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Roger Corman's Cult Classics: "Forbidden World" (a.k.a. "Mutant") Review
FORBIDDEN WORLD a.k.a. MUTANT (1982) - directed by Allan Holzman
When Ridley Scott's intergalactic horror tale "Alien" became a worldwide box office smash in 1979, it was inevitable that an army of imitators would soon follow. Sure enough, B-Movie makers around the world unleashed a flood of low-budget post-"Alien" wanna-be's over the next several years in which an endless parade of slimy, tentacled extraterrestrials menaced mankind. Some of the better known films to hitch a ride on Ridley's coattails include such Z-grade fare as 1980's "Alien Contamination" (directed by Luigi "StarCrash" Cozzi), "Inseminoid" (1981, a.k.a. "Horror Planet"), and 1980's audaciously titled "Alien 2: On Earth," an Italian "unauthorized sequel" to Scott's film! Naturally Roger Corman, America's "King of the B's," wanted a piece of the "Alien" action and his New World Pictures studio cranked out two stylish imitators - 1981's "Galaxy of Terror" (which is infamous for the controversial scene in which a naked woman is raped to death by a giant space slug) and the 1982 follow-up "Forbidden World" (a.k.a. "Mutant"). In fact, "Forbidden World" was commissioned mainly so that the notoriously thrifty Corman could re-use the elaborate space station sets and other props that had been built for "Galaxy of Terror."
"Galaxy of Terror" is probably the better of Corman's two "Alien" retreads, but "Forbidden World" is a delightfully scuzzy, exploitative little flick in its own right, featuring all of the usual New World trademarks - i.e., a big nasty monster, plenty of blood and slime, and a heaping helping of gratuitious female nudity. The film opens in some unnamed future galaxy, where studly spacefaring adventurer Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) is awakened from cryogenic sleep by his robot assistant "SAM," who resembles the love child of a "Star Wars" Stormtrooper and a Cylon Centurian from "Battlestar Galactica." SAM informs Colby that their spaceship is under attack, but fortunately the Commander's mad skillz at the controls make short work of the invaders. (As an added Geek Note, sharp eyed B-fans might recognize the spaceships seen in the brief dogfight segment, as they're recycled from yet another Corman sci-fi flick, "Battle Beyond the Stars.") SAM then gives Colby his newest assignment from Headquarters -- they're headed to the desert planet of Xarbia, where a team of genetic researchers have created a dangerous new life form that has apparently gotten out of control.
It's Goo Time!
Once on Xarbia, Colby meets the team of scientists, including the secretive head of research, Dr. Hauser (Linden Chiles) plus fellow geneticist Dr. Barbara Glaser (June Chadwick of "This is Spinal Tap" and TV's "V") and bacteriologist Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris), who has a persistent cough that you just know is going to figure into the story later. They explain that an experimental life form intended to serve as a renewable food source - dubbed "Subject 20" - escaped from its cage and killed all of the other test animals in the lab before it could be re-secured. Colby's "Kill it and grill it" attitude towards the gene-spliced critter does not sit well with the lab geeks, who want to keep it alive. However, this clash of ideologies doesn't stop the attractive Dr. Glaser from bedding down with Colby virtually as soon as he arrives. (Cue the "bowp-chicka-bow-bowwwwwww " music on the soundtrack...).
Before long, Subject 20 has hatched from its cocoon, broken out of its enclosure and infected hapless lab assistant Jimmy, whose body quickly begins to break down into a puddle of gelatinous goo. Subject 20 is now loose in the station's maze of corridors, so Colby and the remaining staff members mount up to exterminate it while the scientists try to figure out the creature's next move. This includes a hilarious scene in which the scantily-clad Chadwick and her female lab tech (Dawn Dunlap) take a shower together (!) and then attempt to communicate with the creature via the station's computers. Let's just say that Subject 20 doesn't take kindly to their "We come in peace" message. To reveal anything else would require a gigantic ***SPOILER WARNING***, but you can probably figure out where things go from here -- lots of scenes of various characters patrolling dark hallways and vent shafts, becoming Mutant Chow one by one, until the bacteriologist character reveals the dark secret behind the creature's creation and then devises a unique way to destroy the beast once and for all.
In a nutshell, "Forbidden World" was a hoot. It's got no pretensions, it just wants to be a good old fashioned slimy monster flick, and it succeeds in spades. The toothy, spider-legged creature resembles Giger's "Alien" (perhaps a bit too much) and the film's breakneck pace, disgustingly gooey gore and eye-popping T&A are balanced nicely by the film's overall dark, claustrophobic feel. As "Alien" clones go, "Forbidden World" is definitely one of the "good" ones.
"Forbidden World" enjoyed a brief run in theatres in 1982 and quickly became a cult favorite due to repeated cable TV airings, but hadn't been available on home video since the VHS era until the fine folks at Shout Factory re-released it upon the world in 2010 as part of their ongoing "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" series of DVDs. Fans should note that the Shout Factory edition is a 2-disc set, with a newly remastered transfer of the film's 77 minute "theatrical cut" on Disc 1 and the long-lost, original 82 minute "director's cut" (under its original title of "Mutant") on Disc 2. In the accompanying Special Features, director Holzman explains that Corman himself shaved five minutes from the film after a test screening, because he was displeased by hearing the audience's laughter during certain humorous segments. Apparently Roger doesn't like humor in his horror flicks, so he had those scenes removed... without telling Holzman. The "Mutant" version restores those purged scenes and returns the film to its full-length gory glory, but the unfortunate tradeoff is that this longer cut was dubbed from a sub-par source (possibly a work print?) - not only is it in fullscreen rather than widescreen, but the picture is washed out and much darker than the clean and sparkling version on Disc 1. It's like watching a well-beaten VHS tape that's been rented hundreds of times. Since this version of the film has never been available in any format, I'm sure that most hardcore fans of early '80s sci-fi/horror sleaze probably won't mind, and they'll doubtlessly end up watching both cuts over time anyway!!
"Forbidden World" aka "Mutant" is not to be confused with a completely different 1984 film called "Mutant" (which is also known as "Night Shadows" in some circles, just to increase the confusion...). The 1984 film stars Wings Hauser and Bo Hopkins and is an Earth-bound, toxic-waste-turns-townspeople-into-ravenous-blue-skinned-zombies flick. Unfortunately, some low-rent video labels have produced DVDs of the 1984 "Mutant" which sport a photo of the toothy "Forbidden World" creature on the cover, leading to confusion and disappointment among fans who've purchased the wrong movie. The 1984 "Mutant" also happens to be an entertaining little blast of '80s style low budget, cheese ball cinema but "Forbidden World" is definitely the superior film...so Buyer Beware!!
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© 2012 Keith Abt