Forbidden Zone (1980)

The Forbidden Zone
Forbidden Zone

Forbidden Zone (1980)

A few years back I ran across a description of a movie directed by Richard Elfman called Forbidden Zone, which was described as “a deliriously insane world of frog butlers, topless princesses, machine-gun toting school teachers, chicken boys and the devil himself (Danny Elfman), all ruled by the lascivious midget King Fausto (Herve Villechaize – Tattoo on FANTASY ISLAND) and his deranged Queen (Susan Tyrrell).”   Wow.  Researching a bit more, I found that Film Threat had called Forbidden Zone “the Citizen Kane of Underground Movies.”  Loving cheesy movies as I do, this sounded like something right up my alley so I looked it up on Netflix and moved it right to the top of the queue.

When it arrived, I immediately popped it in, anticipating some cheesy movie goodness.  Some 73 minutes later I sat upon the couch dazed and slack-jawed, not quite able to comprehend what I had just seen, my mind still trying to process the chaotic mess of a movie I had witnessed.  It was black & white.  It was a musical. It had the Kipper Kids performing “Bim Bam Boom.”  It was hard to follow at times.  I’ve seen grade school plays with better sets (and better actors, for that matter).  In fact, it was so beyond low budget and cheesy, I had actually spent most of the movie with my thumb hovering over the stop button on the remote, ready to call it quits, but not quite ready to pull the plug.  Like a horrific car accident, I could not bring myself to look away, and had actually managed to watch the entire thing.  Still in a state of shock, I sealed the disk back up in its red envelope and dropped it in the mailbox, sending it back to scar somebody else.

A couple of days later, however, I caught myself humming songs from Forbidden Zone.  A bit of “Bim Bam Boom” here, a line from  “Squeezit the Moocher” there…  I just couldn’t get it out of my head.  Random bits of dialog would filter up out of my subconscious, snippets of songs suddenly stuck in my head from out of nowhere, and for no good reason.  A full week after seeing it, I found myself browsing Ebay and Amazon, looking for a copy for sale, and not quite sure why.  Even as I added it to my cart and checked out, I couldn’t believe I was ordering a copy.  Looking back, I know now.  It was the music, the damned music!  Because of the oddball mix of rock, funk and old jazz standards, Forbidden Zone had worked its way into my psyche, and there was no getting rid of it

“MEMORABLE MUSIC is music you hear once and are marked for life. Like an itch in your head you need to scratch, you must go buy it…or at least you crave hearing it again.”  -Director Richard Elfman

Once I had a copy in my hands, I began to watch all the extras that I skipped when I had watched it the first time.  I learned all about The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (the musical theater troupe), and how they became just Oingo Boingo (the rock band), and just why they were in the movie in the first place; indeed, I learned this movie was made because of The Mystic Knights and would not have existed at all without them and co-founder Richard Elfman.  I watched the commentary with Richard Elfman and Matthew Bright, and felt the sheer joy they had while making this film, and all the while it worked its way deeper into my soul.

“This is the worst movie I have ever watched.  Twice.”  -Stark Raving Reviewer Darrell Hayhurst

As often happened back then, I began to talk about this movie with the fellas at work.  Since I worked at the time with several like-minded individuals, their interest was piqued.  I had major reservations, though, about actually recommending the movie to anyone, but it was too late by this point.  I had talked it up so much that it was going to be seen, by God, so I might as well be the one to loan it to them.  The first victim was fellow Stark Raving Reviewer Darrell Hayhurst.  I loaned him the DVD with the caveat that my loaning the disk to him was in no way to be construed as a recommendation that he actually watch it.  When he returned it the next day, he uttered a line that will stay with me forever: “This is the worst movie I have ever watched.  Twice.”  He had actually watched it twice in a row in a single sitting.  Now there were two of us at work going on about Forbidden Zone, and the others were drawn in, like moths to the flame.  They too are now converts, most having found themselves trolling the Internet at odd hours of the night, hoping to find a copy of Forbidden Zone for sale, all the while wondering why, exactly, they were doing so.

“You win.”  -My friend Bob, after watching Forbidden Zone at one of his semi-regular “Bad Movie Nights.”

I will be the first to warn you: Forbidden Zone is racist, misogynistic, cheesy, low budget, poorly acted, slightly obscene, sometimes violent, always amateurish, creepy and oh-so weird.  It’s also full of catchy musical numbers, offbeat characters, quirky charm and gave the world its first glimpse at the film scoring genius of Danny Elfman.  Oh, and it also happens to be the best movie ever!  Give it a watch, and you too may find yourself suddenly exclaiming,  “Ooh!  Do I detect a rumba?” right before launching into “Bim Bam Boom.”  Good stuff.  And if you find yourself on the Internet at 2:00 AM purchasing a copy, you’ll know why.  It’s the music, that damned music!

About the Author

Stark Raving Reviewer Charles Wilhelm is best known for his life-long inability to finish anything he st