director Richard Elfman
I don’t know how I never managed to see nor really ever heard of Forbidden Zone until a few years ago, as it is a 1980’s cult film extraordinaire. It was directed by Danny Elfman’s older brother, Richard Elfman, who was the founder of the The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, the theater/performance group that would eventually evolve into the 1980’s alternative band. It features Danny Elfman and others from the group and is a madcap guffaw of cartoon id.
Channeling Fleisher brothers’ Betty Boop cartoons, swing jazz of the 1930’s, doses of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus animation, and straight up hallucinatory insanity, this black and white musical comedy is strange and kitsch and all over the place. The Forbidden Zone is entered through a door in a crazy house, the sixth dimension, inhabited by a king (Hervé Villechaize) and his queen (Susan Tyrell), an even more twisted, darker Wonderland. Parts of the film are animated, actually some of the finest parts, but the whole thing is staged on sets right out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) cum 1930’s Looney Tunes. Camp and shtick and kitsch galore.
As much as all that description touches on a myriad of styles and forms that I love, I was surprised that I didn’t like the film more.
Aspects of it a brilliant. It’s kind of brilliant merely in the fact of its creation and being. I certainly can think of nothing remotely like it. It would have been quite the strange delight in the 1980’s.