Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This Week’s Feature Presentation:
THE GREEN SLIME (1968)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!
Remember the terrific 1960s mod science fiction Gamma 3 movies directed by Antonio Margheriti? Beginning with WILD, WILD PLANET (1965) to THE SNOW DEVILS (1967), these spaghetti outer space movies were gloriously whacked-out pieces of cinematic fun. They all centered on the citizens of the Gamma 3 space station orbiting the Earth and they featured some of the greatest Sixties clothing and hair, and a young Franco Nero and Tony Russel as space captains, continuously saving the world.
Well, there was another Gamma 3 movie made in 1968. The Japanese somehow got their hands on the rights to the series and populated it with American and Italian actors, filmed it in English, based on a story by Ivan Reiner—who did the other Gamma 3 stores—with a script by Bill Finger who penned several episodes of the campy 1966 BATMAN TV series, and directed by a man who didn’t understand a word of English, and damned if they didn’t somehow create one of the most entertaining sci-fi monster features of the era!
They even gave it a rocking theme song by Richard Delvy, the drummer for the first California surf band, the Bel-Aires! This theme song is so warped and crazed, with a growling Delvy roaring over wah-wah wicky-wicky guitars and Theremin warbles that it perfectly sets the mood for all the insanity that is to follow. Don’t believe me at how great the song is? Here’s a clip.
A few years ago, dance floor diva Josie Cotton remade this on her wonderful album of B-Movie tributes “Invasion of the B-Girls.” Here’s that version…
Directed by Kenji Fukasaka (TORA TORA TORA – 1970, VIRUS – 1980, BATTLE ROYALE – 2000), THE GREEN SLIME starts with one of those cheap 1960s models of a space station that looks as if it were made in Mrs. Johnson’s art class with the glue and string still showing. It’s Gamma 3, with a whole new interior that looks a heck of a lot better than the Italian version. During a routine weather report, they accidentally discover an asteroid, and it’s heading on a collision course with Earth! Cue montage of scientists earnestly working over typewriters (I guess the future didn’t have word processors).
The general has sent for Commander Jack Rankin, played by steel-jawed, wooden-faced Robert Horton (WAGON TRAIN – 1957-1962). A young lieutenant says, “What’s Rankin doing here? He’s tendered his resignation. You can’t send him on a mission like this where the chances are next to zero.” He’s ordered to join back up with his old partner, Vince Elliott played by constantly teeth-grinding, jaw-clenching fury by Richard Jaeckel (3:10 TO YUMA – 1957, THE DIRTY DOZEN – 1967, STARMAN – 1984). At 7:00 the next morning, the asteroid, now dubbed Flora, will collide with Earth, so the duo must place explosives on it and blow it to kingdom come. Hey, did the writers of ARMAGGEDON (1998) see this?
Toy ships zip around, and there’s that same gee-whiz feeling as the Italian films of the series, as though I was a little kid again, sailing my model spaceships around the back yard and making zoom-zoom noises. It’s completely silly, but it still works, even when the strings are visible.
Upon arrival at Gamma 3, Elliott has to hand over his command to Rankin. Vince’s girlfriend, Dr. Lisa Benson (the gorgeous, stunning, monotoned Luciana Paluzzi of THUNDERBALL – 1965 and a former Miss France) informs Elliott that Jack Rankin means nothing to her anymore. She doesn’t even want to see him when he boards the station. Five minutes later, she’s saying goodbye to the two men while wearing a silver lame’ jumper and some seriously piled-up hair. When her eyes meet Rankin’s, it’s a whole other story.
They make it to Flora despite the fragility of their spaceship model by using a device that looks suspiciously like a Spirograph toy. The asteroid is little more than barren rocks except for pools of the titular green slime. The sets here look an awful lot like STAR TREK. The men have soon set their explosives while Dr. Benson watches it all on television from Gamma 3. Meanwhile, weird kabuki music plays in the background – boing, ping…ping ping……strum. One of the crew finds a pulsating mass of glowing green slime, and he collects a specimen. Some of the slime crawls on its own volition onto the crew’s equipment. It’s alive! And one of the crewmen has some on his pants leg!
The astronauts get back in their ship to outrun the blast. Zipping as fast as their support strings will allow—at least ten Gs. The G forces are so strong, the pilot can’t get his hand to the controls, but that doesn’t stop Jack Rankin. He leaps from his seat, grabs the controls, and pushes them forward while activating the force field! The Earth is saved!
