February 1, 2018
A few years ago, Cinema Fearité took a look at the legendary science fiction classic The Blob. Now, we’re doubling down with the less legendary – but equally awesome – science fiction classic The Green Slime.
The Green Slime is about an astronaut named Commander Jack Rankin (The Spy Killer’s Robert Horton) who is sent into space to destroy an asteroid that is on a collision course with Earth. After rendezvousing with another commander named Vince Elliot (Richard Jaeckel from The Dark and Grizzly) on the space station Gamma 3, Rankin and his team shuttle over to the asteroid, plant their charges, and escape just before the blast. Mission accomplished!
Except for the fact that one of the mission specialists has inadvertently brought some green slime over to the space station from the asteroid, which turns into a monster, which sprouts more creatures from its green blood when the crew of the station try to kill it. Along with Dr. Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi from Thunderball), Rankin and Elliot have to find a way to destroy the creatures before they reach the Earth, effectively wiping out all of mankind.
The Green Slime was directed by Japanese filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) from a screenplay that was written by Bill Finger (best known as Bob Kane’s co-creator on Batman), Tom Rowe (The Light at the Edge of the World), and Charles Sinclair (who wrote Track of the Moon Beast with Finger) from a story by Ivan Reiner (The War of the Planets, War Between the Planets). It’s a fairly silly treatment of an implausible story, but that’s what makes it so much fun; it actually was the movie used in the unaired proof-of-concept pilot for the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” talkback-to-the-screen television show. As silly as it is, though, it did leave a mark; the influence of The Green Slime can be seen in everything from Flash Gordon and Alien to Passengers and Life.
The Green Slime is a product of its time; it’s a Japanese interpretation of an American science fiction movie. And it’s absolutely from 1968, from the laughably bad model rocket space effects to the groovy space party at which the crew of the Gamma 3 celebrates their successful mission. There’s even an amazing space gun fight scene that pits flying spacemen against multi-armed monsters in a sixties state-of-the-art rear projection spectacle. Oh, yeah, and Dr. Benson is Rankin’s ex-girlfriend who is now with Elliot, so there’s that requisite love triangle, too. There’s a lot going on, considering it’s a simple alien invasion movie.
The creatures in The Green Slime are fun, rubber-suit monsters, complete with swinging tentacles and piercing red eyes. They’re campy and kooky on a budget, appearing to be the love children of the monsters from Octaman and TerrorVision. In a twist that makes them seemingly invincible, the monsters are spawned from their own blood, so one original creature turns into dozens by the climax of the film, with the army of monsters multiplying every time the humans wound one. The Green Slime monsters are classic sci-fi creatures, corny enough to be silly but frightening enough to be a real threat to the characters in the movie.
Like The Blob, The Green Slime has an awesome theme song. Written by television composer Sherry Gaden and arranged by surf rock legend Richard Delvy from The Challengers and The Bel-Airs (who gathered together a bunch of his anonymous professional musician pals for the recording), the song is a psychedelic rocker with a pounding beat, full of buzzing electric guitars, plucky sitars, and swooping theremins (rumored to be played by Paul Tanner, the same guy who played the instrument on The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”). The snarling lead vocals are delivered by Rick Lancelot, who would go on to sing for both Frank Zappa and The Banana Splits. The Green Slime theme is not as sing-a-long fun as the theme from The Blob, but it does contain some profound lyrics. For example, the bridge:
“Man has looked up to space in wonder for thousands of years…sometimes thinking that life could be somewhere…and now, now it’s here!”
Despite its catchy theme song, The Green Slime never caught on like The Blob did, so it got neither a sequel nor a remake. That’s fine, though, because in many ways, The Green Slime is perfect just as it is.