Writer/Director Richard Elfman answers some weird questions about his ultra weird cult movie musical FORBIDDEN ZONE...
TV STORE ONLINE: Richard, I was curious to see if any of the Olsen & Johnson films like HELLZAPOPPIN' (1941) or CRAZY HOUSE (1943) were an influence on you as the director of FORBIDDEN ZONE (1982)?
ELFMAN: Well, my immediate influence was the work of R. Crumb. In the FORBIDDEN ZONE when you see all of that stuff with characters going down through intestines that's really my homage to R. Crumb. Then, also I was really influenced by some of the German Expressionist filmmakers like G.W. Pabst, and then films like THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920). Also, Max Fleischer, and his stuff from the '20s and '30s had a big influence on FORBIDDEN ZONE...
TV STORE ONLINE: What about Busby Berkeley?
ELFMAN: Yeah, there is a little bit of that stuff in there for sure, although I didn't do anything on his scale.
TV STORE ONLINE: Was that '20s or '30s era specifically the style you were after for the film?
ELFMAN: Well, I wasn't really after a particular time period. I think it plays into exactly what I was doing with my brother Danny [Elfman] in our music group Mystic Knights Of Oingo Boingo back in the late '70s in that what we were doing was reprising things from the past. The idea behind that was to showcase things from the past that were deemed classic but as a fan of it you couldn't buy it at that time. At that time you couldn't go out and buy a movie that featured Cab Calloway or Josephine Baker or a revue of Yiddish vaudeville. In FORBIDDEN ZONE we span 1915 to 1949, so we were never really going after a particular era.
TV STORE ONLINE: Where does the title for the film FORBIDDEN ZONE come from? It can't be an homage to PLANET OF THE APES (1968) can it?
ELFMAN: No. Originally I was planning on calling the film THE HERCULES FAMILY but that didn't seem to fit any longer after we had created the King and Queen characters in the film. I really just pulled the title FORBIDDEN ZONE out of my head and it made sense because there was just so much going on underneath.
TV STORE ONLINE: I'm a huge fan of actor Joe Spinell, so I have to ask how he came to be cast in the film?
ELFMAN: Well, it was Matthew Bright [FORBIDDEN ZONE co-screenwriter] who found him through his acting teacher. I saw him and I thought he was great because he played a great grease ball. I'm sure you remember him from THE GODFATHER (1972)? He was great. I'll never forget that Joe asked me if he could keep the sailors suit after we were done. I just told him to really amp it up for that character.
TV STORE ONLINE: I love how he has "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on the knuckles of each of his hands...
ELFMAN: Right, that was something I wanted him to have. Joe was really great to work with. He immediately understood the part. He got that he was simply a abusive sailor that was there to screw the mom and beat up on her kid. In an earlier draft of the screenplay, for that scene, Matthew Bright had Spinell's character just beating the hell out of the kid. He was supposed to just wipe the floor with the kid for like three minutes straight until he was a bloody pulp. We shot it that way, but we had to cut it down in the editing of the film because it really killed the pacing.
TV STORE ONLINE: In a few of the things that have been written about FORBIDDEN ZONE to date....There's talk of tension on the set between Susan Tyrell and Herve Villechaize...
ELFMAN: Right, well they had been a couple. They really loved each other, but they had some terrific fights. They were mostly tragic and comic. Susan had a big bellowing voice and Herve, although he was a charismatic man, had this little voice. So you'd hear Susan yelling at who you thought was no one but when you'd get closer to her you could hear Herve responding to her.
TV STORE ONLINE: What about Viva? How did she come to get involved in the role as the "Ex-Queen"?
ELFMAN: I can't remember how we got her. I think someone that worked with us just knew her and said, "Hey, do you wanna come and play this character? You can write your own scene?" She was great. Viva has a really wonderful acid tongue and a great wit about her and she and Susan [Tyrell] didn't get along to well. In fact, in the scene where they have to fight each other...Things got pretty heated and we had to break them apart...laughing We did get some good action out of it though...laughing I waited a while when it was happening before I yelled cut!
Check out Richard Elfman's website Buzzine HERE:
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung