Sunday, December 14, 2008

Forbidden World (1982) review


Jesse Vint (Mike Colby), June Chadwick (Dr. Barbara Glaser), Dawn Dunlap (Tracy Baxter), Linden Chiles (Dr. Gordon Hauser), Fox Harris (Dr. Cal Timbergen) Scott Paulin (Earl Richards)

Directed by Allan Holzman

***WARNING! This review contains pics of gruesome violence and nudity***

Intergalactic space ranger, Mike Colby and his robotic partner, SAM 104, are summoned to the planet Xarbia to investigate an altercation that has taken place at a medical research laboratory stationed on the desert biosphere. In creating a solution for a galaxy wide food crisis, the scientists on Xarbia create an organism called a Metamorph, a creature made up of a bacterial substance called Proto-B and mixed with human cells. The scientists call the being Subject 20. The experiment gets out of control and the monstrosity escapes the lab changing its form and grows at an alarming rate. By the time the true origin of the alien creature is revealed, it is nearly too late. Tapping into the stations computers, communication is cut off and the remaining survivors must find a way of killing the mutation.

Editor turned Director, Holzman does a fine job with what little material he has to work with from a script by frequent trash peddler, Jim Wynorski. Despite the onslaught of sex, nudity, grue and gore, there is an attempt to create something more than an exercise in exploitation moviemaking. Holzman puts his editing skills to use here creating scenes that alternate between the artistic and the disgusting.

One such practice seen several times during the movie is a subliminal effect showing an increasingly rapid succession of shots of images that have yet to take place or are transpiring elsewhere. There's a fairly torrid sex scene between Barbara and Mike while Earl, a watchman, plays peeping tom. When he's alerted to the location of the escaped Subject 20 he searches the corridors of the station while flashes of Barbara and Mike having sex appear on screen.

This technique continues during the scene when Earl is killed by the monster. The mixing of sex and death is one of the uncomfortable elements seen in FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982). John Carl Buechler (as J.C. Buechler) worked on the effects for the movie and they're good for what had to have been an extremely low budget; evidently much smaller than the previous years GALAXY OF TERROR and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), a film that Corman splurged more frivolously than normal. The monster itself has some twisted affinity towards the female cast in the film.

During a scene in which Tracy Baxter takes off her clothes in her room, a POV shot from inside a ventilation duct shows the alien watching her from above. As she gets naked changing into her skimpy night attire, slime covers the camera lens. A similar scene occurs late in the film when, after the monster has tied itself into the stations computer system, one of the women gets an idea to communicate with the creature in the hopes of getting out of the scientific laboratory alive. Typing into the computer, "Can we co-exist?" the monster responds by slithering a huge phallic shaped tentacle over the computer board and between her legs. Suddenly, the appendage erupts from the poor woman's back shooting a geyser of blood into the air.

A budget is something FORBIDDEN WORLD had very little of. Production technicians came up with some ingenious methods with which to create the interiors of the station hallways and rooms. The walls are adorned with dozens of egg crates and McDonald's sandwich boxes. GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) utilized this simplistic innovation but was far more successful at making such set additions appear less obvious.

Another money saving device was used during the opening space battle. Mike Colby is awakened from suspended animation by his robot partner, SAM 104 when his ship comes under fire by attacking space ships. The space battle is stock footage borrowed from Corman's BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980). However, there are some new shots of the spacecraft as well as shots of the research lab.

This is also a particularly messy film with a lot of blood, guts, pus and slime that overtakes the picture 17 minutes into the film when Subject 20 gets loose the second time latching onto a victims face eating its way into his skull. The first evidence of Subject 20's rampage (we only hear about it), it successfully killed all the experimental animals in the lab as we see a worker cleaning up dead carcasses near the beginning.

It's later learned that the Metamorph uses its victims as a permanent food source (after the casualty is exposed to the Proto-B substance, the cells break down into protein constantly dividing and creating a new food source) akin to planting vegetables in a garden. This allows the special effects crew to showcase some gooey and gruesome sequences of mutilated bodies dissolving into mush, continuously breaking apart into more piles of mutating human remains.

This film also contains one sequence that is remembered over everything else. The method by which the hero kills the alien is one of the most oddball and creatively disgusting to ever hit a movie screen. The creator of Subject 20 has a cancerous tumor on his liver. He discovers that the only way to kill the metamorph is by feeding it the tumor. Mike cuts Cal's stomach open (without the use of morphine!) and rips the tumor free of his liver. Of course the good doctor dies during the removal, and the creature bursts into the room at that moment. Mike manages to shove the cancerous growth into the monsters mouth causing the thing to regurgitate its insides dying in the process. The sight of a huge barfing alien is quite original even if the rest of the film isn't.

The characters are either barely developed or not at all. But nobody comes to a New World Picture for characterization. What little there is leaves just barely enough for the audience to get some idea of who these people are and at 77 minutes, there is scant time for that. What the film does offer is a high quotient of sex and violence; everything that makes an enjoyably sleazy horror picture. Producer Roger Corman was a master at such things and had an amazing eye for talent. Holzman didn't achieve quite the success so many of his colleagues did, but he delivers a tight, sometimes suspenseful monster movie.

The women are very hot and have no problems taking their clothes off on multiple occasions. June Chadwick, whose sex scene was discussed above, also takes a nude "shower" (there's no water just frequent flashes of kaleidoscopic light that provides the same function as water) with the beautiful Dawn Dunlap. Chadwick went on to portray the human eating alien lizard woman, Lydia, in the shortlived V television series (born out of the successful mini series V and V: THE FINAL BATTLE) that lasted for one season.

Sadly, Dawn Dunlap did very little film work after her impressive stint on this Corman quickie. One of several nude scenes with Dunlap sees her stripping off in a steam room when Vint's character enters. Having just had a round of sexual gratification with Dr. Glaser, Mike now sets his sights on Tracy (Dunlap) when the alien crashes the party.

While the participants all take the film seriously, patrons attending the sneak preview did not according to a story in Beverly Gray's excellent tome on her time working for Roger Corman (as well as before and after). Apparently, a heckler with a particularly loud, abrasive laugh infuriated Corman to no end resulting in the producer smacking the man in the head for chuckling at his production. After the showing, the jokester poured a container of Coca Cola over Corman's head as he was exiting the theater.

Nearly a decade later, Corman would produce a remake of Holzman's notorious ALIEN styled horror film. Entitled DEAD SPACE (1991), this near shot for shot remake had popular actor, Marc Singer (THE BEASTMASTER, V) in the title role. It was a very dismal picture and lacked any of the exploitation delights that make FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982) so memorable.

Despite limited means to bring his vision to life, FORBIDDEN WORLD provides less discriminating viewers a lot of skin, goo and gore for their dollar. A shame the only way to see the movie is through an English friendly German DVD that has less than great picture quality that looks only slightly better than a VHS tape. However, the Anolis DVD bears the original title of MUTANT followed by a German subtitle, DAS GRAUEN AUS DEM ALL. It's worth seeking out just to see the movie as there's no other way to do so at the moment lest you find the old VHS release. This DVD has the original film score listed as an extra yet it's not accessible through the main menu. Highly recommended, yet derivative science fiction horror hybrid for Drive in and Grindhouse sleaze fanatics.

This review is representative of the German Anolis DVD (R2).

A Fistful of Spaghetti: Mini Reviews of European Western Films

This is a new section on This column will cover the good, the average and the mediocre in the spaghetti western genre.


Robert Woods (Chris Tanner/Jeremiah Grant), John Ireland (Tarpas)

Directed by Paolo Bianchini

Chris Tanner is arrested for treason and condemned to the gallows after the only other individuals that knew of a new weapon (the Gatling gun) created by Richard Gatling are killed. He is sent to Las Cruzas to find out what has happened to Gatling, whom has disappeared. Gatling had offered the device to President Lincoln, but was kidnapped and his three escorts killed by ruthless confederates in league with a Mexican half breed named Tarpas. Tanner has 30 days to bring Gatling back alive or else another man will hang in Tanner's place.

This movie had quite a bit of potential. There's a good storyline here although there's a bit too many characters to keep up with. However, those seeking action will be woefully disappointed as there's virtually none till 47 minutes into the film and even then, it's nothing special. There's a pretty laughable fist fight and a decent night time gun battle in a graveyard.

The ending features the title mechanism in action. John Ireland as the Mexican half breed bandit, Tarpas, looks more like the Devil than a Mexican bad guy. Robert Woods was much better in SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACGREGORS (1965). George Rigaud, who plays one of the villains, was one of the oldsters in the MacGregor movies. Woods reminds me a lot of George Hilton in this movie.

There's also a racist slant in the mix that could have elevated this movie had it been explored more. Tarpas desires one of the female characters in the film (all these Italian westerns feature at least one or multiple doomed women roles) but she will have nothing to do with him specifying his race (or mix of races) and inferiority as her reasons. Tanner makes mention of this to the lady at one point citing his skin color as being her sole reason for detesting Tarpas. At the end, Tarpas charges at Tanner screaming "I'll kill you, white bastard!" The translated English title (from the Italian original) is also a line of dialog uttered by Tanner near the beginning.

There is a bit of gore here in one scene where Tanner is shot in the hand and he pulls the bullet (in bloody close up) out. Oddly, the sound goes silent when the close up shot of Tanner pulling the bullet out begins and returns when the camera cuts away after he removes the bullet. The score is nothing to write home about and is an odd jazz-like concoction from composer Piero Piccioni. 93 minutes.

Next up is the 1967 mystery western...


Peter Lee Lawrence (Mr. Silver), Hélène Chanel (Doll), Alberto Dell'Acqua (Spot), Andrea Bosic (Mr. Averell), Nello Pazzafini (Fitch)

Directed by Alfonso Brescia (as Al Bradley)

After repeated stagecoach robberies and murders, suave bounty killer, Mr. Silver, is hired by banker, Mr. Averell, to find the gang responsible. Doing so will be difficult as the gang all wear masks. Much subterfuge follows as Silver gets closer to learning the identities of the robbers.

Peter Lee Lawrence (THE DAYS OF VIOLENCE) is really good here. His character is the epitome of cool. He has a partner named Spot (Alberto Dell'Acqua) that tags along with him. The character of Spot also wishes Mr. Silver to teach him to be a shootist. This plot point is similar to the 'aging gunfighter takes on younger student' conceit seen in DAY OF ANGER the same year although it's forgotten about almost as soon as it's mentioned.

Mr. Silver also reminds one of Silence from THE GREAT SILENCE (1968) in that he only attacks when provoked. Silver always remains calm seemingly assured of his every step. With every meticulous move, he's constantly one step ahead of the bad guys. Dell'Acqua was also in Giraldi's two MACGREGOR movies in addition to acting and stunt work in various Italian genres.

Like the above reviewed movie, this film is a mystery western albeit one with a lot of action. The fist fights are good this time out (although there's one shot where a punch misses by a long shot). With that said, the action scenes themselves are pretty well put together for the most part. The movie begins on a serious note, yet approximately 25 minutes in, there's a TRINITY style saloon scuffle. Pazzafini as Fitch, beats the hell out of everybody in the place till he dirties up Silver's clothes. Of course, Fitch is no match for Mr. Silver. The comedy is present throughout but it's not dominating, only subtle.

Andrea Bosic, who was the sidekick to Sandokan played by Steve Reeves in SANDOKAN, THE GREAT (1963), plays the banker, Mr. Averell. His presence here will clue you in on his role in the movie if you've seen some of his other performances. The gorgeous Hélène Chanel I remember from a handful of sword & sandal productions. She's not in the movie all that much, but she plays an important role during the conclusion.

I liked this one a lot and it straddles the line of receiving the full review treatment. It has lots going for it from the action to the confident and altruistic, yet somewhat fiercely assured performance by Lawrence. This is the best role I've seen of his yet. The music from Robert Poitevin is in the typical Euroater style. A cue from Morricone's score for BULLETS DON'T ARGUE (1964) is heard. 89 minutes.

The third helping of our Euroater special is the unusual 1965 German western...


Lex Barker (Dr. Karl Sternau), Rik Battaglia (Captain Verdona)

Directed by Robert Siodmak

Dr. Karl Sternau, a diplomatic courier, is given an important letter by President Lincoln to deliver to Mexican President Benito Juarez regarding assistance against the French occupation. With no money to fund retaliation, Sternau and Juarez seek the location of the legendary Aztecan treasure. The wealthy landowner, Count Don Fernando assists Sternau and his group in finding the fabled riches, the whereabouts of which are known by a beautiful Aztec princess.

An interesting German western film adapted from a novel by popular writer Karl May whose 'Winnetou' series was filmed as a long running series of pictures. Lex Barker starred in some of those and he stars in this movie and also the sequel, PYRAMID OF THE SUN GOD the same year. There's a character named Hasenfeffer (a traveling salesman of cuckoo clocks) that provides some humorous comedy relief. American actor, Jeff Corey plays Abraham Lincoln in a brief role.

This film has a certain sense of adventure about it that transcends the typical western style. This is most apparent once the Aztec temple is discovered which also houses a live volcano(!) replete with secret passages and traps. Battaglia, a familiar face from Euroaters and sword & sandal films, is the main villain here and he gets pretty sadistic past the mid point. He's discharged from Juarez's militia and seeks the treasure for himself.

Some of the action scenes are stilted and have an air of the older serial westerns about them. It is nonetheless cognizant of the Italian style westerns being produced at the time as the Mexican revolutionary faction provides a curious clash with the Indian subplot. It's peculiar in that you don't usually see the predominantly Italian western conceit (the Mexican revolutionaries) mixed with the familiar US western trappings (the Indian tribes). Some of the fight scenes are better than others.

The tribe of Indians figure prominently into the story and all participants converge on the temple during the final 20 minutes just in time for the explosive closing moments. The movie bogs down slightly towards the end, but picks up steam for the finale. The locations are gorgeous and seeing this movie in a restored widescreen version would enhance this. This dubbed version is woefully out of sync from time to time.

The characters are likable and the women are very easy on the eyes. Some larger than life set pieces enhance the adventure and the score is decent for the most part, at times sounding quite boisterous. The dubber for Barker did the English voiceover work for Guiliano Gemma in a number of his movies. 106 minutes.
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