Forbidden World Blu-ray Review
Well, if we're honest, this doesn't look very good at all. And we can argue back and forth about the extra resolution giving us a minute amount of additional detail, a little deeper shadow, more “pungent” colour saturation, but the fact is that Forbidden World, even with a 1080p AVC makeover for its 1.85:1 image, offers nothing of hi-def clarity and vividness. The film looks flat, soft and old. And this, folks, is exactly how it should look. So take some reassurance from the fact that this transfer has had no DNR swept across it, nor any glaring edge enhancement to sharpen it up and make it gleam. The thin layer of grain provides a genuinely film-like texture, although the spice of a little extra noise in the darker regions can occasionally distract, as can a few elements of banding that creep into some of the deeper colours.
Blacks, however can be effective during some of the more atmospheric scenes of people creeping about in dark tunnels - patches of shadow can be thick and robust. But there is the old swirl of grain and the hint of noise that can detract from the stability of some of the murkier moments. Brightly lit scenes don't exactly lift from the screen, the palette looking authentically old and worn - and decidedly untouched by any modern digital tinkering. The colours are better than they have probably looked before, but this isn't saying a great deal. The film has always been drab and musty, and seeing the picture in hi-def doesn't alter that at all. We get some thick filtered scenes, flashing strobes of various hues and some icky stuff of more lurid reds, greens and pinks, but nothing here stands out. Skin-tones are sickly, but at least they are consistently so.
Detail in the weird set-design is nothing more than average, but you will probably find yourself quite happy with the grisly elements that are on display, such as the genuinely captivating melt-down corpse with its wonderfully mobile skull-face and gelatinous semi-grin. Finite stuff, though, is not apparent. The print, taken from the interpositive elements of the theatrical cut, is often mottled and scratchy, but no more so than you would have expected, and this rough look is perfectly in-keeping with the style of the production and unmistakably faithful as a transfer.
By contrast, the DVD sporting the Director's Cut offers us a wretched 1.33:1 image that is obviously culled from the original print and remains un-restored. Detail and clarity is much softer, blacks murkier and aliasing and damage abound. Thus, when you look back at the hi-def image you can clearly see a massive improvement.
Whereas Death Race 2000 only had a lossy DD 2.0 audio track, Forbidden World ups the ante a little bit with DTS-HD MA 2.0. Whilst hardly spectacular, this is certainly more than up to the task of providing the severely limited original soundscape with a teensy bit of oomph. However, don't go expecting any sort of width to the frontal spread, as there is hardly any separation going on at all. This plays very much like a TV mix from the same era - lots of unbalanced and unrefined noise flooding out of the same channel all at once.
Dawn Dunlap provides a heck of a lot of screaming, but this mix denies it any body, vigour or depth - just a uniformly shrill bleat. The laser gun effects - a blobby vintage sound design that will entrance retro-nerds - have some degree of depth but, as with the screaming, there is no variance in the volume, clarity or detail. Dialogue can be muffled and low and it can be tinny and bright - but it is always discernable. The mutant's guttural belching, snarling and growling finds some low registers, but there is scant bass activity to remark upon and, once again, it is just aimless, un-steered noise. Susan Justin's synth-score is the thing that most benefits from the mix, and I suppose that could be a bad thing if you don't like it but, since I do, this element gets a vague thumbs-up. There's no finesse, no detail, no warmth or sweep to its sampled design or programmed beat, no lush harmonics to be found in its quirky synth-loops and “wah-wah” effects, but it won't have sounded this clear before.
There are a lot of age-related issues with this track as well. Although much of the apparent background hiss is actually the sound of on-set equipment humming and thrumming, there is still some of the genuine article floating about. Some thumps and pops and crackles also make their presence heard, but, if anything - and I am certainly not making excuses for it - this sort of thing only adds to the grindhouse exploitation vibe of Corman's Forbidden World.
Again, how can you fault Shout! Factory for such a package! Damn it, this is how all films should be treated. After the likes of Corman's Death Race 2000 and Galaxy Of Terror, the label has once again pulled-out all the stops and lavished a lot of loving attention on a film that a great many people - the majority, I would say - would simply dismiss as utter garbage.
