This is your brain on drugs

Pub date May 29, 2007
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

"When you’re smilin’," Satchmo sang, "the whole world smiles with you." Likewise, when you’re on acid, the whole world is frying with you, like that egg in the Just Say No commercials of the ’80s. After watching Richard Elfman’s black-and-white, semianimated, vaudevillian, blackface, sadomasochistic, surrealist musical masterpiece Forbidden Zone, my dosed-up high school friends and I were convinced that Elfman and the entire cast must have been on copious amounts of mind-altering substances. Because, seriously, how else could you come up with this shit?

The plot involves a hidden door in the basement of the Hercules family home, which — after a jaunt through Monty Python–esque animated bowels — leads into the sixth dimension, home of an ear-eating, tuxedo-clad anthropomorphic frog named Bust Rod; a cadre of hollow-eyed, dry-humping psychopaths; a topless princess; a "little midget king"; a sapphic, ball-busting badass evil queen; and a very musical, Cab Calloway–loving Satan. Oh, and a gorilla who gets his head pounded into a mealy mush by Grandpa Hercules, a former Jewish wrestling star. What’s Grandpa Hercules doing in the sixth dimension? His grandson Flash — a tubby, gray-haired elementary school student in boxers, a Beanie Boy propeller hat, and a Boy Scout shirt — unties his "kosher fart of a grandpa" to help him rescue his sister, Frenchy, and classmate Squeezit Henderson’s twin, René, from the dungeon. Squeezit contends throughout the movie that his sibling is female, to which Flash counters, "He just dresses like a broad. He’s a faggot." Faced with friends like this and an abusive, sailor-humping mom, Squeezit’s only true allies are chickens.

I long ago stopped eating the magic fruit of Sandoz Laboratories and realize you don’t have to be on brain-melting hallucinogens to come up with something wildly creative like Forbidden Zone. As it turns out, Richard Elfman’s only vices are "wine and women" (see "Return to the Sixth Dimension"). However, you can’t blame me for thinking he was on something. I recently watched the movie with my friend Maria after years of blurting out things like "Holy cow, it’s 10 to nine! The queen said she was going to ream us with 20-inch cattle prods, and I’m still waiting!" When the 73 minutes of lunacy had ceased, she looked at me blankly and said, "I think it’s one of those movies that you need to be on acid to really get into."