Sunday, November 18, 2012

Forbidden World

1982 ***1/2

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my humble opinion that our collective pokings into the dark corners of the labyrinthian Horrorverse serve no higher purpose than the discovery of movies like this one. As I deliver the word of its mighty coexisting goodness and badness, picture me defying gravity, riding on a cheap pleather beanbag chair and showering you with handfulls of crunchy Cheetos, for that is the low-rent magic of Forbidden World.

I had seen this once before, catching it on cable back when I had time to read the entire monthly Cable Guide and schedule viewings of every single movie whose written description included the italicized word "nudity" at the end. I revisited it this year partially because it's another Alien knockoff but mostly because my favorite detail: seeing Tommy the evil boyfriend from Valley Girl get his face eaten off.

I wasn't surprised to discover that this is another Roger Corman cheapo 80s sci-fi romp, just like Galaxy of Terror from the previous year. I sensed a similarity between those films only a few minutes in, as the Dickensian sub-themes were once again presented in the early Russian mode, but with Platonic overtones. Ha ha! I mean because they used some of the same sets. Like this one.

Our hero: an 80s version of 60s William Shatner, but with the sex appeal of present day William Shatner

Our story opens with space dude Mike Colby being awakened from hypersleep by his trusty robot. His blinky twitchings are intercut with a strobed montage of unfamiliar images that will turn out to be scenes from later in the movie. We'll see this montage again at the end of the movie, to remind us. That's how good it is. That's how bad it is.

There immediately follows the most incomprehensible space battle I have ever had the priviledge to confusedly squint at. Apparently it's a mishmash of footage from Battle Beyond the Stars, intercut with Mike Colby barking orders and nonsensical readouts on various monitors. It's kind of like watching ballet, but if the performers were blindfolded and obliged to carry bowling balls as they dance. Clumsy but still fun to watch.

Mike Colby is billed as the "top troubleshooter in the federation," and after completing his morning space battle he answers a summons to the distant planet Xarbia, there to assist an isolated scientific research lab because apparently the entire female population (both of them) are wearing too much clothing. And also they made something that ate all their lab animals and then cocooned itself in the incubator.

"Well Dr. Glaser, the interesting problem is all under control."

The transition from cocoon to roving alien practically had me doing couch somersaults, it delighted me so. After they show Mike Colby the lab full of ripped-apart lab animals (between this and those bunnies, my Horrorthon has been rough on lab animals), the Scientist In Charge has Tommy from Valley Girl come in to clean them up, and also to keep his eye on the cocoon.

"That techno-rock I listen to is gutless."

Tommy goes for a closer look at the cocoon, and reveals that his employers' quarantine protocols make Prometheus look like Andromeda Strain. Because the high-tech incubator in which these scientists grow their genetic experiments is equipped with a cat door. Tommy sees the cocoon pulsating and calls his boss, propping the door open. The Scientist in Charge sends Tommy's girlfriend Tracy to the lab to see what he's talking about. "And call me immediately if there's anything to see," he says, adding thoughtfully "I'd hate to miss something." You could loudly ask the man on the screen why he doesn't go himself then, as I did, but his delivery is just so damn sincere. He really would hate to miss something.

Meanwhile some gunk has oozed from the cocoon and a piece of liver with four suckers is oozing its way up the side of the glass wall. Tommy watches, then notices the open cat door, thinks "hmm, maybe I should close that," and oh-so-deftly goes to silently close it... almost... just about closed...

Ah, well.

At this point I'll take a moment to note that at times Forbidden World boasts a script much, much smarter than it needs to be, which is something I noticed in 1993's Carnosaur, another Corman production. The research center exists because the planet Xarbia has a native bacteria called Proto B which is the planet's only life form, feeding on its own dead in a perfectly closed system. The scientists have been splicing Proto B with various genes in the hopes of solving the interplanetary food shortage. As Tommy's body lies in the lab, it's soon discovered to be in a state of metamorphasis, breaking down into self-replicating masses of simple proteins the hyrbid animal can use as food.

See what I mean? It's shlock horror with a better brain than several movies I've seen that had much better production values. Of course when I say the script is smart at times the key words there are "at times." Let's not get crazy. It also features a girl-on-girl naked backrub shower scene when Dr. Barbara Glaser comforts the grieving Tracy, and the scientists observing the Tommy-turning-into-monster-food phenomenon just leave everything lying around as it replicates all over the floor.


I gave this three and a half stars, because I like to place all the movies I watch somewhere on the same scale. On basic movie quality, however, it could earn as low as two (but not from me), and were I to slap on a separate So Bad It's Good rating it would get a four and a half easy. Roger Corman's work is known for being cheap and derivative, but he's well-liked because he never shirks in his role as an entertainer and he knows what is fun to watch and what isn't. Watch it alone, watch it with friends, I really can't recommend this movie enough.


Catfreeek said...

Sounds like a blast, great review.

JPX said...

Damn, Octo, you just have a way of making bad movies sound like must-watch! Your description of the space battle is interesting. It’s almost like Corman watch Star Wars and sort of thought, “All I have to do is have a bunch of spaceships zip through space and shoot lasers, it doesn’t have to make any logistical sense because people won’t even notice”. Its stuff like this that makes me appreciate the amazing choreography in the Star Wars films – someone paid attention!

I love the space/monster/horror genre that you chose this year! You have done a wonderful job cataloging some great (and not so great) stuff! At some point we are going to have to create a spreadsheet on Horrorthon that enables us to search out genres.

“It's kind of like watching ballet, but if the performers were blindfolded and obliged to carry bowling balls as they dance.” Best line of the week.

I love that first picture!

AC said...

SBIG is all i need to hear. don't know if i can wait till next year to watch it.

Traveller28 said...

I have a real soft spot for this one - like Xtro, not perfect but entertaining.