Forbidden Zone & Christmas on Mars
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Words like "delirious" and "bizarre" simply don't suffice to describe Forbidden Zone, director Richard Elfman's 1980 musical fantasy, cult favorite. Conceived as an extension of the avant-garde theater troupe/music group the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (later just Oingo Boingo, which counted Elfman, his brother Danny, and co-scripter Matthew Bright--later the director of Freeway--among its members), Forbidden Zone tells the story of Frenchy (production designer Marie-Pascal Elfman, Richard's then-wife), who accidentally enters the phantasmagorical Sixth Dimension through a door in her basement. There, her waifish good looks catch the eye of King Fausto (Herve Villechaize), much to the consternation of Queen Doris (the indomitable Susan Tyrell). A frantic, funny, and occasionally profane blend of Fleischer Brothers cartoons, German Expressionism, Depression-era musicals, and '60s underground movies, Forbidden Zone is definitely not for all viewers, but cult aficionados will be delighted by the sheer energy and imagination of this long-unavailable classic. Supplemental features include commentary by Elfman and Bright, interviews with Danny Elfman, Pascal, and Tyrell; deleted scenes and outtakes; clips from an aborted early attempt, The Hercules Family. (with Danny tearing up "Minnie the Moocher"), and Richard's video for Oingo Boingo's "Private Life." --Paul Gaita
Wayne Coynes directorial debut, Christmas on Mars, is a kitschy, homespun masterpiece that subverts film-judging criteria the way Ed Woods B-movies must have when they were first compared to horror back in the day. Co-directed by Bradley Beesley and populated with many local Oklahoma City characters, including most of Flaming Lips, Coynes brothers, Denny and Kenny, and his wife, starring as the female of the film, Mother (Michelle Martin Coyne), Coyne explains in extras interview footage that the movie took seven years to complete simply because the musician shot between tours. Rumors of this films release have been floating around forever, and the wait was worth it. Christmas on Mars, plot-wise, stars Major Syrtis (Steven Drozd), the captain on a spaceship who notices, between hallucinations of a baby dying, that the crew is in danger due to malfunctioning equipment. Clues include psychosis, as experienced by a man the script calls Astronaut Confronting Cosmic Reality (Kliph Scurlock), and other bizarre hardships, as other crew members that Major Lowell (Steve Burns) and the Sunglasses Wearing Astronaut (Michael Ivins) can attest to. The resident Psychiatrist (Adam Goldberg) tells everyone to chill out on the baby visions, which look like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eraserhead, to no avail. Lucky for everyone, a mysterious green-faced Martian, played by Coyne, comes to the rescue. Christmas on Mars is not about plot originality, as it screens more like a tribute to Coynes favorite sci-fi films. Made almost exclusively in Coynes backyard, the sets impress because they really transport the viewer to space despite being made of recognizable hardware store materials. Each scene, and its way of either slowing down or speeding up time, feels deeply imagined from the subconscious. What matters is the films undoubting sincerity. Filmed mostly in black and white, blasts of color during moments of psychic realization surrealistically tie the films visuals to Flaming Lips music, in which guitars and heavy drums explode rhythm. Moreover, the score serves the film well, carefully blending ambient, electronic space-age melodies with moments of sonic chaos. Christmas on Mars is another of Coynes attempts at expressing tension between peace of mind and utter insanity, and an undying, Lovecraftian attraction to abyss. --Trinie Dalton
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