Friday, May 11, 2012

Forbidden World

Forbidden World (aka Mutant)
Allan Holzman

This review was co-written with Joshua S. Sterns, author of 'Winter's Riddle', an ongoing pulp fantasy adventure he is writing over at: Head on over and check it out.

Joshua S. Sterns: Veteran space guy Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) begins his space day in the usual manner: being awoken from cryosleep by an incomprehensible robot because food raiders are attacking to the sounds of classical music.

Glitter Godzilla: Cryosleep apparently cause a couple of ice chips to sit on your forehead and a profound lack of urgency as you saunter to the bridge during an attack by half a dozen enemy ships.  Colby’s robot buddy, SAM-104 (Dan Olivera), is easily the more competent and personable of the two, so of course he has to be sidelined for pretty much the entire movie.

JS: For instance, SAM’s not the one distracted by the sudden flash forward to the rest of the movie which besets Colby shortly after waking, a churning flicker of blood and boobs.  All too typical really, humans.

Thus begins ‘Forbidden World’, an ‘Alien’ knockoff of uneven grandeur and a lot of blood.  Specific scenes still haunt my sanity some days after viewing.  It’s a fine film in the tradition of schlocky sci-fi horror, shining at times with the light of special effect suns stolen from other films.  There’s some remarkable work here, the sets are nice, camera work engaging and the editing, both enlightened and giddy.

GG:  I always manage to get this title confused with Galaxy of Terror.  They both have a lot in common, with Roger Corman producing from an ‘Alien’ (1979) blue print in terms of visuals and plot. ‘Galaxy of Terror’ approaches being a good movie, but ‘Forbidden World’ somehow manages to be the way more sleazy of the two, despite not being the one with a giant caterpillar rape scene.

JS: There’s also the reused space-battle footage from ‘Battle Beyond the Stars,’ (1980) which I suppose merits some praise on the basis of economy…

GG: That ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ footage made it way into several Corman produced science-fiction movies. I’m almost more surprised when I don’t see it in one of his movies from this era. Watching a clean, well framed print does wonders for ’Forbidden Planet’. For all its flaws, it looks good. Especially considering it was made for only a million dollars.  Still, there’s some trouble right from the start.

If the five minute long opening choppy space battle with no context doesn’t give you pause, then seeing one of the story credits going to Jim Wynorski, the man who’s writing credits include such classics as, Deathstalker II (1987), House IV (1992), and The Bare Wench Project (2000) and has directed exactly one good movie ever, Chopping Mall (1986), should give you quite a bit of pause.

JS: Colby sleepily survives the initial rerun space battle and finds his course diverted towards a settlement on Xarbia, an inhospitable world just ripe for some scientists to set-up a poorly secured, ethically challenged research facility where they can play god and doesn’t afraid of anything.  Ostensibly this is to relieve a galactic food crisis, but eh.

After meeting predictably stuffy head researcher Dr. Gordon Hauser(Lindon Chiles) and predictably attractive Dr. Barbara Glaser(June Chadwick), Colby is introduced to the room of dead animals.  The culprit, a food experiment gone awry, has already locked itself up in the incubator where it has spun itself a cocoon wherein it may fully cogitate on the plot.  One would think this might mean the end, since it would be easy enough to poison the critter right then, but here beings the long series of intensely stupid assumptions which enable the rest of the movie.  The best part is that you won’t care.  Actually, you’ll be glad, since it allows for the mayhem which follows.

GG: Calling this movie Forbidden Planet is a bit of a misnomer, very little is done out on the planet, it would have more accurate to call it, Forbidden Hallway and a Couple of Forbidden Rooms. It is pretty amazing to watch everyone willfully pretend that the genetic mutation that killed every animal in lab is somehow a thing that can be studied without any sort of precautions what so ever. I also love the fact that the lab is a bloody mess with broken glass and bits of lab animals strewn about everywhere and this at no point seems to concern anyone very much. Even the guy cleaning up seems pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.

JS:  They do get to go out and see that bit of rock which where Captain Kirk fights the Zorn in Star Trek.  They must put on respirators to venture out on the surface, the reason being that people will giggle themselves to death out there.  Not joking.

Now, as a writer I find myself constantly menaced by fears that what I’m putting to pen will seem silly, pointless, boring or just plain dumb.  So when I watch something like Forbidden World I find great envy in the feckless abandon with which the plot assaults the senses.  I dream of writing elegance, such as how the lowly janitor lifts the easy to access window of the incubator in order to get a closer look at the probable death machine or the reason why it’s dangerous to breath the planet’s atmosphere.  I thrash in my sleep hoping to conceive brilliance akin to the scene where Dr. Glaser attempts to make contact with the increasingly intelligent rubber prop.

GG:  Once we get under way, the film does some intense foot-dragging. Mostly, we wait around for the monster to wake up and are forced to watch Colby bone his way through the female population of the laboratory. At least we can watch Fox Harris act circles around everyone else with his quirky and ultimately heart breaking performance as Dr. Timbergen.

JS: Quality bits, and there are many, such as Dr. Timbergen, give the movie its soul.  Jaw-dropping moments are strung together by some really inspired camera work.  A naked woman’s form is obscured by protoplasm from the creature oozing over the window to her room.  A researcher calmly contemplates the monster’s first victim as it lives on, brain dead, its skinless skull writhing in the jellied flesh of its transmogrified body.

GG:  That moment of contemplation is possibly my favorite scene in the film, I found it to be a moment of actual horror, and surprisingly there are a number of effective ones throughout the film. Especially notable is one character’s gruesome and somewhat sexual death, and another’s self-directed vivisection.

JS: Yeah, there are many great moments, but that doesn’t mean the film is a masterwork.  Perhaps the most developed scene is the quintuple-cut love/voyeur/murder/mourning/dude playing space clarinet music video which flash edits itself into the middle.  It feels like filler with a side of red herring.

GG: It is a marvelously well edited and directed film, Holzman knows how to keep most of the talky scenes (and there are a lot of them) flowing with a lot of handheld work.  The aforementioned sex montage is silly but it is attempt to keep things fresh. Ultimately it’s one of the things I really enjoy about this movie. Despite it being a knock off film made on the cheap, there is a lot of passion put into it and it shows.

JS: I find myself not wanting to spoil this film’s surprises for any possible new viewers and this is probably the best praise I can give it.  The few boring parts are peculiar enough to keep you watching, and the outrageous twists and turns are frequent and varied, much like the polychromatic fluids which often gush through a scene.

GG: Like any good low budget horror movies, there is a lot of texture to enjoy here. You can appreciate it merely as a b-movie with lots of blood, boobs and rubber monsters.  But you can also see a lot of creativity resulting from limited means. If it has any major flaw for me, it could have taken itself just a bit less seriously.

JS: I guess, but it makes me wonder.  I wonder about that strange premonitory vision at the start of the movie.  You know, the flash-edited mass revealing the mostly naked future of the film.  Well, that is an important mystery which is never really touched upon, though it does have a reprise near the end.  Because it would be too easy to dismiss it as a mere stylistic flourish by the director, or a way of padding the film for time, I propose it represents the simulation which governs the universe of ‘Forbidden Planet’ being switched on, progressing through the script to check for errors.  Just saying.

 GG: If you haven’t seen it, I’d give it a look. It’s not a film that’s going to require much brainpower to view but it has a certain slimy charm. Shout Factory has put out a very nice looking print on both DVD and Blu-Ray, so even if you are familiar with it, seeing it in probably the best presentation it’s ever going to get is worth it as well.

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