Not only do we get the full Director's Cut on a separate disc, as mentioned earlier, but we get a commentary for it from the guy, as well. Sadly, this is delivered with the man's rather soft and very quiet voice, meaning that a fair chunk of anecdote and recollection is mumbled and difficult to hear. For instance, he goes on about the infamous “penetration” scene with regards to what he wanted to show and to convey, but it is hard to make out what he is saying. He does, however, pass on plenty of trivia - blinking lights, alien texting, getting the right cast - and seems to have fond memories of his directorial debut. He talks about the subliminal edits that he put in and states that some of this was down to his study of the sexual language of film - you'll have to listen to it, folks, because I'm not so sure I get what he is on about. But he does explain why the opening and closing sequences contain flash-forwards and then flashbacks of the film's story.
The Making Of Forbidden World (34.14 mins) covers all bases and brings in a fair number of participants, from the Visual Effects/Production Designing Skotak brothers, Holzman, Jesse Vint, Special Makeup Effects Artist R. Christopher Biggs, Production Manager/2nd Unit Director Aaron Lipstadt, Optical Effects Technician Tony Randal and Composer Susan Justin. All have fond memories of their stint in the Corman universe and there are plenty of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes trivia from story, casting and cuts to how they created the sound effects for the mutant. This offers good material and ripe entertainment.
Interview With Roger Corman (6.25 min) is a selection of little reminiscences from the producer about how this film came together. He mentions the cast, and how well he thought his editor-turned-director handled the project, but he cannot remember why they changed the name from Mutant to Forbidden World.
Interview with Special Makeup FX Artist: John Carl Beuchler (14.20 mins) This is good gun. Beuchler is an amicable guy, and he does a mean Roger Corman impersonation. We hear little bits about the FX work - where the gloop all came from, and his favourite moments - but the mists of time have descended and Beuchler mainly recalls the long, long hours that it took to get the work done in the incredibly short of amount of time. Good fun, overall.
The Skotek Gallery (1.20 mins) contains behind-the-scenes images and production drawings, whilst the Poster and Stills Gallery (3.40 mins) showcases the film's promotion.
The release also contains trailers for Humanoids From The Deep, Galaxy Of Terror and Battle Beyond The Stars.
We also get a now-customary 12-page illustrated booklet and reversible cover art to round out the whole wacky package.
Awesome stuff from Shout!Factory once again! I am not going to pretend that Forbidden World is a great film - it so clearly and dementedly isn't - but it was never made as such. It's only aspirations were to show schlocky gore and monster effects and loads of boobs - departments in which it excels. And yet, in spite of itself, Holzman's film actually has a great big dollop of creepy atmosphere lurking about besides all the gloop, pus, blood and offal. There's not an original idea within a ten miles of the ultra-cheapo production, but that doesn't stop the Corman express from delivering an exploitation-extravaganza that is nothing if not eminently entertaining from outlandish start to utterly warped finish. You really don't care who lives or dies, but this is hardly the point of the exercise. It's got a hangdog hero who doesn't actually do all that much, a big spidery mutant with a tentacle for the ladies, some crazy laser-bolts and cereal packet spaceships, and two babes washing alien goo out of their hair in the shower. It's a winner!
And to celebrate this insane low-budget creativity we get another great package from Shout!Factory which ensures that fans will get more than they ever dreamed they would. The inclusion of the Director's Cut is a fine bonus that shifts the emphasis of the film slightly, but really offers only minimal differences, but it is great that Allan Holzman gets to have to his say about his directorial debut. Small interviews with Corman and Beuchler add some personal insight, but the half-hour making of is the mutated meat of the matter and offers a great retrospective of how this micro-financed exploitationer became such a cult classic.
Great fun for those in the know, of course, but Forbidden World is also a terrific trip through space sleaze and mutant monsters for anyone with just over an hour to kill.
Undoubtedly the best barfin' alien movie ever made!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.72
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