Roger Corman’s Cult Classics
Professional troubleshooter Mike Colby is sent to the remote planet Xarbia, where a rogue genetics laboratory has created a new life form based on its synthetic DNA, Proto B. What follows is a low-budget rip off of Alien, with the addition of frontal nudity.
Mike Colby is the quintessential, generic sci-fi hero; right out of a ’50s serial. He’s rugged, brave, he shoots first, and has no real personality or internal conflict. He’s assisted by a robot helper named SAM-104, who looks a bit like a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica.
He arrives on the desert planet and is greeted by an equally two-dimensional cast; the secretive commander, the eccentric doctor, the random flunkies who get eaten, and the two hot women who shower together. The acting is fine; a little over-done at times, but it fits with the tone of the film.
When we first see the mutant, it is small. It jumps out of its cage and attaches itself to a guys face. After gorging itself, it scurries off and quickly grows into a large, black, shiny, insect-like thing with a long face and big teeth. At least I think that’s what it looks like, but the camera never stops for more than a fraction of a second on it, lest the poor quality of the costume be exposed.
Leaving aside the similarities of the monster design, the ‘alien’ in Forbidden World offers some new twists. It has an interesting effect on its victims (which feature some of the film’s better SFX work), and there is at least a lazy attempt to give it some character. The problem is that the actual construction of the monster is so rudimentary that it ends up looking like a slack puppet left on a self. A monster that can barely move isn’t very threatening.
Both of the women in the lab try to throw themselves at Mike Colby, which is typical of trashy science fiction; but this being a Roger Corman produced B-movie, the women succeed in their pursuits. This results in several, awkwardly lit fan-service scenes that take place in the ‘steam showers’ (because this production couldn’t afford water). The younger woman spends a lot of the film discovering scary things and screeching. She’s like a scream queen, but much more irritating.
The climax of the films is fairly good. Their plan to kill the monster is novel, and works well with the overall plot. But again, the poor special effects drag it down, as the big fight is reduced to blurry shots of a stationary monster in a darkened room.
Forbidden World, A.K.A. Mutant, A.K.A. Subject 20 is okay enough for what it is. It clearly steals from Alien, but it adds in a few twists to keep it interesting. More importantly, it has a significantly different tone, a lighter and trashier one, that prevents me from judging it too harshly.
The blu ray set from Shout Factory includes a 77 minute cut in high definition, which looks great, and an 82 minute cut on DVD that looks bad. Apparently, the longer cut features more humor than the theatrical version.