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A week of only watching Alien ripoffs? Sure. Sign me up. Along the way, I’ve got to explore some old favorites, unearth some dusty TV movie affairs and learned of the existence of 1982’s Forbidden World, another Roger Corman produced effort that uses Galaxy of Terror’s sets and Battle Beyond the Stars’ special effects.
Director Allan Holzman (Emmy winning director/editor of Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Holocaust) wanted a chance to direct, so he took to the sets of Galaxy, using equipment that still had a rental day left and filmed a seven-minute test footage sequence that not only convinced Corman to give him a chance, but became the opening of this film. According to the book that comes with the Shout Factory release of the film, Holzman shot 94 camera set-ups in one day to achieve the frenetic editing style of this sequence.
In the Wikipedia setup for this film, they report that this film was panned by critics as a “cheap, exploitive imitation Alien with sex, nudity, uneven editing, cheap special effects and an audio track that some found unpleasant.” This sounds like a beacon for me screaming, “SEE THIS FILM NOW.” I wouldn’t say the music is bad…it’s just a strange bit of electronic music that often feels like it doesn’t fit the film. And as for the choppy editing style, it’s as is this whole film as a battle between two movies. One, an art film packed with intriguing shots, quick cuts and oddly placed humor. Another a sleazy monster movie featuring plenty of sex scenes, women showering together and a toothy Giger-esque little buddy killing scientists.
Space marshal, problem solver and lady lover Mike Colby (Jesse Vint, Macon County Line, Chinatown and William Castle’s Bug) is awakened from space sleep by his robot SAM-104 and informed that they’re going to Xarbia, where scientists are trying to solve the universe-wide food crisis. However, Subject 20, their latest experiment, is killing everyone and everything,
That said — Mike more shows up and sleeps around than gets anything done. He’s on base for less than a moment before he’s in Dr. Barbara Glaser’s (June Chadwick, Jeanine Pettibone of This is Spinal Tap and Lydia from 80s TV fave V) boudior. Moments later, he’s steaming up the scream with lab assistant Tracy (Dawn Dunlap of Laura and Barbarian Queen) while crew member Brian Beale plays a weird glass saxophone (and he’s played by Ray Oliver, who has an awesome quick turn as Dr. Death in Child’s Play). Their sexy time is interrupted by the gory death of lab tech Jimmy Swift (Michael Bowen, better known as Pussy Wagon owner Buck in KIll Bill). whose corpse becomes absorbed by Subject 20, which divides it into gooey, bloody chunks. Mmm!
Turns out Subject 20 was made by scientists who used some unethical methods, which leads the monster to believe that just eating humans is the best solution for a food shortage. Post-shower scenes, the female scientists try to just talk to the alien and see if they can get him to understand. All seems to go well until Subject 20 misunderstands the word coexist and it annihilates Dr. Glaser in a red burst of arterial spray.
It’s up to Mike, Tracy and scientist Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris, who is best known for playing J. Frank Parnell in Repo Man) to defeat the beast, which has now mutated into a creature that looks exactly like a Giger Alien. Harris is amazing in his small role, constantly hacking and coughing as he chews the scenery as the very definition of a mad scientist. He’s exactly what you want a character actor to be — even if he’s not in the film for long.
Movie legend claims that at a screening, producer Corman was angered by the audience laughing at the film, going so far as to punch one of them (who responded by dousing him with soda). This led to all of the humor being cut. The Mutant cut on the Shout Factory release retains those humorous scenes.
Plus, Death Waltz has put the soundtrack to this out on vinyl with a completely batshit cover which pleases me to no end. It’s…just take a look.
Forbidden World is a fast, cheap and weird little picture. It’s 77-minute running time flies by, the effects are fun and the story is, well, there isn’t much of one. But there’s a lot of fun to be had and this is a film well worthy of discovery.