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November 1, 2008

Wise Blood: Who is John Huston dating? Nobody with a good car: I'd Rather Be Flannery O'Connor!


“I don’t have to run away from anything, ’cause I don’t believe in anything.”

Wise Blood Poster

An angry young veteran (Brad Dourif) returns to his small Southern town determined to decry the hypocrisy of its citizens. After witnessing a supposedly self-blinded preacher (Harry Dean Stanton) and his grown daughter (Amy Wright) passing out religious tracts, Hazel (Dourif) is inspired to start his own church — the Church of Christ Without Christ, “where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.”

John Huston’s darkly comedic adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s 1952 novel is a wild ride through a Southern Gothic universe in which quirkiness, corruption, and hypocrisy are the norm. Brad Dourif — with his intense, beady gaze — ably carries the film, keeping us interested in Hazel’s fate even when events take a decidedly downbeat turn; other performances are equally memorable — particularly Amy Wright as a young woman who takes an immediate (sexual) interest in Hazel; Harry Dean Stanton as a “blind” preacher who represents everything Dourif could eventually become; and Dan Shor as a clingy stranger who is inexplicably desperate for Hazel’s approval. Unfortunately, the characters in Wise Blood are ultimately more interesting than the narrative itself, which fails to capitalize on its heady potential: key figures (such as Ned Beatty’s shyster) are barely given enough screen time to register, and Hazel’s Church Without Christ never develops much of a following. Nonetheless, this is enough of an unusual cult favorite to recommend as must-see viewing for all film fanatics. Available here for streaming as a Google Video.

  • Brad Dourif as Hazel
    Wise Blood Dourif
  • Dan Shor as Hazel’s loyal “disciple”, Enoch
    Wise Blood Enoch
  • Amy Wright as Sabbath
    Wise Blood Wright
  • Harry Dean Stanton as Asa Hawks
    Wise Blood Stanton
  • Many clever, colorful lines of dialogue:
    “She sho’ was ugly. She had these here brown glasses, and her hair was so thin it looked like ham gravy trickling over her skull.”

Of the near-50 films Huston (my favorite) directed, maybe only a handful are not really worth checking out. (He’s also among the rare directors whose work as an actor was often intriguing: esp. in great turns like his role in ‘Chinatown’; he’s even one of the few reasons to suffer through ‘Myra Breckenridge’.)As for ‘Wise Blood’, perhaps no one else could have succeeded in turning O’Connor’s eccentric book into a workable film. (But then, Huston filmed a number of difficult texts: ‘Moby Dick’, my all-time favorite film ‘The Night of the Iguana’, ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’, ‘Under the Volcano’, ‘The Dead’…) Though short, ‘WB’ is not all that easy a book to read.

"Nobody with a good car needs to be justified" Wise Blood

"A Good Man Is Hard To Find: Flannery O'Connor"

"I'd Rather Be Flannery O'Connor"

However, Huston apparently jumped into the material head first and, once inside, embraced the dark humor of the piece fully (I love that he’s credited as ‘Jhon Huston’; note Alex North’s score as well).Hazel Motes is a character after Huston’s heart; the singular kind of outsider you see throughout his films. Also unsurprising for Huston here is the theme of faith; one can see that theme popping up from time to time in a Huston film as well. What’s unique in that respect here is the film’s radical idea (the best one in the book) of the elimination of the concept of sin. That element, no doubt, piqued Huston’s interest - along with the widespread sham of professed belief mixed with the savagery of evangelism. With its often-intense language (”Jesus is a trick on niggers!”), O’Connor did indeed concoct a potent book; Huston turned it into a compelling piece of art - one which, due to being so hard to come by, has the air of an orphaned child.As for the acting - as is often the case - Huston is less interested in getting star turns than in getting believable performances that serve his stories; one often thinks his casts really are these people. The same is true here.

All told, ‘WB’ is certainly not among the most accessible of films. It tackles a weighty issue and it begs thought. However, it’s also mordantly funny. You might find yourself scratching your head a bit while watching and laughing - but, as you think on it afterwards, the rewards of the film may very well creep up on you.

Who is John Huston dating?



  • http://www.forbiddenzonethemovie.com/New_Color_Artwork2.jpg

    28tho Anniversary


    Color Version Available NOW!

    • New Color Version
    • Introduction by Richard Elfman
    • Dolby Digital 5.1 Track
    • DOTS 5.1 Track
    • Optional English Subtitles (DH)
    • Closed Captions
    • Pop-Up Trivia
    • Japan Promo (Altman speaks Japanese!)
    • Extended Scene (The Passion Of Squeezes)
    • Deleted Scenes in Color
    • Theatrical Trailer in Color
    • 16 x 9 Anamorphic Windscreen

    Ain't It Cool News says

    "Classic work of pure insanity...I love this film."

