(1968) Directed by Kinji Fukasaku; Written by Charles Sinclair, Bill Finger and Tom Rowe; Story by Ivan Reiner; Starring: Robert Horton, Luciana Paluzzi, Richard Jaeckel, Bud Widom and Ted Gunther; Available on Blu-ray and DVD
“…But it proves out. The animal feeds on energy. And discharges energy. That would explain its ability to electrocute Michaels. One cell, one microscopic speck left on a spacesuit, and it would absorb all the energy it could get.” – Dr. Hans Halvorsen (Ted Gunther)
What would a first encounter with an alien life form look like? Would they descend in flying saucers and ask to meet our leader? Or would they arrive in mechanized tripods guns a-blazing? A third (more likely) option involves simpler extraterrestrial life – Will they be harmful or benign? More often than not, if filmmakers are to be believed, you can count on the former. The Green Slime,* was co-produced by MGM and Toei, with prolific director Kinji Fukasaku** at the reins. Surprisingly, unlike other joint Japanese-U.S. productions from the period (e.g., The Manster, Latitude Zero), the film didn’t feature any Japanese actors. Instead, Toei’s contributions were behind the scenes.
* Fun Fact #1: During the film’s 1969 New York City premiere, moviegoers were treated to a parade featuring the “Green Slime Girls,” and a giveaway with plastic replicas of the extraterrestrial menace.
** Fun Fact #2: The prolific Fukasaku had more than 100 directing credits to his name, including the notorious Battle Royale (2000).
Sometime in the 21st century (which looks remarkably like the 1960s), humanity is threatened by the wayward asteroid Flora (which resembles a giant spicy meatball), hurtling on a collision course with Earth. Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) is tasked with leading a team to destroy the errant celestial body. He arrives on Space Station Gamma 3 to a less-than-warm welcome by his archrival, Commander Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel). Speaking of celestial bodies, Rankin’s ex-girlfriend, Dr. Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi, of Thunderball fame), now Elliott’s fiancée, is also stationed on Gamma 3. Now, they’re forced to put their differences aside, if they’re going to save the day. Rankin’s team successfully destroys the asteroid, but when they initially planted the charges, one of the astronauts inadvertently brings back a hitchhiker – a funky green substance. The space station’s decontamination process activates the slime, which rapidly grows into walking, tentacled creatures. Soon, Gamma 3 is overrun by the deadly, rapidly multiplying beasties, and Rankin and Elliott are faced with some hard decisions.
The Green Slime has a lot going for it, including an absolute banger of an opening theme song,* cool (if somewhat goofy) rubber monsters, and a fun retro-future aesthetic. Unfortunately, the pluses are outweighed by characters as insubstantial as the plastic models and cardboard sets, tedious action scenes, and dialogue that’s mostly of the expository variety (designed to move the plot along, and not much else). Our hero, Commander Rankin, who could be the poster child for toxic masculinity, is so smug and unlikeable that he left me rooting for the creatures instead. Sure, he makes the tough decisions that others won’t, and he’s right most of the time, but it doesn’t make him more likeable, compared to his petulant rival, Commander Elliott. Elliott likes doing things his way, which is usually the wrong way. Instead of handling his relationship with Dr. Benson like a mature adult, he resorts to empty male posturing and sulking when he believes Rankin has won her over again. For her part, Dr. Benson is stuck in a love triangle with two alpha males. Neither seems worthy of her affection, but we all know about affairs of the heart. Then again, do we really care about who ends up with whom in the end? Nah. The Green Slime knows its matinee crowd audience doesn’t give a hoot about that sort of mushy stuff. They’re here to munch popcorn and see space monsters, and by that metric, the movie delivers. There are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes.
* Fun Fact #3: This catchy little earworm was written by Charles Fox and performed by Richard Delvy. Fox was responsible for penning many well-known (and similarly infectious) theme songs for movies and TV, including Barbarella, Love American Style, and Wonder Woman.
Source for this article: “Big New York Promotion Launches Green Slime,” Boxoffice (June 9, 1969)