Oh, the things I dearly love. One day when they’re older my children will only have to point to my video collection and the movies in it I cite as my absolute favorites in order to have me committed and institutionalized. Somewhere high on the list of exhibits in the hearing proving my mental infirmity will be 1968’s Green Slime.
I first saw the film in the early 1980s, probably on the weekend block on I think either WOR or WDCA. I fell in love with it instantly and have never looked back. As far as cheesy sci-fi horror goes, this film has it all. It kicks off with the best/goofiest/grooviest theme song of its era, delivers square-jawed heroics in space, and features a threat that’s criminally overlooked in the annals of space monsters.
Our story begins with the discovery of a planet killing asteroid hurtling its way towards Earth. While later, more modern films (See- Armageddon, Deep Impact) would wrap their entire runtime around such plots, the crew in Green Slime can handle a little matter like asteroid detonation as easily as you or I would handle weeding the garden. Our heroes zip out, plant some charges, blow the thing apart, and head back to their base station with plenty of time left for lunch and the introduction of our story’s love triangle.
However, while working on the asteroid the also do a little scientific research and a crewman gets a strange green substance on his gear while collecting even more of it to take back to the station with them. This was a very bad idea, and one they would have recognized as a bad idea had they only bothered listening to the theme song during the opening credits of the film.
Once back at the station, the odd ooze finds and feeds off of a power source in the decontamination area. As it feeds, it glows, grows, and changes form. What started out looking like the Blob’s younger, jade-hued brother transforms into a large, man-sized blobish creature with one red eye (in what looks like its mouth) and multiple tentacles capable of discharging electric death into anything they touch.
The discovery of the creature on the station leads to the obvious response by the crew. They grab their guns and start blasting away for all their worth. It’s at this moment they learn that (A) the creature eats energy like a starving man downing a Whopper and (B) if you make it bleed you’re absolutely screwed. Its blood is like the slime picked up on the asteroid. Every glob of slime blood that hits the floor near a power source starts feeding on energy and growing into a clone of its big brother.
There’s also a bit of a forced science vs military conflict thrown into the mix here as well. Our square jawed Commander is more than happy to blast away all day long. One of the station’s scientists insists that a unique first encounter life-form is worth preserving and capturing alive. Our not so square jawed Commander agrees that capturing the creature is the way to go and offers up a plan involving a gas gun and a net. This does not go as well as they hoped it would, and, several dead people later, we’re back to blasting away like there’s no tomorrow.
Before long, because everyone figures they’ll just keep shooting, there’s a small army of creatures filling up every room and corridor. The race is now on to keep the creatures from killing the crew and destroying the station. We’re also given more of the above mentioned love triangle as Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) and Commander Vince Elliot (Richard Jaeckel) compete for the affection of Dr. Lisa Benson (Bond Girl Luciana Paluzzi) in between the action. The Japanese cut of the film trimmed out most of the love triangle scenes. That may have been for the best.
The action gets fast and furious as the crew determines they’re being overwhelmed by more and more of the creatures. At one point we get a plot to kill the station’s power and lure the creatures into one section of the station with a slapped together mobile generator as tasty bait. There’s a bit of basic wirework combat done in another section of the film as teams of spacesuit wearing, thruster pack flying soldiers fight the creatures outside of the station. But no matter what they do, it just gets worse.
Finally the call is made to blow the station up, the only way to kill all the creatures and end the risk of even one of them getting to Earth. From there it’s all out creature/human war and a mad dash to the end of the film, but only for those who will make it out alive.
Green Slime was a joint production of American and Japanese film companies and distributed by MGM. The story and scripting come off feeling very comic book in nature, and there’s a good reason for that. This was one three relatively well known movies written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger. The other two were 1967’s Snow Devils and 1976’s Track of the Moon Beast. If you’ve ever read any comic work Bill had a strong hand in, expect the same kind of plotting and dialogue here.
The acting is average to a little above average with very few moments where an actor makes you cringe. Unlike a number of other productions of this nature, you also have almost all of your primary cast American or European actors. Even the background players are American in many scenes. While the Japanese filmmakers used local background extras they already had working relationships with, they also hired extras from the local American military base. As a result, you don’t have a large number of Japanese actors tipping you off that this was a Japanese coproduction filmed in Japan.
What would tip you off to this was the FX work. The miniature model sets used for the cities of the future, the Earth command base, the spaceships, and the space station all had a look and feel to them more in line with the Japanese sci-fi films of the era than they did most European or American productions. The costume designs have more of this feel to them as well. The rubber suited monsters also had more of an Ultraman vibe to them than they did a US creature feature vibe. Whether or not this works in the film’s favor is dependent on how you view those things and what genres you love best with your movie watching.
Director Kinji Fukasaku also shows moments of style and his future brilliance here and there throughout the film. This is the same director who would later go on to film the Japanese sequences in Tora! Tora! Tora!, directed Under the Flag of the Rising Sun, numerous famous Yakuza and Samurai films, the Star Wars cash-in film Message from Space, and, perhaps most famous in the States, Battle Royale. While not as skilled behind the camera as he would later become, you can spot flashes of the brilliance he would later showcase with greater regularity. You do sometimes have to look really hard to spot them in the film though. They’re fleeting and just hints of what was to come from him.
All in all, this film is not what any sane movie watcher would call a great film. But then, hey, I’ve never made that claim of myself. However, it is one of the great cheesy good time films of its era. It’s fun, it has some goofily enjoyable monsters, and it has the greatest theme song for a science fiction monster movie to come out of that decade of filmmaking.
Sadly, for many who regularly hit the convention scene, this film is known to them for one reason only. Green Slime was used as the largely unseen outside of conventions KTMA TV pilot for a Tom Servo-less (but Beeper including) MST3K. You can find a great print of the American cut of the actual film as a part of the MGM Archives collection through online dealers like Amazon.