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Film / Forbidden Zone

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You have been warned.

Forbidden Zone is a 1980 musical fantasy comedy film directed and written by Richard Elfman and Matthew Bright (who would later direct Freeway), created to be a last hurrah for his performance art troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo before Elfman's brother Danny reformed them as a successful New Wave and Ska band.

The plot revolves around a normal family, the Hercules, who move into a suburban home, of which the basement has a door to the strange Sixth Dimension. They avoid it but when the eldest daughter returns from her studies in France, curiosity attracts her to investigate. Heavily inspired by Cab Calloway, Betty Boop cartoons and Underground Comics.

The film is groundbreaking for being the first Danny Elfman–composed soundtrack for (no surprise considering his brother is the director/screenwriter, his brother's wife is the protagonist, and their father and grandfather are both characters). Danny himself plays the devil while the rest of the original Oingo Boingo band (when it was known as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo) are here as his minions. The ensemble cast also include a post-Fantasy Island Hervé Villechaize and pre-Cry-Baby Susan Tyrell.

It had a huge influence on both Tim Burton and Paul Reubens, who first met while working on Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The decision was quickly made to base much of their film's visuals on Forbidden Zone, and to hire Danny to write the score. The rest is history.

A sequel is on its way: Forbidden Zone 2: Forbidden Galaxy. Here's a trailer: the Princess (now Princess Polly) has apparently taken the helm and is taking the offensive to conquer Earth. Richard and Danny are both involved, as are Ego Plum and the Monster Man crew.

