Zone is crude and offensive, but a lot of fun in the right state of mind. I watched the color version. Originally shot in B&W, Forbidden Zone was later colorized under director Elfman’s supervision. It seems that Elfman wanted all along to artificially add color in order to create a specific look. In other words, the color version IS the director’s preferred version. The film’s animation was created by artist John Muto (Strange Invaders and Night of the Comet). Color, 74 minutes, Rated R.

2 responses to “Forbidden Zone (1980)

  1. Interesting that the director specifically wanted the colorized look! I saw part of this movie once, and remember being a bit uncomfortable with it. May have to try it again…

    Liked by 1 person

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