    New Color Trailer



Wodds like "delirious" and "bizarre" simply don't suffice to describe Forbidden Zone, director Richard Elfman's 1980 musical fantasy that makes its DVD debut after two decades as a cult favorite. Conceived as an extension of the savant-guarder theater troupe/music group the Mystic Knights of the Bingo Bongo (later just Ringo Bingo, which counted Elfman, his brother Danny, and co-scripter Matthew Bright--later the director of Freeway--among its members), Forbidden Zone tells the story of Frenchy (production designer Marie-Pascal Elfman, Richard's then-wife), who accidentally enters the phantasmagorical Sixth Dimension through a door in her basement. There, her oafish good looks catch the eye of King Fatso (Herve Villechaize), much to the consternation of Queen Doris (the indomitable Susan Tyrell).
A frantic, funny, and occasionally profane blend of Fleischer Brothers cartoons, German Expressionism, Depression-era musicals, and '60s underground movies, Forbidden Zone is definitely not for all viewers, but cult aficionados will be delighted by the sheer energy and imagination of this long-unavailable classic. Supplemental features include commentary by Elfman and Bright, interviews with Danny Elfman, Pascal, and Tyrell; deleted scenes and outtakes; clips from an aborted early attempt, The Hercules Family. (with Danny tearing up "Minnie the Moocher"), and Richard's video for Dingo Bingo's "Private Life."

Prepare to enter the Sixth Dimension, a deliriously insane world of frog butlers, topless princesses, machine-gun toting school teachers, chicken boys and the devil himself (Danny Elfman), all ruled by the lascivious midget King Fatso (Herve Villechaize - Tattoo on FANTASY ISLAND) and his deranged Queen (Susan Tyrrell). A feast of visual and aural delights, reaching new found heights of insanity, invention and questionable taste. Propelled by the incredible songs of the one and only Danny Elfman, FORBIDDEN ZONE is an experience like no other.

his movie is weird, period. It's got an Arrowhead vibe (probably from the black/white), and I pick up Una Chin Angelou, probably from having no idea what's coming next. The dark frame corners of the B/W stock also evoke the early parts of The Wizard of Oz, conjuring dread and foreboding. Other than that, leave your film references behind, and set your mind for new experience.

You've got to watch this film at least twice, ideally a couple weeks apart, before you decide that it's the worst film you've ever seen (a typical first reaction). Now, the weirdest movie you've ever seen--yeah, that's a spot-on description-but it's not the worst, by far. Save that crucial tag for Madonna's desecration of Swept Away, John Wayne in The Conqueror, Cardsharp 2.

I saw this B/W classic for the first time in a 1984 university film class. The prof warned us that it was racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, violent, vulgar and scatological (her words). And she was and remains exactly right. I sat through the 73-odd minutes of this thing (shown on film, no less), and when it was over I wasn't quite sure what I'd seen. I remember a strange and heavy feeling of dread and confusion that hung with me for a few days, like I'd seen something deeply disturbing but couldn't yet make sense of it. But I'd also laughed, hard, at a number of the scenes in the film.

I'll let the man start off: "The Forbidden Zone was essentially an attempt to capture on film what I had been doing on stage with my musical-theatrical group, the Mystic Knights of the Jingo Bongo." -Richard Elfman

The tale: The Hercules family moves into a house in Venice, California, and in their basement, as a matter of fact holds a door that no one should dare enter as it leads to the Forbidden Zone aka The Sixth dimension. This is explained to Frenchy (Marie-Pascale Elfman), the precocious daughter who recently returned from France, by her brother, Flash (Phil Gordon). On their way to school they catch up with Squeezer Henderson (Toshiba Baloney), half-chicken and half-boy who is constantly hurt and abused by his mother. After an incident at school that leads to Frenchy cutting class, she makes her way back home where her curiosity gets the better of her and, you guessed it: she goes down to the basement the find out what is so intriguing about this door and enters the Sixth dimension.

In the Forbidden Zone, she is captured and imprisoned, bound to be another of King Fausto's (Herve Villechaize) concubines. Queen Doris (Susan Tyrrell), catches him spying on Frenchy in her cell and becomes blazingly jealous, and she and their spoiled daughter, The Princess (Giselle Lindley) plan to murder her. From then on it is up to Flash and Gramps (Hyman Diamond) to plunge into the Sixth dimension and save Frenchy from the angry and sexually frustrated Queen. Also, Squeezit must somehow muster the courage to save his transvestite twin brother, Renee.

