Remember when you were a kid and your mother gave you holy hell for tracking mud onto her freshly mopped floor? Now picture that moment on a space station only it’s not mud you’ve tracked in but alien protoplasm that quickly grows into a legion of monsters. Getting sent to your room without dinner would be the least of your problems. This is the basic premise to director Kinji Fukasaku’s late 60s science fiction monster flick Green Slime. What we have here is a couple of ham-fisted American astronauts fighting over a woman while battling creatures that look like a cross between a monster from Doctor Who and The Power Rangers, but to be fair it does works in a low-budgeted cheeseball way.
Note: The screenplay was by legendary comic creator Bill Finger, the man most responsible for making Batman awesome.
The movie opens with the men at the United Nations Space Command discovering that an asteroid is on a direct collision course with Earth and that there are only ten hours to destroy it before it obliterates our tiny blue planet. General Thompson (Bud Widom) knows that there is only one man qualified to lead this mission, and being Bruce Willis was only thirteen years old at the time that man is Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton). There is one slight problem and that is that Rankin had resigned from Space Command and so can’t be ordered to go, he has to volunteer. An added wrinkle to the mission is that with such a tight timeframe there is a good chance that after planting the explosives on the asteroid that the astronauts won’t be able to make it far enough away to escape the blast zone.
Complicating things further is the fact that the mission will be outfitted and launched from space station Gamma 3 which just so happens to be commanded by Vince Elliot (Richard Jaeckel), a man who was once best friends with Rankin but now they are bitter enemies. We never get any details as to what exactly happened to cause these men to have such a falling out but a mission that Elliot led, which resulted in several deaths because Elliot tried to save one man and ended up losing ten, is one big reason but the other would be that Elliot is currently engaged to Rankin’s ex-girlfriend Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi), and who is now a doctor on Gamma 3. So we have an asteroid headed for Earth as well as a tense love triangle aboard a space station, that’s a lot of dramatic tension for a science fiction movie and we haven’t even got to the monsters yet.
Tension mounts right off that bat as Rankin pulls rank snicker as he is in charge of the mission and will be calling all the shots, and he spends most of the movie shoving that fact in Elliot’s face. In turn, Elliot is a complete baby about it and is more worried about Rankin stealing his girl back than any stupid asteroid threat. This is the key problem with this movie, neither of these guys is particularly likable; Rankin is a pompous windbag with a face like a slab of beef and Elliot is a whiney git who screws up and costs more lives just so he’ll have a reason to give the ole “noble sacrifice” at the end. Regardless of their antagonism towards each other Rankin allows Elliot on the mission to blow up the asteroid, and everything goes relatively smoothly, no deep-core oil drillers required, but there is some pesky green slime that lies around in pulsating puddles that seem drawn to our astronaut’s moon golf carts and drains them of power.
Being time is of the essence Rankin abandons the equipment and races back to the rocket ship on foot, only to be shortly greeted by Dr. Hans Halvorsen (Ted Gunther) who excitedly shows off his container of green slime. Rankin tells him to, “Get rid of it” despite Halvorsen claiming that, “This is a major discovery!” so our esteemed commander grabs the specimen container out of Halvorsen’s hands and smashes it on the ground. What a dick. In many science fiction movies scientists are portrayed as “head in the clouds” morons who endanger everyone around them with their lofty ideals, but in this instance, there is no reason not to bring back the first example of extra-terrestrial life ever found. The sample is safely contained in a glass specimen container and it’s only when Rankin smashes the jar that a bit of the slime lands on one of the suits of a fellow astronaut. So despite this script seeming to insist that Elliot and Halvorsen are responsible for multiple deaths, it really all falls at the feet of Rankin because it’s his being an asshole that leads to the contaminate being brought back to the space station in the first place.
