Forbidden Zone (1980) | Step into the Sixth Dimension with Richard and Danny Elfman’s musical fantasy

Forbidden Zone poster

Danny Elfman is best known for his many film and TV scores – from Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands to the annoyingly catchy Desperate Housewives theme tune – but did you know he started his music career in a 1970s/1980s synth band alongside his brother, Richard? The band was Oingo Boingo, whose fusion of new wave synth pop and ska, bizarre stage show antics and surreal music videos earned them a legion of fans amongst the alternative crowd. Forbidden Zone, the band’s 1982 feature-length experimental music video, is a fantastical, surreal oddity that may not have set the box office alight, but has certainly earned cult status of the past 30 years. So much so, that Richard Elfman is currently working on a sequel (check it out here).

Forbidden Zone (1982)

Taking its cue from The Wizard of Oz, the black and white musical fantasy [my pics are from the colourised version] follows the misadventures of the Hercules family who discover a door to the Sixth Dimension in their home. This world of cardboard and paper sets is ruled over by the diminutive King Fausto (played by Fantasy Island’s Herve Villechaize) and his Amazonian-like queen, Doris (played by cult legend Susan Tyrrell). When Fausto falls for the Hercules’ daughter Frenchy and locks her up, the jealous Doris sets out to take her revenge. Meanwhile, the Hercules family head into the Sixth Dimension to rescue their own…

Forbidden Zone (1982)

Drawing inspiration from German Expressionism and old Betty Boop cartoons, The Three Stooges and David Lynch’s Eraserhead, The Forbidden Zone is a crazy mish-mash of ideas that’s a bit hit-and-miss. But the score helps seals the cracks. Alongside the music of old-time favourites Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Josephine Baker, the Elfman-penned tunes offer a hint at great things to come (I could here the Beetlejuice theme at one point). But my favourite remains Witch’s Egg (actually co-written by Tyrrell), an insanely brilliant psychedelic number that calls to mind Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.

In the UK, Forbidden Zone got a HD makeover in 2012 and was released on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, which included the colourised version as an extra.

Watch Danny Elfman as Satan in this clip from the film.

Watch Susan Tyrell perform Witch’s Egg from the film.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on April 26, 2014, in Cult classic, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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