Forbidden Zone includes examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Squeezit and René's mother is a drunken serial girlfriend who treats Squeezit like a punching bag.
    • Considering Fausto and Doris are the parents of The Princess, they count.
  • Adults Dressed as Children: All the children are played by adults.
  • Alphabet Song: One of the film's musical numbers is "Alphabet Song", a politically incorrect parody of The Three Stooges song "Swingin' the Alphabet".
  • Ambiguous Gender: Whether René is a girl or a boy in drag is a topic of argument, and René never gives a definite answer. Complicating matters is the moment where René has menstrual cramps despite that being biologically impossible (Though in fairness, the text card says they're pseudo cramps).
  • And You Were There: Doris is played by the same actress as René and Squeezit's mother.
  • Animal Motifs: Squeezit with chickens.
  • Ass Shove: Doris straps Frenchy to a table and attempts to give her "40,000 volts in her caboose" with an electrified dildo! Yowtch!
  • Astral Projection: Squeezit's mother beats him so badly that he's able to leave his body and see his sister trapped in the Sixth Dimension.
  • Atlantis: Ruins of Greek columns and a temple with the banner "Atlantis Dept. of Public Works" are seen underground in the initial animation.
  • Bad Girl Song: "Witch's Egg" is Doris singing about various people she slept with.
  • Banana Peel: Pa slips on one and gets captured shortly after entering the Zone.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Three of Fausto's concubines who stand around eating bananas.
  • Black Comedy Rape: A Running Gag is made from the characters randomly humping extras while exchanging casual dialogue.
  • Blackface: A character seen briefly at the start (and in a throwaway gag near the middle) is a slumlord and crack dealer played by a man in blackface; there are several others in bit parts throughout, done for comedic shock value.note 
    • Exaggerated by having one of Satan's minions be a black actor wearing blackface.
  • Camp: Holy crap, where to begin?
  • Cat Fight: Between Doris and the Ex-Queen, complete with meowing noises.
  • Chew Toy: Squeezit to a ridiculous extent. Originally the scene when his father beats him while his mother laughs was going to be ten minutes long and the weird scene when he was going to say the Pledge of Allegiance actually was going to have him castrated.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land: The Sixth Dimension. Reality isn't very normal in this film, though.
  • Cool Gate: The entrance to the Sixth Dimension looks like a mouth painted on the wall. The other end looks like a giant, black anus.
  • Cool Old Guy: Gramps, who's a very capable fighter despite his age.
  • Cover Version: About a third of the songs are covers of 1930's songs, especially those by Cab Calloway.
    • And later, Danny would create a somewhat re-arranged version of the title song to use as Dilbert's opening theme.
      • According to an interview later on, he said he had nothing to do with that, and was surprised to hear that they had done so.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: The film has two major moments, both Shout Outs to the Co-Trope Makers Fleischer Brothers:
    • The first is "Behind Them Doors (Some of These Days)", where Papa is warning Frenchy and Flash about the Sixth Dimension in their basement (for bonus points, he lip-syncs to Calloway's "Some of These Days" midway through). A stop-motion transition also establishes how bonkers the Sixth Dimension is.
    • The second is later when Flash employs Squeezit's help. When he sets foot in the Sixth Dimension, Squeezit is captured almost immediately by Satan, who proceeds to sing a key-changed and lyrically modified version of "Minnie the Moocher" called "Squeezit the Moocher".
  • Crowd Song: "Pico & Sepulveda", "Queen's Revenge", "Alphabet Song" and "Finale".
  • Deal with the Devil: Squeezit has to do one in order to save René and Frenchy.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Well, maybe not deliberately. Richard Elfman intended the black-and-white footage to be colorized by hand, but found it would be too costly to pull off; it's since been digitally colorized by Legend Films.
  • Dem Bones: All over in the initial animation.
  • Deranged Animation: The intro and the sequences to the Sixth Dimension.
  • Dimension Lord: King Fausto rules the Sixth Dimension.
  • Disney Villain Death: Doris, complete with a priceless "why?" expression.
  • Distant Duet: "Queen's Revenge".
  • Divine Date: Doris claims to have slept with God and The Devil and laughs at God being shyer than a flower.
  • Down the Butt Hole: The only way to reach to the Sixth Dimension.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Hercules family were based on one that the Elfmans grew up next door to.
    • Fausto, Doris and The Princess would probably count.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The most normal character is the wife-beating Norwegian-accented tarpit-working patriarch.
  • Ear Ache: René's ear is cut off and eaten by the frog.
  • Equal-Opportunity Offender: Not a single ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation is presented positively in this film.
  • Erotic Eating: Lampshaded and averted with a Polish sausage.
  • Evil Feels Good: A dying Doris asks Fausto why being bad feels so good.
  • Expressive Uvula: After getting captured by Squeezit, the princess of the Sixth Dimension is being held hostage by the Devil and The Mystic Knights of the Ooingo Boingo. She screams as the camera zooms into her mouth, showing her uvula has the face of the devil on it.
  • Forbidden Zone: In the title. It's another name for the Sixth Dimension and Frenchy's parents forbid her from going there. She does anyway.
  • Galactic Conqueror: In the climax, Fausto declares that he's going to take over the galaxy.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: The first person Gramps and Flash meet in the Sixth Dimension has read about Gramps' wrestling career in the paper.
    "Killer Rosenblatt, the famous Jewish wrestler!"
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The main antagonist is Queen Doris. She attempts to murder Frenchy when she suspects Fausto takes an interest with her.
  • Gratuitous French: Susan B. 'Frenchy' Hercules and Fausto.
  • Groin Attack: The frog manservant gets this a lot. Naturally, he's named "Bust Rod".
  • Handicapped Badass: Gramps is deaf.
  • Hat of Flight: Flash constantly wears a propeller beanie which he actually uses to fly the ex-queen out of her cell.
  • Hell Gate: The portal in the basement. Squeezit meets the devil down there so the sixth dimension might actually be Hell.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Satan calls the Princess his "whore-stage", grabs one of her breasts and begins licking her ear. Naturally, she screams.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Queen Doris
  • In the Style of: Fleischer Bros. and early Warner Bros. cartoons.
  • Jukebox Musical: Played with. A lot of the music is derived from old 30's jazz standards, but the lyrics are completely reworked to fit the plot.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Ruth Henderson and her sailor boyfriend had got away with mistreating Squeezit.
