Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Forbidden World (USA, 1982)

"Welcome to the Garden of Eden. We play God here."
Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris)

(Spoilers — as if it matters.) New World Pictures, how we miss them. Founded by Roger Corman and his underappreciated brother Gene Corman (24 Sept 1927 – 28 Sept 2020) in 1970, the first film that they distributed, the biker film Angels Die Hard (1970 / trailer, with R.G. Armstrong), was the first of innumerable hits of what was to become an exploitation-film powerhouse and breeding grounds for future filmmakers and shakers.
During the Corman years, NWP produced dozens of anti-classics and exploitation masterpieces and disasterpieces, and the firm really didn't lose all that much steam after Roger sold the company in 1983 for $16.9 million — which would be $59,773,925.70 today. (Like everything, NWP was eventually swallowed by Disney. It's gone respectable, regretably.) The list of films we like that NWP had their fingers in goes on forever, and amidst that long list is this movie here, Forbidden World, which, at the risk of revealing how low our balls sag, we actually caught at a movie theatre — the Palace on Broadway in LA — when it first came out.*
We find it interesting to note that when we saw the film back then, we thought the actress Dawn Dunlap a wet dream and the actress June Chadwick (below) over the hill; now, when watching the film we register Chadwick as hot and Dunlap as way too young to take seriously.
Like so many Corman productions, the roots of Forbidden World are as low as can be expected. It is, like so many "fine" films from across the world around that time — Contamination (1980 / trailer), Alien 2: On Earth (1980 / trailer), The Being (1981 / trailer), Galaxy of Terror (1981 / trailer), Parasite (1982 / trailer), The Deadly Spawn (1983 / trailer), Scared to Death (1983 / trailer), Creature (1985 / trailer) — little more than an unruly, bastard child of Ridley Scott's Alien (1979 / trailer). And as unruly, bastard children are apt to be, it is a lot of fun, if definitely not the wildest or nastiest of the bunch. (Inseminoid a.k.a. Horror Planet [1981 / trailer], anyone?) It is, at best, a guilty pleasure, with the emphasis on pleasure since some aspects of the low budget movie are essentially pretty good.
Trailer to
Forbidden World:

"Then Subject 20 is the result of a genetic splicing between a proto-B bacteria and another organism?"
Colby (Jesse Vint)
The movie's final title, Forbidden World, was pilfered in semi-mockbuster form from a much older seminal classic, Forbidden Planet (1956 / trailer, with Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen); filmed under the working title of Mutant, the science fiction exploitation flick was born by way of Roger Corman's perpetual desire to reuse existing sets, in this case the ones left over from the previous year's Alien-"inspired" Galaxy of Terror. (Designed by James Cameron, back in the day the film came out no one was able to look past the set's use of McDonald's Styrofoam food containers, but nowadays the space station walls look okay — age does wonders sometimes.)
Allan Holzman, an editor on the Corman production Battle Beyond the Stars (1980 / trailer), having gained some [un-credited] directorial experience on Cirio H. Santiago's anti-classic Firecracker a.k.a. Naked Fist (1981 / trailer), managed to finagle the film as his feature film directorial debut.* His background as an editor is rather obvious in Forbidden World, to the film's advantage, among other things bringing an interesting zing to a sex scene and often achieving a good visual rhythm with the movie's equally noteworthy soundtrack.
* Neither of Holzman's subsequent feature directorial jobs, Out of Control (1984 / trailer) and Programmed to Kill (1987 / trailer), were as good as his first film, which might help explain why his directorial career never truly went anywhere. His pay-TV feature Intimate Stranger (1991 / trailer), with a babelicious Debbie Harry, is definitely worth a go, though.
Another name of note who earned his first screen credit on Forbidden World is trash-film director and occasional actor Jim Wynorski (see Vampirella [1996] and Dinocroc vs Supergator [2010]) who, along with his once regular creative bad-film compatriot  R.J. Robertson (24 Oct 1946 – 8 Apr 1994), supplied the story that Tim Curnen (Ghost Warrior [1984 / trailer]) turned into a script. (Unsubstantiated rumor has it that the plot itself was inspired by the early B&W Corman guilty pleasure Attack of the Crab Monsters [1957 / trailer], a film Wynorski has always wanted to remake. Some mild similarities exist, but we await substantiation before we take the hook, line and sinker.)
"This is it, you god-damned dingwhopper."
Earl Richards (Scott Paulin)
The narrative of Forbidden World is hardly complicated, but it is more than enough to make a fun film. To the strains of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, an intergalactic fixer named Mike Colby (Jesse Vint of Pigs [1973 / trailer], Bug! [1975 / trailer], and The Temp [1993 / trailer]) awakens to fight a quick deep-space battle using film stock taken from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) before being sent to the research station on the planet Xarbia to investigate a FUBAR (or, if you prefer, SNAFU) situation. Confronted by a recalcitrant and evasive crew, including the typically supercilious doctor in charge, Dr. Gordon Hauser (Linden Chiles [22 Mar 1933 – 15 May 2013] of Eye of the Cat [1969 / trailer]), and the hot-to-trot Dr Barbara Glaser (June Chadwick of Pete Walker's The Comeback [1978 / trailer], José Ramón Larraz's The Golden Lady [1979 / trailer] and, of course, This Is Spinal Tap [1984 / trailer]), he soon faces an out-of-control genetic mutant, begun as part of an experiment to solve hunger, that starts evolving at an advanced speed and killing the crew off one by one to convert them into food.

