Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Forbidden World (1982)

"If it is intelligent, have you thought about trying to communicate with it?"
That's about the stupidest damn idea I've heard all day.  No offense, Barb."

Let;s get one thing straight right way: Allan Holzman's FORBIDDEN WORLD is a work of pure genius. One of my fondest moviegoing memories is going to see  this mangy mutt of a science fiction thriller with a good friend back in 1982 in a theater along with five or six other unsuspecting moviegoers (on a double bill with Paul Schrader's CAT PEOPLE remake, of all things).  We knew we were in for a special experience right from the pre-credits sequence which consists of a flashforward montage of almost every bit of nudity and gore in the film followed by a space  battle made up almost entirely of stock footage from BATTLE BEYOND THE EARTH.  It was at this point that one of my fellow theatergoers, a gentleman sitting a few rows away from us, yelled in his loudest voice, "No wonder it's forbidden, it sucks!"

The film follows interstellar troubleshooter Mike Colby (b-movie veteran Jesse Vint), who is awakened from suspended animation along with his faithful droid companion SAM 104 to investigate some strange goings on at a scientific research station on the plant Xarbia.  It seems that one of their test subjects, Subject 20, has mutated into something angry and hungry.  It seems that Colby's unique view of interspecies relations ("If it moves and it's not one of ours, shoot it") is just the ticket to save the day before the station's crew becomes lunch.

FORBIDDEN WORLD was one of the last of producer Roger Corman's  attempts to cash in on the success of STAR WARS and ALIEN and in my opinion it's clearly the best.  It's missing the saccharin qualities of BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and the pacing issues that plagued GALAXY OF TERROR.  FORBIDDEN WORLD is a lean mean little movie that realizes exactly how ridiculous and unoriginal it is without ever succumbing to the level of parody.  This may not have been intentional since reportedly Corman was unhappy with the amount of humor in the film and forced Holzman to remove almost all of it, the result being that scenes that may have once been played for laughs are now played completely straight, making them even funnier.

There's much to love in this movie including a genuinely good performance by the late Fox Harris as the station's chain-smoking, cancer-ridden head scientist.  Harris specialized in playing oddballs and would later turn up in another '80s classic, REPO MAN, playing the irradiated driver of the car that everyone in the film is chasing after.  Also of note is the final method of disposing of the monster.  I won't spoil it here but suffice it to say that you probably haven't seen anything quite like it before.  From it's nonsensical opening to the philosophical ramblings of SAM 104 ("They switch you off when life is good and switch you back on when they're up to their noses in life's bitter droppings") to the jaw-dropping, bloodsoaked finale, FORBIDDEN WORLD is a joy from start to finish.  I've seen this film more times than can possibly be healthy since that evening at the much missed College Theater in Swarthmore, PA.  I never get tired of it and it always puts a smile on my face when I'm up to my nose in life's bitter droppings.

For more overlooked films and video visit Todd Mason's blog.


  1. Welcome back, Chuck! Someday I'll actually watch this and see if it really is, as you suggest, the OTT thing I caught a few minutes of on cable decades back, but was too tired to keep up with...and, clearly, SAM would be out of 2001 by way of DARK STAR...

  2. Though looking at that German trailer sure does suggest you're right (on all counts). Seems to me like a pretty fitting companion to the CAT PEOPLE remake.

    At least a better fit than when I took my 10yo brother to the Daiei/Holiday Theater in Kailua to see BLADE RUNNER and the b feature was this thing called BODY HEAT...

  3. Not enough nudity... or maybe there is... never heard of this one, but I wonder how available is it?

  4. Damn, now you've made me feel bad for not watching it last time I visited (so many discs, so little time). Remembered it being on a double bill, but thought the other half was Starcrash, I trust your memory over mine, so I'm left wondering what the other half of that bill was. Would make a good double bill with Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity.

    I now owe you an overlooked film....

  5. Todd - The strangest double bill I ever went to was at the TLA on South St back when they still showed movies. One evening they had THE BLUES BROTHERS paired with CALIGULA, which was almost (but not quite) as strange as their double bill of SOPHIE'S CHOICE and IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES.

    Richard -- There's lots of nudity. And it's available in a nice special edition on DVD and blu-ray.

    Brian -- It was definitely CAT PEOPLE. I remember thinking it was kind of a slog after the hyperactivity of FORBIDDEN WORLD. I don't think I ever saw STARCRASH theatrically. We saw SLAVE GIRLS on a double bill with CREEPOZOIDS. Why is it that I can remember this stuff? In any case I'll pull FORBIDDEN WORLD aside the next time you're in town.

  6. Found this cinema in a minute version on youTube: http://youtu.be/pc0vtJUxJfM

  7. Chuck, I wasn't doubting your memory, just the opposite. I didn't think you were with me for Starcrash, but I saw that at a daytime matinee. Definitely can't remember anything about Creepozoids.

  8. Sorry to come back to this yet again. You have me picking over the cinematic bones of my misspent youth. Having seen both the Creepozoids and Slave Girls trailers on youTube, they're unsurprisingly from the same distributor, and I remember nothing about either apart from the nudity and that Ken Dixon stole part of the plot of his opus from one of his favorite stories.

    Watching the scant online material on Forbidden World, which although I've found it's available for rental here in the UK, I'll save for your superior screen, I do remember more of, but what I didn't appreciate until I raided the Wikipedia entry, was why June Chadwick seemed so familiar.... Spinal Tap!

  9. SLAVE GIRLS and CREEPOZOIDS were both released by Charles Band's Urban Classics, a precursor to his Empire Pictures, which released RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and a whole lot of junk. Not surprising, since Ken Dixon also made BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE for Band.

    In addition to playing the Yoko Ono-ish girlfriend in SPINAL TAP, June Chadwick also played one of the evil lizard people in the original incarnation of the V TV series.

  10. At least the duos of CAT PEOPLE and FORBIDDEN WORLD and of BLADE RUNNER and BODY HEAT are of roughly comparable films...I guess if I squint Real Hard, I can see the common ground (or grind) between SOPHIE'S CHOICE and IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES. It would be a tough call between which would be actually funnier, between THE BLUES BROS. and CALIGULA...

    I don't remember what the A feature was at the Kailua Drive-In when my family watched the first ten or so minutes of STARCRASH before giving up. (Kailua Drive-In, in those years at least, ran the "more disposable" film second. THE SILENT PARTNER helped make up for THE SHINING, thus, though my father was queasy about the blood in the former.

    Channel 13, WNET (PBS) in NYC, is putting together some similarly questionable double-

    November 5
    "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) Dir: Robert Aldrich
    Noir with author Mickey Spillane's famous gumshoe Mike Hammer. With Ralph Meeker and Albert Dekker.
    "Hamlet" (2000) Dir: Michael Almereyda
    Ethan Hawke in the title role, set in modern-day NYC.

    November 26
    "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950) Dir: George Sidney
    Sharpshooter Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) joins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and aims to win her man (Howard Keel).
    "Dirty Pretty Things" (2002) Dir: Stephen Frears
    Employees at a posh London hotel investigate a bizarre murder. Starring Audrey Tautou.