Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #407
Also known as Mutant
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: 7 May 1982 (USA)
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 77 minutes
Director: Allan Holzman
Producer: Roger Corman
Screenplay: Tim Curnen
Story: Jim Wynorski, R.J. Robertson
Special Effects: John Carl Buechler, Don Olivera
Cinematography: Tim Suhrstedt
Score: Susan Justin
Editing: Allan Holzman, Martin Nicholson
Studio: New World Pictures
Distributors: New World Pictures, Embassy Home Entertainment
Stars: Jesse Vint, Dawn Dunlap, June Chadwick, Linden Chiles, Fox Harris, Ray Oliver, Scott Paulin, Michael Bowen, Don Olivera
Suggested Audio Candy:
Susan Justin Forbidden World
Roger Corman is something of an anomaly. Often dubbed The King of the Cult Film, his influence on modern cinema truly is second to none. With over 400 production credits under his belt, and barely a picture amongst them which didn’t turn a profit, he has been an ever-present ever since the mid-fifties with a career spanning seven individual decades, and in 2009 his hard work was recognized by the Academy when he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for services rendered. If ever a nod was richly deserved, then I would say he earned that one.
Forbidden World aka Mutant arrived at a particularly thriving period during his career, around the time of Bruce D. Clark’s Galaxy of Terror and Barbara Peeters’ Humanoids From The Deep (which Corman executive produced, albeit uncredited). Allan Holzman’s brief was simple: cash in on the craze inaugurated by Ridley Scott’s Alien and what he achieved on a $1m budget was nothing short of amazing. While Galaxy of Terror is, in Keeper’s opinion, the crème de la crème of all the resulting “clones”, Holzman’s film sits alongside William Malone’s Titan Find just shy of the apex.
Around six minutes of footage was cut from the original pre-release on Corman’s request after test screenings revealed certain audience members laughing uncontrollably at certain more comedic scenes and the producer even took one heckler to task, smacking him upside his head and earning himself a soda bath in the process as the man took his foul revenge from the balcony later on. Whilst perhaps he over-reacted slightly to this amusement, it shows just how seriously he took the project. Budgetary constraints aside, Forbidden World adopted the same methodology as Scott’s sci-fi centerpiece and did so on a mere fraction of the outlay.
After a typically campy opening space battle reminiscent of Star Wars, federal marshal Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) is summoned to a barren planet on the outskirts of the solar system to assist a group of scientists whose genetic experiment has gone tits up. They have been nurturing an ominous alien lifeform, nicknamed Subject 20, and appear to have bitten off more than they can chew so Colby rides in like a knight with shining erection and swiftly commences bedding the female boffins as though backed up with gallons of intergalactic space-cum. Sure, there’s a malignant extraterrestrial on the loose but these semen aren’t going to spend themselves and, besides, they’re simply asking for it for being so darned buxom.
Amidst all the sweaty coitus, the crew’s plight is steadily worsening as one-by-one the dwindling team is whittled down by the Xenomorph knock-off and it is here that Holzman keeps up grounded and calls to mind the insular trappings of the Nostromo. Where Galaxy of Terror took a far more extravagant approach to the formula, the director applies a more claustrophobic angle aside from one sequence set on the planet surface. The sets are largely rehashed from Clark’s B-movie marvel, where the alien itself is designed by John Carl Buechler, with a knowing nod to the design of Scott’s monster.
Buechler also proves himself capable of some impressive gags, especially given the fact that the budget is severely limited, and the kills are drip-fed with precisely the right frequency to keep things rattling alone nicely. One criticism which could never be leveled at Forbidden World is that it outstays its welcome as attested by an anaemic 77 minute running time which Holzman fills admirably. There is no great science to proceedings but this is where Corman has so often hit pay-dirt. His features are focused solely on entertainment and, at no point, are we afforded the opportunity to lose interest. There is simply no time for boredom to set in.
The characters may be largely expendable but they do have personality and, moreover, Holzman utilizes the cramped confines of the ship well to create a palpable tension, aided by a baroscopic electronic score courtesy of Susan Justin. Forbidden World is perhaps closest in feel to Alien of all the wannabes surfacing at the time and what was achieved with such limited funds is nothing short of commendable. Restraint is not a key word here and excessive is a word that better suits this sci-fi oddity. Corman built his reputation on punching above his weight division (as well as members of his test audience) and this offers the perfect example of what the great man does best.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: While the first victim is sprawled out on the autopsy table steadily being reduced to space sediment, the rest of this doomed crew are discovering that you cannot reason with a toothy test-tube monster as it rapidly evolves from simple face-hugger to full-blown behemoth. Full frontal nudity is used to intersperse the bloodletting and both female cast members appear allergic to linen for long, sustained periods, suggesting that they really ought to use a different detergent. It’s okay though; we forgive them. Filthy little strumpets. Buechler ladles on the gooey grue and his gloriously schlocky effects effortlessly belie the meager kitty at his disposal.
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