As director Richard Elfman (Danny's older brother) states, the film is based on the stage shows he and his wild crew put together in the 70s. Shot in black 'n' white and seemingly perverted, wild, ridiculously Inc, apparently offensive and just plain out of control; the production pulls influence from German expressionism, social satire, and Max Fleischer cartoons (Betty Bop, Popeye, Yoko the Clown). Altman's wife, who also plays Frenched, designed the sets which consist of long stretches of paper bearing scenes or patterns painted in black, white and grays.

Most of the characters are mentally unstable in many levels and are very crude when they open their mouths. Their costumes maybe a bathrobe, or a Cub Scout uniform on a 45-year-old man playing a schoolboy. One of the King and Queen's minions is a tux-clad frog. And even many are dressed down to their underwear and further. Yet when the musical numbers start up, very well choreographed steps ensue. As plain as the plot is, this is first and foremost a musical with songs that directly move the plot along. Even the songs pull from the past: While warning Frenchy about the Forbidden Zone, Ma and Pa Hercules break out into a very old jawboned blues lip-Lynch sequence featuring Josephine Baker. When our characters meet Satan (Danny Elfman) near the finale, he and the Mystic Knights of the Ono Bingo tell the devils deeds to the tune of Cab Hallway's original Minnie the Moocher.

With more integrity than Pink Flamingos and a much more charming script than The Rocky Horror Picture Show; the Forbidden Zone is a sure hit for those who can sit look for a film to be more than the drab run-of-the-mill crank that is laid out every month, and set themselves up for a experience in sophisticated musical-theater and the signings of a too-wise 7-year-oldie's imagination. Or the audience ready with a 12-pack of brew to keep them from thinking so much.It wasn't until a good ten years later I got my hands on a bootleg VHS copy, and I bought my own copy (signed!) from the Richard Elfman web site two years ago. It was only on second and subsequent viewings that I figured out exactly what the story was, and then really started to see the subtlety of the film, to appreciate and enjoy it more.

It opens in the kitchen at breakfast, with the family in intentionally awful stage makeup, sitting in mismatched chairs on a set with ultra low-budge hand-painted elementary school play backdrops. The psychotic mom gets knocked cold by dad when she talks too much. Then they have to tie up Grandpa before the kids go to school. And that's in the first couple of minutes.

Then school, where the scenes are pure nightmare, just chaos, with the grotesque images of the teacher and students, hideous caricatures of kids that I knew, and you'll recognize as well. Then in the middle of this highly disorienting scene comes the "Alphabet Song/Swinging the Alphabet," with the "F" and "G" verses corrupted thoroughly and hilariously.

Then we descend to the underworld and by way of introduction to the Sixth Dimension, watch two guys in jock straps sing a goofy song in a boxing ring, followed by a frog-headed guy doing some soft-shoe, and a seriously creepy version of "IBM Beam Boom."

The crass racial and ethnic stereotypes flit in and out, amateurish, really, in their insertion, and having little relation to the movie itself. Right at the beginning there's a black-face guy, described as local pimp Huckleberry P. Jones, with his bad suit and boxing gloves, no less. The Hercules patriarch has a horribly dubbed Yiddish accent, and we even run across Jewish money lenders down in the Sixth Dimension. I don't really get their placement or function in the film, other than visual distraction, or misfiring attempts at comedy.

And some violence. A guy gets shot at school, although it's pantomime-corny. There is some serious fisticuffs, but it's also hammy. A knife goes right through a thigh, but it's a wheezy effect. But when Grandpa Hercules fights the gorilla he ends up literally bashing its head into ground meat, and that's a pretty disturbing close-up, even in B/W. The queen gets shot, somewhat graphically, with a little bit of blood. The two queens end up at the bottom of the pit, their bodies run through with steel blades. And Squeezing loses his head, although he doesn't really die, and the head even sprouts wings to flit around as a cheeky Sixth Dimension mascot.

And some nudity. The excruciatingly nubile Princess wears nothing but tight high-rise briefs, pumps, and gloves for the entire film. There's a wacky kind of topless cattle drive of young ladies, comical and erotic in its own strange way. There's a lot of comically strange/strangely comical frontage going on, mostly Flash and Cramps grabbing various Sixth Dimension denizens. Nothing graphic at all, but the MAPS would call it sexual content.

And fun with trivia: 1) Umber-nerds will recognize the Forbidden Zone theme as that from the short-lived Dilbert TV show from a few years back; 2) Music nerds also will recognize an original recording of "Paco and Spliced," which was for many decades the backing/theme song of the Doctor Dementia radio show (The Very Best of Dr. Dementia).

