Posted November 15, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

The “Forbidden Zone” Screening

AKA the time Danny Elfman’s brother told me to smoke pot.

Trapped in a Closet

Locked in a poorly lit, narrow side room of the Capitol Theater, the performers yelled at me to go find them some marijuana.

The group of Olympians dressed in a variety of costumes—skeleton suits, devil horns, masks, animal ears, and shiny beads dangling around their necks—waited to be released from the locked storage space. The poor design of the double door had a handle on one side, but not the other. This probably wasn’t the first time it happened.

Off to the side of the echoing chatter, scattered drums, and wacky outfits, sat film director Richard Elfman.

“You better have a drink or a toke first,” he told me as a bright red clown wig was placed on his head. “I’m serious. The movie has a zombification effect.”

A few more crazily garbed people agreed with Elfman, reiterating their want for me to get them weed. Awkwardly I laughed and told them I left it at home. Initiative 502 had only passed a few days prior, the law not in effect yet.

Finally someone opened the door, and I scrambled out, calming my claustrophobia.

Theater Procession

Elfman had mentioned in the small room that he had a pre-film performance planned, but what came down the theater aisle couldn’t have been predicted.

A lover of all things theatrical, Elfman can’t choose just one thing to focus his creativity on. When asked if he favored music, theater, or film, he responded, “All three, and throw in food and wine and sex.”

The pre show spectacle clearly exemplified this.

As if Mardi Gras came to the Olympia Film Society, a drum line led by Elfman in a full clown suit marched between the worn-out red seats of the theater and onto the stage. The procession, complete with a topless woman dressed as a zebra, seized the attention of the audience, prepping them for the next act before the film: burlesque dancers.

Two scantily clad women, their tattoos covering more than their clothing, took over the stage. A “Betty Boop” cartoon played on the screen behind as they held an overly acted, choreographed dance-off. As they finished with no clear winner, it was hard to imagine what would be next.

What is it?

The 1982 film, “Forbidden Zone,” is based on the live performance art group Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, formed by Elfman in 1972. The musical stage group was morphing into a rock music group, leaving behind the theatrical portion of the performance.

“I wanted to preserve on film what we were doing on stage,” said Elfman. So with the help of the theater group and his brother, Hollywood composer Danny Elfman, the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo came to life on the silver screen.

Starting off with an opening sequence set to an 80s “New Wave” style theme song and a hybrid of animation and live action, the film gave the impression of a kooky low budget knock-off of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” mixed with the likes of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

For a little over an hour, the film took the audience on a crazy ride.

What to Expect

Transitions between the real world, set in California, and the 6th Dimension—where women run around topless, butlers have paper-mache frog heads, and a French midget king rules along with his rock opera singing Queen—were animated to allow for the crazy visuals. Something a live stage show wouldn’t be able to pull off.

The low budget film, with only one paid actor, blended a wide spectrum of music—a majority done via lip syncing, quirky dance numbers, and over the top sexual innuendos—into a twisted plot of anti-heroes overcoming personal issues to save a girl from certain death.

Perhaps because “Forbidden Zone” was the debut of his first film score, Danny, Richard’s brother, was featured in only one scene – but it could perhaps be considered the most charismatic both visually and musically. Complete with a ghoulish big band behind him, Danny sings a Mystic Knights version of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” before a character’s head gets chopped off.

When the comical finale ended and credits rolled, I realized I should have taken Elfman’s advice about having a toke.

By Kelli Tokos