The impact and importance of Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien on the sci-fi/horror landscape cannot be overstated. Look at the divisive reaction his kinda-sorta-but-not-really prequel, Prometheus, is eliciting in viewers; Alien still means something to people over 30 years later.
In the years following its release, it also meant a great concept for B-movie producers to rip off. Roger Corman’s New World Pictures made a slew of low-budget knock-offs but none were as ridiculous or as blatant as 1982’s Forbidden World, a movie that brazenly tries to strike fear in its audience via the liberal use of Vaseline and rubber puppets.
So much of Forbidden World makes no sense. For instance, the title. In almost every incarnation, the film’s title is Mutant, which is much more apropos given the story and the creature’s origin. The world is not forbidden at all. How do I know this? Because there are people on it when the lead character arrives. No one ever tells them to leave or mentions why it’d be a good idea for them to leave or that maybe them being there on this world is in any way forbidden. Mutant: it’s about a mutant. Much more accurate. Also inaccurate: the poster. This is the image on the poster for this movie:
As you can see, it shows a crazy winged insectoid creature standing menacingly over a young, bikini-clad woman shackled to the ground. Looks like an interesting movie. This is what we call a “Phony Baloney Lying Poster.” The only thing it sort of gets right is that there are women in the film wearing next to nothing most of the time, though at no point are either of the two women in the film shackled, tied, or otherwise fastened to anything. That is NOT what the alien in the movie looks like. The alien in the movie looks like this:
At any rate, I suppose a proper look at this crazy movie is in order. The basic premise follows interstellar clean-up guy Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) as he is called to a research station on some desert planet where a genetic test has gone wrong. It’s a very straight-forward story befitting a movie that’s only 77 minutes long. Once at the station, he discovers that the test subject, something called a “metamorph,” is metamorphosing and becoming sentient and toothy. One by one, each of the station’s apparently-brilliant scientists and security people get picked off by being incredibly stupid as the creature gets more and more control over the complex. Finally, the last scientist figures out he can use his own cancer to give the mutant cancer and kill it, which is done by having buckets of pink vomit pour out of a large hand puppet.
This film was directed and edited by Allan Holzman, who certainly tried to make a Ridley Scott-esque film. The sets are all nicely designed, despite the obviously low budget, and the lighting is quite cool. Since the monster looks like it was made out of paper mache and garbage bags, Holzman does an interesting thing by showing its POV as it travels through the ceiling, shooting several top-down tracking shots of things. He does, however, over-edit the movie to an almost hilarious extent. The film opens with a cryogenically frozen Colby somehow dreaming about the events that haven’t taken place yet. We see very quick cuts of scenes we’re about to see, including all or most of the nude scenes. Then, during the film’s 80s-tastic sex scene, he again cuts super fast back and forth between the awkwardly-writhing bodies and the guy watching it creepily on the view screen. We’re talking incredibly fast – like, strobe-light fast. And finally, at the end of the film, once the monster’s been dispatched, we get another seizure-causing montage of all the scenes we’d seen already. There is also an incredibly weird Casio keyboard score which takes every scene from silly to amazing.
At the beginning of the film, Colby gets woken up by his robot partner SAM-104, who looks like a short Halo marine with the voice and line-reading skills of a bored 13 year old girl. He is woken up, ostensibly, to help fight off some marauders who are attacking them. What follows is a space battle with some really nice models and some nifty space shots.
The problem is that all of this space footage and ships flying and everything were taken from an earlier Corman production, Battle Beyond the Stars, which Holzman edited. This may not have been noticed by too many filmgoers at the time, but since I absolutely adore Battle Beyond the Stars and own the DVD, these shots stuck out to me like a mutant’s sore tentacle-arm thing. Also, this scene has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the film. In fact, once Colby gets to the base, we never see another spaceship again. But they had the shots so, dammit, they were going to use ‘em!
There are two women in this movie, June Chadwick, who plays Dr. Barbara Glaser, and Dawn Dunlap, who plays Tracy Baxter. These women are both young and very attractive, spend the bulk of the film either naked or wearing very little, and almost always wear impractical high-heeled shoes. From the moment Colby first arrives on the base, both women make googly eyes at him and the first night he’s there, Barbara seduces him and takes him into her quarters for a weirdly-edited body-rubbing exercise that 80s movies passed off as sex scenes. The VERY NEXT SCENE, Tracy, who we’ve seen dress and undress in her quarters a few times already, goes to the sauna to relax in the buff. Colby comes in and the two very nearly get it on themselves. Damn the interference of a mutant. This guy sure gets around. Both women fling themselves on him almost immediately, which must just make the five men already at the base a bit cheesed off.
There is a scene toward the end of the film wherein the ladies discuss how they should handle the mutant, which, despite its appetite and sinister look, has proven to be intelligent. They talk about how the men spend more time arguing about the creature or shooting at it and they don’t really understand it, so it’s up to the women to try to make contact with it. Now, this is all fine and dandy as a scene, but I’m sure Corman and/or Holzman worried it’d be a bit boring so this rational, thoughtful conversation is had in the shower as the women bathe each other. I wish I were kidding.
Forbidden World is one of those amazing bad movies where everything seems to have been done for a reason and at least the intention to be artistic and none of it works. Everything about it screams “We’re doing this to make stupid kids spend their money!” What it lacks in competence, however, it makes up for in balls. It has the unadulterated sack to show the audience a clearly inferior monster puppet that’s made to look as much like the one in Alien as possible, showing all of it in harsh light, with no apologies. This movie made me laugh out loud at least three times and, really, what more could you want?