I was eagerly perusing today’s monster movie listing on TCM, and I realized that, on a day which features greats like King Kong (1933) and Gojira (1954), they were also showing The Green Slime (1968). I started laughing, because I had just seen The Green Slime on the same channel and I wouldn’t have figured they’d go for a second helping of a rare dish: A movie that’s so bad it stands out in a series of bad movies.
A little background: In the mid-Sixties, MGM needed some TV movies, so they asked Italian director Antonio Margheriti to work his magic in the realm of cheap sci-fi. Margheriti made four movies in three months, all centered around a space station called Gamma One. The official Gamma One series includes Wild, Wild Planet, War of the Planets, War Between the Planets, and Snow Devils, all of which we’ve seen. Despite their origins as TV movies, MGM ended up releasing them in theaters over the next few years.
Here’s where the weirdness comes in: MGM liked the films so much they decided to make an unofficial sequel in partnership with the Toei Company, the eventual birthplace of the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea: They already had the basis for the story from Italy, the Japanese were just as good at cheap special effects and models, they could use known American actors (both shipped in and local to Japan), and they managed to get an Italian actress who had just starred in a James Bond movie as the female lead. Change the station name to Gamma Three and they were golden. However, The Green Slime doesn’t work even by the standards of Gamma One because the producers forgot one thing.
The Gamma One movies exhibited all the hallmarks of Italian sci-fi at the time: Thoroughly unlikeable heroes, on-and-off dubbing, cheap special effects, weird clothing, cavalier continuity, mod dances, strange live entertainment, and nonsensical plots. Despite this, the series has one thing going for it: Decent villainy. Even though I still have no idea what the mad scientist was doing in the first one, he was menacing. The green clouds that took over human bodies in the second were both creepy and as confused by the physics of the material world as you’d expect. Even the living planetoid and the Yetis had their moments.
I’m sure when the crew first heard about the green slime monster, their minds filled with possibility. The Thing from Another World (1951) had shown what you could do with something that could potentially shapeshift. The Blob (1958) gave them a straightforward template for a hungry, hungry slime. Planet of the Vampires (1965) and Gamma One’s own War of the Planets showed what you could do with parasitic creatures taking over human bodies. Heck, a slime monster could go through any duct and ambush anyone. The only thing you could do to make a slime monster less scary is to make it solid. Guess what?
The acting isn’t terrible by Gamma One standards. Robert Horton makes a terrible Richard Basehart, but Richard Jaeckel plays a good Richard Jaeckel, and Luciana Paluzzi does what she was asked to do. Everybody is just as unpleasant and macho as in Gamma One. Most general effects are about the same: Models that look like a 1930s science magazine predicting the 1980s and plenty of fireworks for gun blasts and explosions. The plot actually makes more sense: The Green Slime gets on a crewman exploring a new asteroid and makes it aboard the ship, feeds on energy, grows wildly, and is almost indestructible because it can grow back from a single cell.
The problem comes in with the final form of the Green Slime: Not Slime. Instead, it splits into a large number of human-sized, cyclopean, two-legged, tentacled creatures that look a lot like avocados or green eggs. You can’t shoot them, because that just makes more as their blood spills out. They can electrocute you if they manage to hit you with their seemingly uncontrollable tentacles. I guess they’d be a threat, except for a few things.
- These creatures are played by rubber-suited schoolchildren, and they move exactly like children would if you asked them to play monsters: Flailing, milling about, bumping into each other, etc.
- They’re really slow, kind of like schoolchildren in rubber suits under hot lights.
- Early on, the most effective weapon against them is pushing them with a table or hospital bed. There are a lot of tables and beds in Gamma Three.
- They then discover the creatures’ attraction to light sources, which mean energy. The crew herds them into various areas for…reasons, I guess.
- After a while they just give up and start shooting them.
- Eventually, they just abandon the space station to them (Good idea) and then set the space station to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere (Bad idea).
Usually a bad movie can survive bad monsters and bad acting and still entertain me, but, well, I guess I still do not like green eggs and ham. 😉
The movie’s legacy does include two interesting things, though. One, it was used for the 15-minute unaired pilot episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to sell the concept to KTMA-TV, so we owe it a deep and lasting debt. Second…well, this: