Susan and Hervé had their occasional spats, although they were both supreme troopers who kicked their Screen Actors Guild checks back into the production. Hervé even helped Frenchy paint sets on weekends.
SFBG How much of the film was scripted?
RE It was all scripted; nothing was spontaneous. In the number "Bim Bam Boom," I had a really shy guy whose lips semifroze when it came time to lip-synch the song. So I had Matthew Bright's lips superimposed over his. I use that example even today as an admonition for actors to do as I say.
SFBG The film is now known as a stoner classic, so I feel like I have to ask if there were any chemicals involved and if not, where'd you come up with the story? Were you inspired by other filmmakers or artists?
RE Personally, I don't take drugs. Wine and women, or woman I am presently remarried are as many intoxicants as I can handle. In terms of other inspiration? Along with Max Fleischer, the Cockettes, and Jerome Savary and his Magic Circus, I was influenced by Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Latin great Miguelito Valdez, and Aaron Lebedeff of the Yiddish theater. Design style? Definitely German expressionism, which serves one well if your whole art budget is only 40 rolls of paper and 12 buckets of black and white paint.
SFBG When the film came out in 1980, what was the reaction? Did it have a regular theatrical run?
RE Well, it had a brief summer run of scattered midnight shows. It was banned from the University of Wisconsin and other institutions of higher learning. I remember there was an arson threat in Los Angeles one night. Censorship rears its head in many guises; in our case the politically correct tried to kill Forbidden Zone, although they were not entirely successful.
SFBG Did you have any idea Forbidden Zone would be a cult hit?
RE I had thought the film had totally disappeared. About five years ago, when I put my first Web site up, I received e-mails from fans from around the world. Apparently bootleg videos had been going around for years, picking up new fans. I was knocked on my ass, truly.
SFBG Forbidden Zone 2 true or false?
RE We're planning Forbidden Zone 2: The Forbidden Galaxy. Ma and Pa Kettle are driven from the dust bowl along with their kids gray-haired Stinky and the slutty, lumbering Petunia and they move to Crenshaw, down in South Central LA, only to purchase that fateful little house whose basement is connected to the sixth dimension. "Just wait until those dead babies start marching!" *
With Richard Elfman in person
Another Hole in the Head Film Festival
Sat/2, 11:45 p.m., $10
Roxie Film Center
3117 16th St., SF