August 2, 2008

Written by Cal Kemp

If you’ve never seen “Forbidden Zone” before, it’s kind of hard to know where to begin. Simply, it’s an independent musical fantasy adaptation of the 70’s stage shows performed by the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Think “Eraserhead” meets “Rocky Horror Picture Show” meets “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” meets “Pink Flamingos”.

The storyline involves the Hercules family and their accidental travels to the Sixth Dimension via a door in their basement. That’s to say nothing of animated sequences, a giant dancing frog in a suit, plenty of topless women, Herve Villechaize as the King of the Sixth Dimension and Danny Elfman as Satan.

I supposed the real question here is not whether or not you should own “Forbidden Zone” on DVD (The answer to that, simply, is that you should.) but whether this movie really belongs in color.

Director Richard Elfman (big brother to Danny) does a nice job of defending the colorization. Originally, he says, the plan was to shoot in black and white and then have the frames colorized. It’s a neat idea and I’ll admit that the colorization lends a nice stylization to the film but the fact of the matter is that this film has existed for nearly 30 years in black and white and changing it now feels a bit like pulling Lucas.

Legend films, by the way, isn’t winning me over with its track record. They have a (recent) history of taking cheap or public domain films and adding color to them. In their defense, they do a pretty amazing job. I have no idea exactly how colorization works, but it comes off as awfully convincing. On the other hand, “Carnival of Souls” in color? Really? Who are these being targeted at?

As anti-colorization as I am, I’ll give this one a pass and say that it’s pretty damned neat if they’re really going back and filling Elfman’s original vision. It’s just a shame that both versions can’t be included to make this a definitive release. (The black and white version is available, by the way, in a pretty great DVD from Fantoma.)

As for extras, we get Richard Elfman’s brief intro, two trailers (one in Japanese and one a colorized version of the theatrical trailer) and a number of deleted scenes. There’s also a pop-up trivia track that’s nice but I would have preferred a commentary, especially a color-specific commentary talking about how the look of the film was re-examined. All in all, the features are nowhere near as in-depth as the Fantoma release but do a nice job of going hand-in-hand.

First timers should probably check out the original black and white version first (either through Fantoma or, better yet, by finding a theatrical showing) but the colorized version is cool thing to happen for true fans. I can’t imagine having this disc on my shelf and not the former release, but I’m happy to have both of them side by side.

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