Friday, August 30, 2019

When the Alien Attacks, Remember Sex

It's hard to say if 1982's Forbidden World is a decent science fiction film sabotaged by porn elements or a decent porn sabotaged by sci-fi elements. Neither side of this intriguing hybrid quite asserts itself enough to argue for one or the other though both have some surprisingly good elements to commend them.

Maybe it needed just to be a different kind of porn. Dawn Dunlap as Tracy Baxter, a naive research scientist with perfect hair, walks through an intricately detailed corridor wearing lingerie as casual wear. The production design on this movie is way better than it needs to be for a porn parody, partly because sets designed by James Cameron were reused from Galaxy of Terror. Both films were produced by Roger Corman--and I'd wager Corman was not shy about jumping into the director's chair here. Going all the way back to the 50s, his films persistently feature cheesecake that doesn't quite gel with the various genre films' subject matters.

Tracy, the anachronistic porn princess, becomes the film's POV character despite the initial setup framing things with an intergalactic "troubleshooter", a cocky old hand named Mike (Jesse Vint) who travels with an android, Sam (Don Olivera), who inexplicably resembles a Cylon.

Once he gets to the station where genetic experiments are being carried out as part of an effort to battle a food crisis, the camera's attention tends to stay with Tracy or Barbara (June Chadwick) before sticking mainly with Tracy. Even when Mike and the others go outside to pursue the escaped alien-esque mutant, we're given over-the-shoulder shots of Tracy watching them through a monitor.

Hmm, that rock looks familiar. Watch out for Gorn!

The plot takes an ironic turn when it turns out the mutant menace is turning people into self-sustaining sacks of protein perfectly suitable for its digestion. Poetic justice for attempting to solve a food crisis? Something like that. I do like the look of the monster in its final form, which is something like a cross between the Xenomorph and the cover of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The production design is good and some of the effects are really cool. The first guy who's attacked after Mike shows up has a massive hole in his head when he's found (by Tracy, of course). The station medical doctor (Fox Harris) declares the man is somehow, incredibly, still alive. And he stays alive as his body slowly breaks down. This results in a really eerie shot of the mangled thing staring mutely at the doctor, subtly breathing.

If it'd started talking like the Cryptkeeper it might've just been cheesy but the effect is subtle enough it works. But next to this we have naked Tracy in the sauna wearing sunglasses.

And I have to say, her attitude in these shots is kind of cool even if she mainly just completely does not fit in the film. Maybe if she looked a bit more like a scientist, a bit nerdier, if she came off as a little sharper instead of kind of like a big bunny. If part of her expertise were a combination of anthropological and genetic research into sexuality that somehow related to the station's experiments, maybe there could have been a harmonious, shall we say, intercourse between the film's sci-fi and pornographic elements. On the other hand, there is kind of a fun, Space Quest/They Live cheesy 80s vibe to the film. Maybe there just needed to be more wisecracks and hamburgers.

Forbidden World is available on Amazon Prime.

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A roll of film revealled spaghetti strains.
In time was told the noodle code to sleep.
Defining clouds contribute signal rains.
A puddle builds a sea a mile deep.
Determined staff complete the dinner course.
Buffets of winding clocks accost the tongue.
Assorted rolls conduct the sleepy horse.
A forest fills the giant's leafy lung.
Assigned to building bells, the house proceeds.
For timing set, spontaneous was now.
In perfect socks the knitting nymph succeeds.
There naught e'er worked ubiquitous enow.
A crossing blob became a focused ship.
Completed cakes alight upon the lip.

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