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Beware the sorry tentacled space monsters of The Green Slime on its 50th anniversary
This month marks the milestone 50th anniversary of perhaps one of the weirdest, wackiest sci-fi romps in all of cinema history as The Green Slime celebrates its big half-century birthday.
This campy cult classic blazed across the silver screen in vivid technicolor in an era where the genre was making great strides to convince critics and audiences that the realm of speculative fiction was rife with compelling stories in films like Fahrenheit 451, Fantastic Voyage, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and Marooned.
But where The Green Slime excelled was its unabashed sense of pure silliness and unbridled excess. Come on, it even had its own goofy swingin' theme song to go along with the melodramatic outer space hijinks, futuristic go-go dancing, and laughable alien monsters. Many historians believe The Green Slime contains possibly the worst extraterrestrial creature effects ever caught on film stock, but we salute its rowdy sense of unpretentious fun which embraced the wild youth culture of the tempestuous era.
Released wide on May 21, 1969, starring Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel and directed by Kinji Fukasaku, The Green Slime was pure B-movie, drive-in material imported from Japan that capitalized on the current space craze which struck the nation as NASA prepared for its moon-landing mission with Apollo 11. Fukasaku was best known for shooting the Japanese scenes for the 1970 period war blockbuster, Tora! Tora! Tora! and directing his country's big-budget answer to Star Wars, 1978's epic Message From Space.
This memorable monster invasion flick shot in Tokyo by the Toei Company was distributed in America by MGM Studios. Boasting impressive miniature model work and showcasing a solid, if not slightly cheesy American cast, the amusing feature utilized a kooky screenplay written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger, with Tom Rowe and Charles Sinclair.
Its funky title song was written by Charles Fox, the man responsible for the themes for The Love Boat, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Wonder Woman. Special effects were handled by former Toho Studios employees, Yukio Manoda and Akira Watanabe.
The plot is derivative of dozens of similar sci-fi classics like IT, The Terror From Beyond Space, but carries a crazy charm all its own. In the near future, the Gamma 3 space station suddenly receives an alert showing a Class 2 asteroid resembling a giant burnt golf ball on a collision course with Earth. A plan is enacted to blast Flora's six million tons of rock out of the sky with three tri-megaton explosive units placed on the asteroid by rival space commandos. Operating out of the twirling space outpost, astronauts land to plant their bombs and discover that the asteroid is inhabited by bizarre blobs of... you guessed it... glowing green ooze.
The demolitions crew barely escapes the massive explosion and our valiant heroes return to Gamma 3. Stray slime is carried back on a space suit and soon morphs into rubbery tentacled monsters resembling the weird seaweed creatures in the old Saturday morning live-action series, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Electrified cyclopean beasts bloom from a single drop of blood so the joint is soon jumping with angry squealing aliens shuffling through the decks. A grand finale finds Gamma 3 deliberately smashed into Earth's atmosphere and incinerating the mutant maniacs in their own spinning crematorium. Whew!
The New York Times' Howard Thompson summed it up in his opening day review.
"The Green Slime," a new science-fiction thriller that arrived yesterday, opens promisingly, keeps it up for about half an hour but then fades badly. There is a quiet, tingling efficiency about these early scenes and very little nonsense. The trick photography and stratospheric effects are neat and clean.
"And it is the smoothly unobtrusive pacing of Mr. Fukasaku in the earlier portion and the clever use of miniature settings that make it count. But the picture falls to pieces when the green menace becomes an army of rubbery-looking goblins. From then on it's green corn."
Despite its obvious low-budget efforts and ridiculous energy-feeding space monsters, The Green Slime relishes its comic book-like antics and remains a high water mark for badly conceived beasts. Formulaic? Absolutely. But its entertaining legacy lives on in later entries into the survival horror sub-genre like the original Alien and video game franchises Dead Space, Prey, and Doom. There's even a Petri dish scene in the space station lab that might have influenced John Carpenter's The Thing. Now is that really such a bad thing?
Have you encountered The Green Slime and, if so, how do you rate its Velveeta camp?