Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Jesse Vint, June Chadwick, Dawn Dunlap
Directed by Allan Holzman
Distributed by Shout! Factory
Forbidden World has been absent from the world of home video for so long that it had all but slipped from memory. When Shout! Factory announced the 1982 Roger Corman sci-fi/horror hybrid for DVD and Blu-ray, I couldn’t recall much more than the slimy antagonist’s wide-mouthed and razor-sharp grin. It was an enthralling experience for an eleven-year-old kid – what with all the nudity and gore involved – and I was eager to see if it held up to a theoretically mature adult viewing.
It’s awfully hard to hate a movie that’s rife with so many pleasing genre elements: a nefarious lab experiment on the loose, nymphomaniac scientists who lust after the most futile Bounty Hunter of all time, a lecherous voyeur who spends his evenings spying on the nubile ladies and, of course, a general array of terrible decisions (“Let’s try to reason with the bloodthirsty mutant alien!”). It’s all here, and if this sort of thing sounds like a good time at the movies, then there’s no better way to kill 77 minutes.
Director Allan Holzman works wonders with a film consisting almost entirely of recycled sets and props from other Corman offerings – most notably Galaxy of Terror (review here) – but Forbidden World manages to come away with its own look and feel. The almost desolate laboratory on Planet Xarbia is a convincing alien setting and there’s an impressive scope to the proceedings (something that’s lost in modern low-budget filmmaking). Holzman is perhaps keenly aware of the repetition of the story (think Alien with more nonsense) and rarely allows the pacing to come up for air as a result. The opening credits aren’t yet over before our hero is attacked by a vengeful enemy spaceship and before you can say ”hey, that looks like stock footage from other Corman movies!”, we’re already being introduced to the sinister Subject 20. This sucker moves!
And considering this was little more than a quickie cash-in shot in twenty days (!), the special effects are actually all kinds of awesome. John Carl Buechler cut his teeth on this production with some memorably messy make-up effects including melting people and dissolving aliens. And the creature effects, while a bit hokey, succeed thanks in part to smart editing choices and some memorable – if crude – designs. The intent here was to obviously amp the H.R. Giger design of the Alien and that’s exactly what they did. If Forbidden World’s Subject 20 isn’t a trailblazer, he’s at least memorable and somewhat disgusting.
Even the acting fares much better than expected. While this sucker doesn’t have half the amazing cast that ran the sci-fi gamut in Galaxy of Terror, the actors hold their own. Jesse Vint is amusing as the world’s worst Bounty Hunter (second, actually, I forgot about Gerard Butler), and his sleazy tendencies to seduce every woman in the cast adds to his charm. As his lovers June Chadwick and Dawn Dunlap both bare their breasts while serving as effective mutant fodder in the truest of exploitation fashions. Hard to say if they make convincing scientists, but who cares? They shower together!
And one doesn’t talk about Forbidden World without mentioning the amazingly effective New Wave-y score by Susan Justin! Oddly enough, it sets an ominous tone from the get-go and really gives the movie some extra oomph once our doomed cast begins wandering the facility looking to capture the elusive Subject 20. Justin’s score is obviously a relic of its time but it fits this stuff like a glove.
This one does have it all – which is why Shout! Factory was right to pack this sucker to the nines for its digital debut! For starters, the Blu-ray presentation is really going to raise an eyebrow or two. Keeping in mind the source material, Forbidden World is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and it looks great. Skin tones are natural while the black levels offer some impressive depth. Grain structure remains intact, allowing more detail than expected. There’s some occasional print damage to be found, but nothing that distracts from the quality of the transfer. It’s a jarring experience when one pops in the second disc, which is the Mutant cut of this film (a director’s cut running five minutes longer). It’s a DVD presentation presented in 1.33:1. This is a muddy transfer, most likely culled from a VHS copy – but it’s not unwatchable. The real reason to view this cut is for the humorous moments that were excised by Corman himself after a dismal test screening. On the audio front, the DTS 2.0 mix sounds pretty good. Dialogue is almost always clear (overpowered by sound effects on occasion) and the music sounds fantastic. There is certainly no better way to experience this one than in the technical package that Shout! Factory have put together.
And then there’s the extras! First off, special mention must be made of the aesthetics of the packaging itself. This is the kind of material that will satisfy even the most ardent collectors. As is the case with every Shout! Factory Corman release, there’s always reversible cover art for fans to choose from and, more importantly, the satisfying inclusion of a fantastic booklet. Remember when most DVD companies gave a damn? Collecting DVD used to be so much more rewarding when there were cool liner notes, lobby card replicas or something along those lines in every box – but it’s a rapidly dying practice. In this sense, I applaud our friends at Shout! Factory for going the extra mile. Just know that when you plunk down your hard-earned cash for any of these Corman titles, you’re getting the most for your money. Shout! Factory seems intent on making collecting cult flicks fun and exciting again!
As for the actual supplements, there’s a fantastic treasure trove of stuff to digest. The aforementioned Mutant director’s cut is the crown jewel (with director’s commentary!), but we’ve also got a thirty-minute documentary titled The Making of Forbidden World. An awesome piece that showcases interviews with the cast and crew while leading to a few frank observations. Beyond that there’s a solo interview with Corman that runs six minutes, a fourteen-minute talk with John Carl Buechler about his FX work on the film, a poster and still gallery, a gallery of concept art and a barrage of theatrical trailers. No shortage of extras and best of all, it’s all fun stuff!
There’s plenty of great titles hitting Blu-ray and DVD between now and the end of the year, but Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman discs are going to be some of the best releases out there – no matter what happens. With rock solid A/V (better than you’ve ever seen these movies) and worthwhile bonus material, it doesn’t get any better than this. When you consider that Forbidden World is a worthy combination of the ridiculous and the delightful, you’ve got yourself a must own. Subject 20’s high definition bow is comin’ at ya highly recommended!
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