    • The devil and the Mystic Knights of The Oingo Boingo never got punished for cutting of Squeezit's head, as well as the threatening to kill the princess.
  • Large Ham: Queen Doris of the Sixth Dimension.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Invoked with Hervé Villechaize playing King Fausto.
  • The Movie: Sort of. Richard Elfman conceived the film as a sort of "greatest hits" for the original Mystic Knights performance troupe once he decided to move on from it and become a filmmaker, at which point Danny would reform them as the now-famous rock band. Many scenes were extracted from the troupe's live act.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Princess runs around the entire film topless. Can't get much more fanservice-y than that.
    • Fanservice Extra: Peppered throughout are some other women, who are also topless.
    • Mr. Fanservice: Satan, by default of being the only guy in the cast who is neither dressed ridiculously or made up to look extremely ugly.
  • Musicalis Interruptus;
  • Named After Somebody Famous: King Fausto and Susan B. Hercules.
  • The Napoleon: King Fausto.
  • No Body Left Behind: Anybody who Doris shoots with her Ray Gun turns into dust.
  • No OSHA Compliance: La Brea Tar Pit Factory. The tar is so volatile that a cigarette in one of the pools can blow up the whole factory. There are "No-Smoking" signs, but nobody enforces them.
  • No, You: When Squizzit corrects Frenchy that his twin brother, Rene, is actually his sister. Flash tells that Rene only acts like a girl and a faggot. Squizzit tells Flash, "You're the faggot."
  • Off with His Head!: Squeezit's ultimate fate. Given that he's associated with chickens, he survives.
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • Retraux: Heavily styled on old 30's cartoons.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: The Princess doesn't seem to be under any pressure to cover her breasts.
  • Shout-Out: The whole Satan sequence is one to the Betty Boop Minnie the Moocher cartoon, as well as Bimbo's Initiation (when Squeezit opens a door and gets punched in the face by a waiting boxer).
  • Sinister Nudity: The evil Princess serves as a Torture Technician for her mother and spends most of the movie haughtily strutting around in little more than panties and stockings.
  • Situational Sexuality: The Queen originally looked for a wife because her father told she was too mean for a man. She then started looking for a husband because she couldn't find a wife.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Despite being prominently featured, Satan is only around for one musical number, and doesn't have any speaking lines (all his lines are sung). In said scene, he orders Squeezit to kidnap the Princess, which is what kicks off Fausto's Heel Realization.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Pa singing a joyful cover of "Pico & Sepulveda" with a chorus of men while going to their crappy job at La Brea Tar Pit Factory. With a little bit of Lyrical Dissonance thrown in: "Where nobody's dreams... come... true!"
  • The Speechless: Gramps and Bust Rod.
  • Spiteful Spit: In "Witch's Egg", the Queen mentions she spat in her father's eye when she was 13.
  • Spoiled Brat: The Princess, and to a lesser extent, Frenchy.
  • Stealth Parody: The copious amounts of shameless racism was meant as a Take That! towards supposedly-progressive Hollywood films made after the Civil Rights movement which still casted minorities in stereotypical roles. Richard Elfman felt that, if his film was going to be offensive, he may as well not apologize.
  • Stuffed into a Trashcan: How Flash and Frenchy first find Squeezit outside the school.
  • Synchro-Vox: Used briefly during the "Bim Bam Boom" musical number; the young boy who played the Princess's "pet" successfully lip-synched the vocals in rehearsal, but became nervous and froze when cameras were rolling. Richard Elfman's solution was to loop usable footage from his spoiled performance (most evident when paying close attention to the Kipper Kids in the background, who are clearly moving forward then in reverse), and superimpose the lips of Matthew Bright, who played Squeezit. The visual style of the film is so bizarre that this odd scene just... works.
  • Table Space: The King and Queen, and a human chandelier over them.
  • Take Over the World: Fausto declares that he's going to take over the galaxy at the end.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: The Queen wakes up to find Fausto saying "Harder. Frenchy! Harder!". Cue horrified expression.
  • Those Two Guys: The Kipper Kids, semi-famous performance artists who appear both in and out of the Sixth Dimension as a pair of grunting boxers and pug-nosed twin sisters, respectively.
  • Throne Made of X: Fausto and Doris have a pile of huge dice as a throne.
  • Title Drop: The opening song, as well as being another name for the Sixth Dimension.
  • Tongue-Out Insult: Susan B. "Frenchy" Hercules sticks out her tongue when her father forbids her from going down the basement and into the Sixth Dimension. She sticks her tongue at the Princess after locking her up in Cell 63.
  • Twin Telepathy: The Henderson twins.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Johnny fatally shoots Billy in the classroom for cheating at cards, and gets into a protracted gunfight with the teacher, who presumably kills him with the machine gun she keeps under her desk. Both of them still somehow come to class the next day.
  • Villain Song: "Witch's Egg" and "Queen's Revenge" by Doris, and "Squeezit the Moocher" by Satan.
    • Amplified by the fact that the late Susan Tyrrell (who played Doris) actually co-wrote "Witch's Egg".
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Gramps, at the lunch early on.
  • Wacky Homeroom: School is something else, complete with eccentric classmates, some of whom are 1970s style blaxploitation gangsters, and a teacher armed with a machine gun for those who step out of line.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: When Frenchy and Flash dive through the school window, breaking glass can be heard even though the window is made from paper.
    • The Princess can make honking sounds by squeezing her boobs.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: The Queen's breasts are frequently popping out of her already too-small dress, albeit unintentionally.
  • Watch It Stoned: For some, the only way to understand ANY of it is to partake in it with some kind of outside influence...
  • Weirdness Censor: Do you have a gate to other dimensions in your basement? Just ignore it, and tie up Grandpa to make sure he doesn't fall in.
  • Whale Egg: The Queen sings about being born from a witch's egg.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Squeezit can talk with chickens, which gives him the confidence to become a hero... well, not without its consequences.
    • The chickens also pledge to help him any way they can - but, as everyone knows, chickens can't really do anything.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser / Depraved Homosexual: Squeezit's "sister" René.
    "The queen said she was going to ream us with ten-inch cattle prods... and I'm still waiting!"
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Squeezit.