Or is it? Duh – duh – duuuh!
Back on Gamma 3, Vince and Jack vie for the attentions of the lovely Dr. Benson while the crew is decontaminated from the mission. Who can clench their jaw the longest? Can Jack woo Lisa away from his former best friend, Vince? Is it over between the ex-lovers? They all try to be civil during the swinging “Earth is Saved” party, where everyone dances as if they’re in a Charlie Brown cartoon to jammin’ trumpet jazz.
Meanwhile, the slime on the pants leg grows and electrocutes the man in charge of the decontamination of the clothes worn by the crew that flew to the asteroid. More people are found electrocuted, and a weird creature is revealed on the main deck. It’s got a green, squished down body covered in scales, long tentacles with dainty red claws on the end that shoot off sparks, and a single red eyeball. This is an insanely silly looking monster, not scary at all, but hilarious, as if designed by Sid and Marty Krofft. It walks while waving its tentacles around and making a noise like a dolphin with a head cold. The creature runs amok, electrocuting numerous redshirts and destroying various computers and equipment.
Jack Rankin decides to hang around Gamma 3, not only to help kill the monster but also to continue seducing Lisa (who seems rather receptive to his advances – Bad Lisa!).
It seems the monster’s blood acts as reproductive organs, so every time the things are shot, they are making more of themselves through their emerald blood spatter. They can heal themselves, too. Electricity makes them grow at an incredible rate. Of course, nobody tells anyone this, so when the monsters attack the hospital ward, the soldiers shoot the crap out of the beasts, creating hundreds of monsters out of a few. They spread throughout the C-Block, but not before Gamma 3 is quarantined.
A brilliant plan is hatched by Vince. All energy will be switched off except a single generator in C-Block that will lure the creatures away from the humans, and then isolating it in a storage room, trapping the slimy things. The space station goes dark as the energy switches off, but it made me wonder how everyone was still breathing. Oh well, pass the popcorn. The squeaking midget monsters go right for the generator, waving their claws in the air like disco dancing crustaceans. Taking it upon himself to be the hero, Jack Rankin leads the monsters away from the humans and into an airlock. Vince saves him when dozens of the beasts attack him at once. The air lock gets blocked, more things go terribly wrong, and Vince and Jack have to face each other down over whether to save a trapped scientist or not. It turns out to be a moot point as the scientist gets fried by the monsters, and it all ends in a shoot-out, and one whole wing of Gamma 3 explodes and catches fire. Interestingly enough, in space, flames and smoke on toy space stations still rise just like on Earth!
When the C-Block blows out, only a few creatures are killed while the rest escape to the outside of the space station, getting healed by the rays of the sun . . . and they’re growing! Rankin decides to evacuate and destroy Gamma 3. Of course, Vince is having none of it. Fisticuffs result, and Vince is hauled away and arrested. Unfortunately, the escape hatch has been sealed by the creatures, who march around on the exterior of the station like hundreds of tiny SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS. The only way to clear the hatch is to go outside with jetpacks and lasers and blast away at the little buggers. Elliott leads the attack, floating around the set on visible wires and firing lasers into the glowing red eyes of the creatures.
Lisa gets everyone off the ship except for the last evacuation vessel. There isn’t enough energy left to get Gamma 3 to self-destruct, so Rankin must return to the hordes of green slime monsters and manually set the explosives. Not wanting to miss all the action, Vince runs in after him to help. Will they make it out alive? Will the last ship of evacuees get to Earth? Who will Lisa choose in the end, Elliot or Rankin?
Who cares when here are hundreds of midgets in rubber monster suits gleefully running around with sparklers in their tentacles? From the wild theme song (available on a 45!), to the garish Technicolor photography, to the over-the-top acting of the heroes and the non-acting (yet extremely hot) redheaded heroine, THE GREEN SLIME is a blast. Kids will cheer the valiant men and women of Gamma 3, while adults will groan at the strained dialogue and delight in the sheer audaciousness of it all. It’s a candy-colored science fiction movie, full of innocence, monsters, and funky 60s hairdos. How can you go wrong?
THE GREEN SLIME is available in a beautiful widescreen, restored print from Warner Archives.
I give THE GREEN SLIME three clenched jaws out of four.
© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl