With some of the sets still standing from the GALAXY OF TERROR shoot, producer Roger Corman (still squeezing the same “getting the most for your money” techniques that he implemented decades earlier) commissioned some test footage which would develop into a feature length sci-fi quickie. FORBIDDEN WORLD (also known as MUTANT) would be the directorial debut of Allan Holzman, who had previously edited such New World releases as CANDY STRIPE NURSES, CRAZY MAMA and most recently, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (of which this film utilizes some unused shots from). Shout! Factory continues to do wonders with the New World cult classics library, releasing this particular film in a double-disc set featuring both the theatrical version and director’s cut, as well as a ton of extras.
After a successful starship battle in outer space, professional “troubleshooter” Mike Colby (drive-in favorite Jesse Vint, MACON COUNTY LINE) is awakened out of hypersleep by his cyborg assistant SAM-104 (Don Olivera), as further assistance is needed elsewhere. A scientific research team on an isolated space station has created an experimental life form called “Subject 20”; its purpose being to put an end to a widespread galactic food shortage. The problem is that Subject 20 has devoured all the laboratory animals right before cocooning itself within its glass confines, soon breaking loose and transforming into a very toothy, flesh-starved monster. The team in danger includes two sexy females in blonde Dr. Barbara Glaser (June Chadwick, THIS IS SPINAL TAP) and youngish cupcake lab assistant Tracy Baxter (Dawn Dunlap, BARBARIAN QUEEN), Dr. Gordon Hauser (familiar grey-haired TV actor Linden Chiles), and the hacking, sickly Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris, REPO MAN), whose “cancer” is later instrumental in defeating the overgrown man-made menace.
FORBIDDEN WORLD is considered part of a trilogy of New World Pictures' ALIEN knock-offs which include GALAXY OF TERROR and INSEMINOID, a British effort released in the U.S. by the company as HORROR PLANET. Hastily produced with a screenplay by Tim Curnen (and story credit going to Jim Wynorski and R.J. Robertson), it’s hard to dislike this 77-minute piece of sleazoid spaceploitation. Despite its corridor walls constructed out of McDonalds hamburger containers and old egg cartons, FORBIDDEN WORLD has a lot going for it in terms of a cheapo, grungy early 1980s horror/sci-fi foray. The space cowboy hero (played subtlety by Vint, who faced space age trouble of a different kind a decade earlier in SILENT RUNNING) makes love to one physician sexpot (Chadwick), and soon after, almost makes it with another cutie (Dunlap, who is a great screamer) as they start to get down to business in a steam bath chamber. Both scenes allow for some nice female nudity, and both ladies shed their clothes in another scene where they are showering together!
Along with the welcomed disrobing, the film is pretty gory, with the genetically created monstrosity started as “Subject 20” evolving from a small globby parasite (where it attaches itself to the mug of a hapless character played by Michael Bowen, NIGHT OF THE COMET) into a full-fledged tentacled ALIEN look-alike appearing shadowy, slimy, beastly and intimating enough, and with its love of human flesh, there’s some unsightly mutilation victims on display. Not to mention, the hero is coerced into surgically removing a cancerous tissue from the slightly daffy Dr. Cal, using a box cutter and with no time for anesthesia! Speaking of Dr. Cal, with his white lab coat, his tendency to experiment on semi-reanimated corpses, and several other little eccentricities, he's very similar to the “Frankenstein” character seen in George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD three years later. The film also features a strange, unique electronic score by Susan Justin.
Disc 1 of this two-disc set (it’s also being made available as a single blu-ray disc) contains the 77-minute theatrical version. Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, the film has been transferred from the original elements and looks quite good, as it was remastered in high definition. Colors are bold, especially for a dingy looking production, and dark scenes appear bright enough, especially when compared to previous video versions (this is the first time the film has been made available on DVD in the U.S.). The mono English audio appears to be in good standing, with no noticeable hiss or distortion worth mentioning. No subtitle options are included.
Disc 2 contains the longer director’s cut (82 minutes) known as MUTANT. Embracing moments of satire that Corman wanted removed (as well as a different, generic robot voice for SAM-104), the transfer was taken from a full frame tape source and is best used for reference purposes because it compares unfavorably to the visual and audio quality of the theatrical version. For MUTANT, a full audio commentary with director Holzman is on hand, moderated by Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Digital), who’s obviously a big fan of the film. Holzman vividly details the making of this low budget wonder, talking about the claustrophobic sets, his artistic intentions (the film is loaded with over-the-head shots, lighting effects and reflection shots), his dispute with Corman over the final version (and what was actually removed) and much, much more.
Going back to Disc 1 is where you’ll find the rest of the extras. “The Making of FORBIDDEN WORLD” is a 30+ minute documentary which contains interviews with Allan Holzman (director/editor), Robert Skotak (production designer/special visual effects), Dennis Skotak (director pf photography/special visual effects), R. Christopher Biggs (special makeup effects), Aaron Lipstadt (production manager/second unit director), Tony Randal (optical effects), Jesse Vint (lead actor) and Susan Justin (musical composer). The documentary is tight, and the interviews are well done, covering just about every aspect of the film and what it was like working for Corman with limited time and resources. Corman is featured on his own brief interview segment (6:23), discussing his promoting of Holzman from editor to director, and that he was pleased with the outcome for its budget and schedule (though here he doesn't express his initial disappointment with the first cut of the film). Special makeup FX artist John Carl Beuchler is also given his own interview segment (14:17), talking about his creation of some of the film’s gelatin-based gruesome treats and terrific facial mutilations, and he too was stressed by the limited time allotted to get his work done, describing it as a “gray haze in my memory” but fondly recalling the experience. "The Skotak Gallery" showcases some behind-the-scenes photos and original production sketches, and there’s also a second, more extensive still and poster gallery. FORBIDDEN WORLD’s original theatrical trailer, as well as trailers for BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, GALAXY OF TERROR and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP are also included. A reversible cover and a booklet with liner notes by Dana MacMillan round out the extras on another fine presentation from the Shout! Factory. (George R. Reis)
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