FREAKSHOW Forbidden Zone

Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time sees a family of freaks take a trip to the sixth dimension

1980
Director: Richard Elfman
Cast: Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell, Gisele Lindley
Available on region one and region two DVD
Watch the trailer here

Sometimes, as a reviewer, when you read back your notes, it’s almost a shame to chisel them down into coherent sentences. In fact… why bother?

“Big bam boom”. Vomit in lap. Honking noses. Bald men, musical grunts. Naked woman on a spit. League Of Gentlemen nostrils. Schoolkid pimp shoot-out. Terry Gilliam intestines. Unnecessary boobage. Human chandelier. Wobbling buttocks. Yiddish cabaret. Random gorilla. Geekboy pathos. Talking chickens. Jokeshop beards. Dog-humping oblivious women. Electrocution by vibrator. Singing zombies. Frog-headed man kicked in the nads.

Get the idea? Shot in black and white, this nutzoid musical freak-out was directed by Richard Elfman and scored by his brother Danny – now Tim Burton’s favoured composer. At the time, both were members of a performance troupe called The Mystic Knights Of Oingo Boingo. Transposing their sensibilities to celluloid with no thought of market or profit, they birthed this hysterical cult oddity.

The story? Okay… a family of freaks has a portal to the sixth dimension in their basement. The daughter goes through and meets the vertically-challenged King Fausto (Fantasy Island star Hervé Villechaize), who decides to make her a concubine. The jealous Queen captures and tortures the girl, but… oh, fuggedaboutit. Plot, schmot. It’s all about the insane spectacle.

You could toss definitions at this thing all day and never hit the bullseye. It’s Frank Zappa doing music hall. It’s a funhouse in a funny farm. It’s an MGM musical shot by depraved junkies. It’s Tiswas directed by the unquiet spirit of Ed Wood. It’s a punk rock Wizard Of Oz.  Mixing ‘30s jazz with German Expressionism and the Three Stooges with performance art, it’s camp, low-rent, crass and… utterly irresistible, actually.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Jess Franco’s Female Vampire four or five times, but never seen Casablanca. The nutter.

Click here to see our other cult movie write-ups. And if you like oddball movies, check out Total Film’s Trash Talk.