On the remote planet of Xarbia, a scientific experiment has gone horrifically wrong. An experimental life-form known as Subject 20,” created by an elite group of scientists to prevent a major galactic food crisis, has instead mutated into a man-eating organism. It’s getting bigger, it has the ability to change its genetic structure at will and, worst of all, it’s hungry. Very, very hungry!
Two-fisted, hard-living, hard-loving bounty hunter Mike Colby (Jesse Vint, Macon County Line, Deathsport) is called in to combat this monstrous menace, but soon suspects that the scientists are keeping something from him. He soon discovers why: Subject 20 is half-human.
In classic Agatha Christie tradition, Subject 20 begins killing off the scientists one by one, while Colby and the remaining survivors desperately try to figure out a way to destroy it -- before it destroys them.
Also released theatrically as Mutant, Forbidden World has it all: Gratuitous gore, unexpected nudity, surprising bits of black comedy, and an assortment of inspired and inventive special effects (done on a Roger Corman budget, of course). Nevertheless, the film earned three Saturn Award nominations: Best Low-Budget Film, Best Special Effects and Best Makeup. The film marked the directorial debut of two-time Primetime Emmy Awards® winner Allan Holzman (Survivors of the Holocaust), who like so many Hollywood luminaries got his start under Corman’s auspices.
'Forbidden World,' or 'Mutant' if you want to call it by its original name, really isn't much more than an occasionally showy 'Alien' rip-off. In fact, the director, Allan Holzman, says as much on the commentary. Originally, producer Roger Corman tasked Holzman, who had just edited 'Battle Beyond the Stars' for the studio, to create a kind of 'Lawrence of Arabia' in space. When Holzman turned in the draft, Corman, deeming it too costly and elaborate, said: "Let's just rip off 'Alien.'" And rip off 'Alien' they did.
If this sounds like I'm knocking the movie, well, I am, sort of. But there's something oddly alluring about 'Forbidden World.'
The plot, as much as there is one, concerns a genetic research lab that's orbiting a world with the incredibly science fiction-y name of Xarbia (in the future the letter 'x' is used a lot more). It's on this lab that the scientists create "Subject 20," a hideous monstrosity that goes through several mutations and offs most of the research crew (comprised of B-actors that most people have never heard of, although a young Michael Bowen is in the cast).
It's not spoiling anything to say that the monster is eventually killed, and where one of Holzman's few original ideas comes into play: the monster, after eating the cancer-ridden body of the space station's head of security (Fox Harris), dies from cancer! This isn't spoiling anything, trust you me. It's like this bizarre, cheap-ass sci-fi movie turns into a movie about terminal illness. Or something. And it's this conceit that is evocative of the movie's many nutty tendencies.
Take the opening sequence, which is lifted from both 'Alien' with a dash of '2001' thrown in. Or the fact that the movie has these sections where images flit by, edited without any decipherable reason. (This being a Roger Corman movie, a scene where two of the female crewmembers shower together is a mainstay of these montages.)
There's a lot of goop in 'Forbidden World.' And a lot of blood. And, again, this being a Roger Corman movie, a lot of (refreshingly natural) boobs. You're struck by the amazing ability of crewmembers to mindlessly enjoy a hot sauna while a killer mutant is on the loose. But hey. I'm not complaining about excessive nudity. In fact, scratch "excessive" from that last sentence!
At some point during the screening process for the film, the original, humorous intent was deleted by Corman. Supposedly, if Corman heard an audience laughing WITH a movie, he assumed they were laughing AT the movie. He had Holzman take out all the humor, so what we're left with is a frequently comical sci-fi horror movie that never acknowledges its own ludicrousness.
There's tons of stuff to love about 'Forbidden World' (the boobs, the remarkably straight-faced performances, Susan Justin's score) and often times the movie hums with the low budget, "let's put on a show" attitude that defined the Corman productions from that period. But in the end, just liked its producer said, it's really just an 'Alien' rip off.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 25GB Blu-ray disc is Region A locked. There's a second disc, a DVD, that contains the original, intentionally funny version of 'Forbidden World' aka 'Mutant.' The disc does not automatically play. The case contains a nice little essay called "How to Make an Alien in 20 Days." Another cool feature: you can flip the outside cover inside out and instead of a 'Forbidden World' box you'll have a 'Mutant' box! How cool is that?
The Blu-ray disc comes equipped with a formidable 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer (aspect ratio: 1.78:1) that's probably the best 'Forbidden World' has ever looked.
To compare how bad this could have looked, just pop in the bonus disc with the 'Mutant' director's cut. (More on that later.) Blacks are darker, overall clarity is vastly improved, skin tones look more lifelike, and the list goes on.
Occasionally, low budget movies presented in high definition seem to make their cheapy special effects or unconvincing make-up look cheaper and more unconvincing. This is the case, occasionally, on 'Forbidden World,' especially when the monster is in full effect. The rubbery nature of the beast is really revealed. But that's okay. You were never really "buying" the monster in the first place anyway (H.R. Geiger wouldn't have doodled this beast on a cocktail napkin).
But at the same time, the added depth and dimensionality provided by the high definition transfer affords some of the movie, especially the claustrophobic sets (incidentally designed by James Cameron for another Corman production), some added nuance and believability.
Is this transfer going to blow your mind? No. There are definitely some spotty issues, which I can't decide are the transfer's fault or the fault of that hazy cinematography style that was so favored in the late 70s and early 80s ('Forbidden World' came out in 1982). But does 'Forbidden World' look way better than it has any right to? Yes, definitely. I was really impressed with the clarity and overall look of this transfer, and I'm sure you will be too.
Equally impressive, in that 'hey, this is as good as it's going to get'-way is the disc's DTS 2.0 audio track.
The movie starts almost exactly like 'Alien,' with a crewmember unfreezing after hyperspace and all of these doodads and robots coming to life. It's here that the clarity of the mix really presents itself, and does a good job of sustaining the level throughout the rest of the film.
This isn't the kid of mix that'll blow you away, just as in the video's case, but there is a workmanlike efficiency to the mix, and that's okay by me (especially for a stereo mix). Dialogue is mostly clear and crisp and well prioritized, the monster snarls and grows with the appropriate menace, and despite some scenes where either the sound effects overwhelm or the dialogue goes muddy, this is probably the best the movie has ever sounded, too.
This is your only audio option, as far as I can tell.
The extras on this disc are duplicated on Shout's DVD release, so sadly there's no exclusive content. On the brighter side, this set has a lovely collection of extras. (Not as many as, say, on the 'Death Race 2000' disc but this isn't exactly the movie 'Death Race 2000' is.) If I can editorialize for a minute (I know, it's so unlike me), I'd like to say how happy I am that the Corman movies have landed at Shout!(!) For years the collection has bounced around to different distributors, hell, even Disney had the rights for a few years, and it's just so nice to see these movies given the treatment they've always deserved. Way to go, Shout!, and keep 'em coming!
Is 'Forbidden World' (or 'Mutant') a cheap-ass 'Alien' knock-off? Yes, yes it is. But is it also a ridiculous amount of fun? Why yes, it's that too! Shout! Factory has really outdone themselves with their recent work on the Corman movies, and this is no exception. With above-average audio and video and a host of captivating features, including the once-thought long-lost director's cut of 'Mutant,' this is a highly recommended title indeed.