The Austin Chronicle

I Know That Voice ...

Richard Elfman revisits 'Forbidden Zone'

By Marc Savlov, July 30, 2004, Screens

"I'm a little hung over right now," Richard Elfman says by phone from his Los Angeles home. "We went to a Harry Connick concert last night at the Hollywood Bowl and had our share of champagne."

Bubbly aside, it's still a little difficult to imagine the director of the 1980s cult film Forbidden Zone attending a performance by the lounge lizard standard-bearer Connick.

1980 was a different time, however, and the truly bizarre Forbidden Zone features among its wealth of surrealistic imagery the late Hervé Villechaize as the libidinous king of the sixth dimension; expressionistic production design that would drive Dr. Caligari to distraction; and Richard's brother Danny, more recently the composer of virtually every modern film score you truly enjoy listening to repeatedly, as a Cab Calloway-fetishizing Satan – all of whom live in the basement, sort of, of the extended Hercules clan.

"We had been putting on shows as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, mostly in Los Angeles" says Elfman, "which is how the film came about, and one of our chief rules with the band was that we'd play no contemporary music."

Far different from the brother Danny-fronted Oingo Boingo of "Weird Science," this multi-Elfmaned project (alongside Danny there's Richard's wife, Marie-Pascale Elfman, as heroine Frenchy) is a genuine curiosity, part vaudeville act, part borderline softcore raunch, and completely, utterly weird in the best sense of the word.

And as befits a semilost classic, it's only now coming out on DVD (from Fantoma), having been officially out of print on video for many years.

"Honestly, I had no idea the movie had become so popular over the years," adds Elfman, "until I finally got around to putting up a Web site and received hundreds of thousands of hits and questions about it. I'm flattered."

Forbidden Zone will be re-released in Austin at the Dobie Theatre on Friday, July 30. For showtimes, see Film listings.

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