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Test your knowledge of the 2 ridiculous lambada movies released on the same day in 1990 with our Forbidden Quiz

Amazon princess Laura Harring performs the forbidden dance for an evil corporate executive.

Amazon princess Laura Harring performs the forbidden dance for an evil corporate executive. Promotional photo

Last week, Netflix and Hulu both released documentaries about Fyre Fest, 2017’s ill-fated, greed-fueled, hilariously impossible luxury island music festival that never was. Synopsis: People are unbelievable.

No doubt your social media feeds were filled with jokes and hot takes about the fest, the films, and Hulu’s gloriously petty move of surprise-releasing their doc four days before Netflix’s much-promoted premiere.

But really, two near-simultaneous releases about a total trainwreck of an enterprise should have made us all think about just one thing: the lambada.

On March 16, 1990, not one, but two whole movies intent on capitalizing on the very sexy Brazilian dance’s brief international popularity were released to theaters. One, Lambada, was produced by Cannon Films, led by Israeli entrepreneur Yoram Globus. The other, The Forbidden Dance, so named because Lambada had already claimed “Lambada,” was produced by 21st Century Films, led by Menahem Golan, Yoram’s cousin—who had led Cannon Films with him until the company started to fall apart and the two had a falling out.

When Manahem left Cannon, he was dead set on making a lambada film to compete with the one he had already begun with his cousin, because why wouldn’t he. Cannon was famous for churning out low-budget genre movies like the Death Wish sequels, the Breakin’ movies, The Apple, and Superman IV. Here are some quotes and notes I took while watching the incredible documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, which you should definitely check out, maybe even before the Fyre Fest films:

  • “This was the Cannon way: It kind of resembles... something... minus good taste.”
  • “What they lacked in taste, they made up for in enthusiasm.”
  • Ninja 3 the Domination was The Exorcist, a ninja movie, and Flashdance in one movie.”
  • Sahara was Lawrence of Arabia meets The Blue Lagoon and The Great Race.”
  • Choreographer/actor Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quiñones: “Breakin’ did something that the United Nations hadn’t been able to do.”
  • While filming Invasion USA with Chuck Norris, Cannon literally blew up an entire suburban Atlanta neighborhood. (It was slated for demolition to make way for an airport runway.)

And yet, despite what the filmmakers’ track records might have you expect, Lambada and The Forbidden Dance each told a nuanced story about the intersection of class, race, art, and the environment.

Ha, just kidding, they’re insane trash fires—which, incidentally, feature very little actual dancing. But I think about them all the time, so in that way they are… masterpieces of some dark art that might in some way give perspective on the far less hopeful times in which we’re living? Maybe?

In order to begin to attempt to describe these movies, I’ve taken inspiration from Lambada’s climactic scene, in which a “Super Quiz” is held to decide the fate of an underground East L.A. high school. (How else could you end a movie named after a dance?)

Good luck. Human coexistence and the rainforests are counting on you.

Part I: Lambada

1. Our protagonist is:

a) A hot but "dorky" Beverly Hills (“Stonewood High”) math teacher named Kevin by day.

b) By night, a motorcycle-riding, knife-shaped earring-wearing lambada king known as "Blade" at a tough and unforgiving night club in East L.A. that caters to Black and Latinx teenagers, fluorescent clubwear, and all-night lambada dancing.

c) Secretly the leader and sole teacher at "Galaxy High," where he prepares teens for the GED in the dead of night in the club's pool room.

d) All of the above.

 

2. All the teens are thoroughly engaged in each and every lesson—but not Ramone (played by Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quiñones):

a) Whose name is spelled like that. Like the band.

b) Who is (justifiably) annoyed by Blade and his attempts to be the Great White Hope of the barrio.

c) Who starts to reconsider when he learns that Blade is, in fact, a "homey," because he was raised in East L.A. by Mexican parents who gave him up for adoption to a nice white family when he was 14, though Ramone can hardly be blamed for his mistake.

d) All of the above.

 

3. Ramone’s academic interest and performance starts to turn around:

a) When Blade teaches Ramone the "rectangular coordinate system" and how it can help one make a difficult pool shot.

b) Because Blade literally uses a protractor (which he whips out of his leather jacket) on the pool table. 

c) And so while everyone else is dancing, Ramone hides in a corner of the club with a book. And a protractor.

d) All of the above.

 

4. Spoiled and popular Beverly Hills student Sandy (Melora “Jan Levinson” Hardin!):

a) Somehow ends up at the East L.A. club, sees her math teacher all radded out, and fantasizes about doing the lambada with him on a motorcycle.

b) Can, in fact, believe that the lambada was outlawed in Brazil.

c) Brazenly hits on her MATH TEACHER, completely disgusting yet oddly arousing him.

d) All of the above.

5. In a Robin Hood-style attempt to redistribute academic resources to his Galaxy kids, Blade:

a) Convinces the night club’s owner to not only procure, but have fully detailed with graffiti, a Galaxy High school bus.

b) Loads the kids into the bus late at night and helps them break into Stonewood High to learn computers.

c) Gets caught and fired almost instantly by Stonewood’s evil cranky principal.

d) All of the above.

 

6. BUT. Blade and the Galaxy kids get another chance because:

a) The slightly less-cranky Beverly Hills Superintendent proposes a competition between Stonewood and Galaxy students to determine Blade's fate, to be known as the Super Quiz.

b) At the final quiz-winning point, Ramone is put up against Sandy's asshole Don Johnson-ish boyfriend.

c) The question is to explain the "rectangular coordinate system."

d) All of the above.

 

7. In the end, everyone wins because:

a) Ramone freezes up until Blade pulls an eight ball out of his briefcase, inspiring an entirely nonsensical answer that the Superintendent decides is correct.

b) Blade gets on stage and makes a speech about how we all have more in common than we think, no matter what color our skin or zip code we live in.

c) Some of the Galaxy kids set up a massive sound system in the parking lot, and kids from both schools spontaneously start doing the lambada in mixed-race couples. It starts pouring rain but the sound system is totally fine.

d) All of the above.

Part II: The Forbidden Dance

1. Protagonist Nisa is:

a) An Amazonian jungle princess.

b) A skilled practitioner of the noble and ancient dance known as lambada.

c) Played by former Miss USA Laura Harring, whose career managed to survive this film long enough to make a stunning turn as Naomi Watts’ lover/tormenter in David Lynch’s 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Drive.

d) All of the above.

 

2. When the U.S.-based Petramco Corporation starts burning her tribe's rainforest, Nisa:

a) Goes to Petramco’s headquarters in L.A. to have a conversation with the company’s chairman, as one does.

b) Brings her tribe's witch doctor to cause mayhem and injury to those who stand in her way.

c) Becomes a maid for a snotty, bigoted Beverly Hills family while she plots her strategy.

d) All of the above.

 

3. The family's hedonistic and pretty son Jason:

a) Goes out dancing all night every night, as one does.

b) Wears Cavaricci pants.

c) Sees Nisa doing the lambada with herself in her bedroom, because that's what Brazilians do when they're alone, and invites her out dancing in his mother's dress because his girlfriend Ashley cancels on him.

d) All of the above.

 

4. All of Jason's friends and family:

a) Are blonde.

b) Are flaming bigots.

c) Talk about Nisa like she's a penniless migrant worker even though she looks like she just stepped off the set of Just Shoot Me.

d) All of the above.

 

5. When Jason's parents become furious that he has taken "the hired help" dancing, Nisa:

a) Runs out of the house five minutes later never to return.

b) Takes a job as a "dancer" at a "nightclub" called Xtasy to earn money for her tribe.

c) Becomes the belle of the brothel, particularly after Mickey, the conniving madame, learns Nisa is Brazilian, because "all Brazilians can dance."

d) All of the above.

 

6. After Jason learns of Nisa's whereabouts from Ashley, who is fiendishly delighted, Jason:

a) Goes to Nisa and rescues her from Mickey, who has threatened to call the INS if her moneymaking "Queen of the Jungle" leaves.

b) Asks his parents to help Nisa's tribe, and upon their refusal flies into a tirade about ignorance and bigotry and the plight of the rainforest and witch doctors.

c) Asks Nisa to be his Lambada partner to audition for the Kid Creole and the Coconuts show, which will put them on national TV where they can expose Petramco, and leads to a sequence of Dirty Dancing-esque "rehearsal scenes" complete with costumes, bloopers, and kissing.

d) All of the above.

 

7. Nisa's trusted friend and fellow domestic worker Carmen:

a) Gives them money for the witch doctor's plane ticket back to Brazil to report to the tribe on Nisa's progress.

b) Does the lambada and has sex with the witch doctor on the couch, turning her ceramic Virgin Mary to face the wall.

c) Holds a condom right up to the camera and then slips it under Jason and Nisa's bedroom door, because if you’re only going to break the fourth wall once in a movie, it better be like this.

d) All of the above.

8. After Jason and Nisa win the competition:

a) Nisa is kidnapped by a Petramco executive who has teamed up with a jealous Ashley and forced to give him a private lambada show.

b) Jason injures his ankle in the process of rescuing Nisa while the Petramco exec throws down his cowboy hat in annoyance, due to having no gun or guards or anything to stop them.

c) Jason is unable to dance until the witch doctor arrives at the studio with Nisa's father, in full native garb and headdress, and has a snake bite Jason to heal his ankle, which works instantly.

d) All of the above.

 

9. After Jason and Nisa's smoking hot lambada number on national television:

a) Nisa tells Kid Creole and the millions at home that she is an Amazonian princess who must return to her home before it's too late.

b) Kid Creole wonders aloud what she means, is shocked and horrified to learn of Petramco's antics in the rainforest, and exclaims "Well hell, let's boycott their asses!"

c) Which is the last line of the movie.

d) All of the above.

Oh, I forgot to mention, you are allowed to use a protractor.