"It's planting a garden and we're the seeds."
Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris)
Forbidden World is, in the end, a sci-fi body-counter splatter flicker with a kill count of six, including the mandatory and singular Black character, Brian (Ray Oliver of Child's Play [1988 / trailer]). Spoiler: everyone dies, basically, except Mike the Hero and Tracy (Dawn Dunlap* of Lair's Moon [1981 / trailer, w/Susan Tyrrell] and Barbarian Queen [1985 / trailer]), the sexy nubile written into the film primarily to be naked and scream. (She does a lot on both counts.)
* Ms. Dunlap (seen below wearing sunglasses) left the film industry after Barbarian Queen to marry British billionaire Frank Lowe and become Lady Dawn Lowe. She now moves in circles that you never will.
The film is one of those funky kinds of low-brow grindhouse movies that by no means should be a good film, but nevertheless remains great entertainment. Amusing, cheap and sleazy, it a quick-moving, slime-heavy flick with some nice use of filters, editing, entertaining dialogue and a lot of (real, not plastic) breast. Also, Dr. Barbara Glaser's demise remains one of the most disgustingly memorable of its ilk, and the way the monster is finally defeated remains a ridiculous but creative (and gory) one-off in film history that will make your jaw drop. If the monster looks a bit cheesy despite all its lethal fangs, the human victims mutating into protein pap is amazingly well done and the final "OP" on Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris [3 May 1936 – 27 Dec 1988] of Repo Man [1984 / trailer], Sid and Nancy [1986 / trailer], Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers [1988 / trailer], Alienator [1990 / trailer], Deep Space [1988 / trailer,  with Charles Napier) and Dr. Caligari [1989 / trailer]) does not fail to deliver its visceral goods.
In general, the bloody and slimy and wet effects found in Forbidden World are top notch, and if a few of them show some age they nevertheless are still much more impressive and enjoyable than the crappy, cheap-shit CGI that is the norm in today's genre film industry. (As in space no one can hear PETA, animal testing is en vogue — allegedly, the dead ones you see in the flick were all real, courtesy of a local pound.)
And as mentioned before, the soundtrack supplied by former new wave musician Susan Justin — the director's girlfriend at the time, and now long his ex-wife and a music teacher, whose picture you briefly see onscreen in the film as the deceased Annie — is remarkable: an experimental synth-forerunner that never devolves into the generic electronic tones that were soon to flood the genre. Her intention, as she once said, was that the score should "enter the new realm of electronic music, have the beat of a rock concert and the soul of singer" — and she succeeded. (She even snuck in what we assume is an intentional but to date never called-out reference to the Yardbirds' classic opening riff of For Your Love — but not as part of the film's main theme, which you find further below.)
Susan Justin doing
Forbidden World live:
It's seems like it a shame that Ms. Justin only did two more scores of note — to the slasher Final Terror (1983 / trailer) and Ciro H. Santiago's Stryker (1983 / trailer) — before leaving the biz to eventually become a music teacher. (One only hopes that she went into teaching by preference, and not due to a sexism-based lack of opportunities in the industry.)
Forbidden World is vintage Corman grindhouse entertainment, level B+ if not A-, and well worth watching if you have the chance. Like good cheese, it goes well with beer and chips and weed and a group of like-minded individuals, but can nevertheless easily be enjoyed alone. The "extended" English-language German version available out there is a rip-off: it adds to its running time by repeating the opening scene in full at the end but with new dialogue, but actually cuts and shortens some of the movie's more memorable scenes (Dr Barbara Glaser's indelible demise, for example). Stick with the original American release for optimum entertainment value.
In 1991, Roger Corman — as  he is often wont to do — produced a remake of Forbidden World entitled Dead Space (trailer below). We haven't seen it, but going by the trailer the film also reuses footage from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)....
Trailer to
Dead Space (1991):

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