Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let's Go Bag Ourselves A Dingwhopper

FORBIDDEN WORLD began in a very typical “Roger Corman” manner. Corman’s New World Pictures had just completed filming on a spaceship set built for GALAXY OF TERROR. It was due to be dismantled over the coming weekend, but Corman asked editor Allan Holzman, who had directed second unit on SMOKEY BITES THE DUST and shot new action and nude scenes for FIRECRACKER, if he could write a scene in three days and shoot it on Saturday. Using actor Jesse Vint (MACON COUNTY LINE), a robot costume, and some stock footage from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, Holzman directed and cut together an outer space dogfight. A few months later, using a screenplay by Tim Curnen based loosely on a story by New World marketing whiz Jim Wynorski, Holzman went to work on FORBIDDEN WORLD, using the space battle as the film’s exciting pre-credit sequence.

After the success of GALAXY OF TERROR, Corman wanted yet another ALIEN ripoff, and this one is even sleazier and more entertaining. Space cowboy Mike Colby (Vint) is sent to the planet Xerbia where some scientists are trying to create artificial foodstuffs. Thankfully for exploitation fans, two of them are nubile young ladies (played by future V star June Chadwick and teenaged Dawn Dunlap) who are eager to strip totally nude for love scenes with Vint and a memorable shower scene together.

Somehow, the scientists manage to create a (literally) bloodthirsty creature consisting of both human and alien DNA, which proceeds to bump off the tiny cast one at a time, usually by eating them with its sharp teeth. The sets and special effects were obviously created on a very low budget—the hallway walls are clearly made out of Styrofoam McDonald’s containers and cardboard egg cartons—but they’re also imaginative and effectively gruesome. Holzman and Curnen aren’t afraid to be outrageous; blood splashes freely, and the kill scenes are memorable. They also concocted a genuinely clever way to destroy the monster, which I don’t think I’ve seen before or since.

Released overseas under its working title of MUTANT, FORBIDDEN WORLD clocks in at a brisk and bloody 77 minutes, and is a blast all the way through. For decades, home video viewers could only see it in murky, dark pan-and-scan prints, but Shout Factory’s amazing DVD and Blu-ray release is outstanding. Not only does FORBIDDEN WORLD look great—at least, as great as a cheap ‘80s Corman movie could look—but it has received the deluxe treatment from Shout Factory, including a documentary, interviews, original art, and the theatrical trailer.

But the real find is Holzman’s original director’s cut. A skittish Corman had demanded the film’s intentional humor be cut (not that there wasn’t plenty left for audiences to laugh at in 1982), so the new version, which runs only about six minutes longer, contains wry jokes and little character moments that give the movie a little extra appeal. Unfortunately, the director’s cut exists only in a muddy but watchable full-frame version, but Holzman is present with a commentary to put his never-before-seen film in perspective. FORBIDDEN WORLD (seen in the director’s cut as MUTANT) may be a little better in Holzman’s version, but it’s undoubtedly Corman’s punchier preferred version you’ll revisit.

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