Danny Elfman is best known for his many film and TV scores – from Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands to the annoyingly catchy Desperate Housewives theme tune – but did you know he started his music career in a 1970s/1980s synth band alongside his brother? The band was Oingo Boingo, whose fusion of new wave synth pop and ska, bizarre stage show antics and surreal music videos earned them a legion of fans amongst the alternative crowd. Forbidden Zone, the band’s 1982 feature-length experimental music video, is a fantastical, surreal oddity that may not have set the box office alight, but has certainly earned cult status of the past 30 years.
Taking its cue from the Wizard of Oz, the black and white musical fantasy follows the misadventures of the Hercules family who discover a door to the Sixth Dimension in their home. This world of cardboard and paper sets is ruled over by the diminutive King Fausto (played by Fantasy Island’s Herve Villechaize) and his Amazonian-like queen, Doris (played by cult legend Susan Tyrrell). When Fausto falls for the Hercules’ daughter Frenchy and locks her up, the jealous Doris sets out to take her revenge. Meanwhile, the Hercules family head into the Sixth Dimension to rescue their own…
Drawing inspiration from German Expressionism and old Betty Boop cartoons, The Three Stooges and David Lynch’s Eraserhead, The Forbidden Zone is a crazy mish-mash of ideas that’s a bit hit-and-miss. But the score helps seals the cracks. Alongside the music of old-time favourites Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Josephine Baker, the Elfman-penned tunes offer a hint at great things to come (I could here the Beetlejuice theme at one point). But my favourite remains Witch’s Egg (actually co-written by Tyrrell), an insanely brilliant psychedelic number that calls to mind Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.
Originally released back in 2006 in the UK, Forbidden Zone has been given an HD makeover and includes, for the first time, a colourised version, plus new extras.