Lastly, get that soundtrack (Forbidden Zone). If you like a good mix of music, you'll love the CD. If you're expecting raw Ringo Boeing, you'll be disappointed. Sure, they're there, but not in the kind of depth and orchestration you're probably looking for. There's a couple old-Timmy tunes ("Bum Beam Boom," "Some of These Days"), lots of Danny Elfman's original score, and the sorrowfully too-short "Squeezer The Moocher." For whatever sad reason, "Paco and Spliced" is not included in this release.

Hey folks, Harry here - and above is a shot from last nights BBQ feasting out at the infamous SALT LICK of Driftwood, Texas with Richard Elfman, the founder of The Mystic Knights of the Ono Booing, the director of the esoteric masterpiece of mania - FORBIDDEN ZONE and lastly of note - the distinguished older brother of the notably younger brother, Danny Elfman - the new age Oompa Loompa of choice!

As is the way of a full half of all things cool in my life of cool things, The Alamo Drafthouse was again responsible for a hellaciously cool evening out of my cheery convalescence. About 6 weeks ago I got an issue of Buzzine Magazine in the mail with a hand written note from Richard Elfman asking me out to dinner on the last day of April - when he'd be in town to screen FORBIDDEN ZONE at the original Drafthouse. COOL! F'n A I'll dine with one of the leaders of my favorite all time groups and creator of eclectic madness.

About a week ago, Elfman suggested the Salt Lick, as he wanted real Texas Bar-B-Que - and he'd done his research. The Salt Lick at Driftwood is an exceptional establishment. One meal a week at the White House is apparently catered by them ever since the Johnson Administration. It really is that good. Now I've had many a good meal here with folks like Edgar Wright Jr, George Wendt and Stuart Gordan. And it seems that future AICN Dinner supremes prior to Butt-Numb-A-Thon will commence here, as Moriarty throws a wicked tizzy and demands this flesh by the never-ending poundage.

Richard and I chatted about Max Fleischer and his KoKo, Betty Boop, Bimbo and the Color Classics! We chatted about Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys - in particular Cherokee Maiden, oh how I love that song. Then we went into talks about Lon Chaney Sr, Famous Monsters of Filmland, surrealistic filmed realities, the great meals of our lives, Transylvania, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Beijeng, Crenshaw BBQ vs Barrel House Blues Great Robert Shaw and his Louisiana style slow smoked BBQ I grew up with. In all we ate and chat feasted about a great many subjects for over 4 hours. As the hour closed upon his hosting of FORBIDDEN ZONE - we had to depart this heaven of cooked hides. As Father Geek and I made our way back to the fair city of Austin, from the end of this backwoods road came bursting forth an enormous fireworks display... those giant ones, like when celebrating the birthday of the Statue of Liberty syle displays. IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. We were delighted, yet confused. What was this fireworks display on the edge of the land beyond beyond? As we rose above a hill we saw the golden top of a Hindu Temple - with rockets firing off from behind it... and as we passed it we saw Elephants and Tigers and costumed people with many arms... Off a backwood road in Texas, Shiva partied as we were headed for THE FORBIDDEN ZONE!

Once at the Drafthouse - we settled into our seats to watch this classic work of pure insanity unleashed to the rhythms and beats and sounds of Cab Calloway by way of Danny Elfman, Lena Horne and oh so many others. There was Herve Villechaize and Susan Tyrrell as the King and Queen of the Sixth Dimension... and the room was swaying along with the music of The Oingo Boingo. Prior to the film was a filmed introduction that Richard had made for the Japanese rerelease of the film, which is getting done up big in Japan. They even have Forbidden Zone beer I'm told! I love this film, first saw it on a Drive-In in 1980 for 3 weekends in a row - where after the screenings my stoned parents took me back to our Victorian house to watch reels of Betty Boop cartoons. This is one of my fave cult films.

Which is why - in the post-screening Q&A - when Richard alerted us to a Sequel to FORBIDDEN ZONE being mounted... it is being written by Richard Elfman and Matthew Bright (original bass guitar player for The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo) and will have Matthew back chicken walking and Danny back as Satan by way of Calloway - but this time doing his take on the classic ST. JAMES INFIRMARY BLUES!!! Ah, Heaven? No, The Sixth Dimension! And I cannot wait! I know this was a long ways to go to tell you just a tidbit of information, but folks... When you get a chance to meet one of your childhood boogie woogiers, and they're as cool as Richard Elfman and in the setting of a night as cool as last's... well, I simply have to share about my oh too brief venture into the FORBIDDEN ZONE!!!