In the immortal words of T.S. Elliot, "And should I then presume? And how shall I begin?"
Unlike most of the movies on this site, The Forbidden Zone is intentionally weird and idiotic, or weirdly idiotic (actually, now that i think of it, it's idiotically weird). It's hard to make an intentional cult film--it often just comes off to self-conscious and smug to be authentically strange and subversive. However, The Forbidden Zone pulls it off because, however art-school absurd it is, it winds up going even further than intended.
Yeah, i'm pretty sure that's a blunt. It'd better be.
A true relic of the 80s, down to Herve Villechaize as King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension (Yes!) It's also the first movie soundtrack by Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo--or, as they were still known back then, the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo...
This German Expressionist/Max Fleischer aesthetic will continue throughout. Except when superseded by moments of bad 60s horror, 40s musicals, Warhol knockoffs and scat humor.
And we open with this guy running out of his basement and--whoa! Blackface. Before the credits even start.
Wait until they get to the Jews, the women, the trannys and the midgets. And the white guys: Everyone is mocked on the basest level in The Forbidden Zone. If you're not ready for that, note the word "forbidden" and move along. Hurry, before the child abuse jokes and menstruation gags kick in! Hitler and Satan will be here soon! Run!
So, the whole premise, such as it is, is that there is a gateway to the Sixth Dimension (aka the Forbidden Zone) in the basement of the Hercules family: Ma, Pa, Gramps, Flash and Frenchy.
For some reason, The Forbidden Zone has old people played by twentysomething art goons in Caligari makeup and the kids played by aging Jewish comics in Boy Scout suits. But that is neither the last nor the least weird thing we shall see here....
Flash and Frenchy go to school, with their classmates: nerds, skanks, the knife-wielding pimp, the inbred pigtail twins, Chicken Boy and der Fuhrer.There are craps games and gunfights and some sweet jazz harmonizing, but school sucks. Frenchy jumps out the window, goes home, slips on a rollerskate and finds herself in the Forbidden Zone, where she is promptly treated to some weird boxing dudes and a song! Well, sorta, anyway!
Apparently this kid lost his nerve on set, so they wound up having to superimpose someone else's mouth over his face. Like Bette Davis' incorrectly fitted gown in All About Eve or the cloud that passed over the cornfield during a crucial shot in Bonnie and Clyde, it's the sort of on-set problem that only improves the filmic result. This is one of the movie's better musical numbers: The idea of people lip-synching to old 30s big band tunes was a fun idea, but it gets old if that's the only gag. The "Pico & Sepulveda" number is another excellent bit, but most of them--you're just kind of twiddling your thumbs. Or, given what you're watching, gobbling another handful of 'shrooms.
So, King Fausto of the Herve Dimension immediately falls madly in love with Frenchy, despite her odd mole and her penchant for sticking her tongue out at everybody. However, this does not sit well with his wife...
Behold Doris, the Queen of the Sixth Dimension, none other than Susan Tyrell HerSelf. Bow down!
Not because of Queen Doris, but because Susan Tyrrell. Susan Tyrrell's mom was a British diplomat and her dad was Carole Lombard and Loretta Young's agent. Susan Tyrrell played Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams at Lincoln Center and was nominated for an Academy Award for Fat City. Susan Tyrrell has appeared in the films of Andy Warhol, John Waters and Pee-Wee Herman. I wish I was one-tenth that awesome and so do you.
Anyway, Queen Susan Tyrrell sings a song that i'm pretty sure she did at the Mudd Club at least once and then has Frenchy locked up in the dungeon, where she meets some other locked-up girl... boy... boy we already saw, wearing a wig. (It can be hard to tell in this movie whether it's supposed to be a drag queen or a real female because both are often just boys in wigs.) Also King Herve pops through a window to snap photos in a moment that is creepier than was probably intended to be. And then he goes to make it up to the queen...
Fun fact: Herve Villechaize and Susan Tyrrell were actually dating. And, to answer the question that we're all asking: "I roll her up like a donut!" (Or that's what they say on the DVD commentary.)
Thus follows more scat humor, some flat rabbi jokes, a crucifixion bit, random whippings, some buggery, some bestiality, just padding out the running time here...
Meanwhile, Queen Susan Tyrrell ties up Frenchy in her electrified torture chamber. I must say, i enjoy a nice, scenery-chewing Susan Tyrrell Sprechstimme more than the tenth or eleventh lip-synch to a Cab Calloway tune. Don't get me wrong: I freaking love Cab Calloway. Did i ever tell you about the time i saw him at a Mets game when i was about six? It was summer and--
--whoa! Alright, yeah, back to the film. I will say one thing: Even if The Forbidden Zone loses your attention, it won't be for long. The evil queen is defeated with the help of Warhol superstar Viva, who is wearing some kind of turd hat and never stops talking--in other words, standard Viva. Frenchy is declared the new Queen of the Sixth Dimension and everyone eats a bunch of hash brownies, drinks some Tequila and gets down to the Go-Gos...
The weirdest thing about The Forbidden Zone is perhaps how gosh darn much everyone involved believed in it. Herve Villechaize not only sunk his pay back into the film, he painted the freaking sets. (Only the part below the wainscotting. Ba-zing!) Many others also played multiple roles both in front of and behind the camera. I'm not sure what inspired such dedication, except for the fact that The Forbidden Zone looks like it was a fuck of a lot of fun to make.