When they get back to Gamma 3 Rankin orders that all equipment be run through the decontamination procedure three times despite Elliot grousing that his men don’t have time to run such an unnecessary number of decontaminations. Once again it seems like Elliot’s bitching and complaining is the cause of the Green Slime monster outbreak, but later we find out that the slime grows when exposed to energy and that the decontamination process actually accelerated their growth. Elliot’s not wanting to follow Rankin’s excessive orders was actually a good thing, but that still won’t spare him his “noble” death.
Once the alien contamination begins to grow it starts knocking off Gamma 3 station personnel one by one with nasty electrical chargers from its waving tentacles. Rankin, Elliot and Lisa run from one monster-fried employee to another without a clue as to what’s going on, that is until they come face to cyclopean-eyed face with the growing horror that plagues their station. Halvorsen, being the scientist, wants to capture the thing alive, and Elliot and his men do try to capture it using gas guns and rope nets. Unsurprisingly this results in several men being killed and or hospitalized. Later when they try to lure the growing horde of creatures away from the inhabited portions of the station Halverson gets caught behind a closing bulkhead door because he was stupid enough to run back to get his notes. Typical movie scientist action. Rankin and Elliot see on a monitor poor Halverson screaming and flailing against the creatures, Elliot wants to open the bulkhead door and attempt a rescue, but Rankin is against the idea. This leads to the following exchange:
Rankin: “You’ll risk the whole station!”
Elliot: “That’s a risk we are going to have to take.”
Rankin: “Not as long as I’m in command.”
Elliot ignores the order and strides over to the bulkhead door.
Rankin: “Get away from that panel!” He aims a laser rifle at him and states, “That’s an order, Vince.”
Elliot: “It’s your move commander.”
I’m assuming we are supposed to side with Rankin here because Elliot is willing to risk the lives of everyone on board the station for the sake of one man, clearly a call back to the incident alluded to earlier, but I’m on Elliot’s side because starring down a laser rifle in such a cool badass fashion is too damn cool, also Rankin is a dick. And poor Rankin doesn’t even get a chance to shoot off his popgun because Lisa runs in the way and opens the panel herself. Dames, they’re always ruining a man’s fun.
The rest of the movie has our heroes running up and down countless corridors, trying to get the wounded out of the path of the killer creatures, and finding some way to stop the ever-increasing horde. At one point Lisa wants Rankin to authorize the evacuation of the injured to Earth, Rankin refuses as that could lead to Earth being overrun with the Green Slime, but later when half the station is on fire he orders a mass evacuation and just informs Space Command to set up a quarantine facility for them, which he could easily have done earlier when Lisa first requested it for the wounded.
When Rankin orders the destruction of Gamma 3 Elliot kind of loses it, “Now I’m going to tell you something for the last time. I’m in command of this station, and when my Chief gives me an order to destroy Gamma 3 I’ll take that order from him, but I won’t take it from you!” What does the diplomatic Rankin do? Does he call down to Space Command and get the Chief’s authorization? Nope, he orders security officers to escort Elliot to one of the evacuation ships with the stipulation that if Elliot resists they should consider him under arrest. That Elliot tries to slug the jackass only makes me sad because he misses. This does lead to a fun space battle when a mission when a group of astronauts, led by a disgraced Elliot who refuses to be arrested, have to spacewalk out to clear the dock of the multitude of green bastards that are crawling all over the exterior of the station and blocking the evacuation.
I particularly love that when one runs out of charge for your laser rifle you have the option of using the rifle as a javelin and hurling it at your enemy. Sadly this heroic moment for Elliot isn’t enough to spare him that aforementioned noble death. When the station is evacuated they are dismayed to learn that there isn’t enough power for Space Command to remotely detonate the station, and so someone will have to go back inside and do it by hand. Heroic Rankin decides to go back alone, it’s not like the success of this mission is important enough to risk a couple of guys, but just when he’s about to be fried by a couple of the green menaces Elliot arrives in time to distract the horde. You see after clearing off the space dock Elliot found out from Lisa that Rankin had gone off on this suicide mission and so he grabbed a fresh laser rifle, kissed his fiancé for the last time, and went off to battle.
The day is saved. Rankin returns to the evacuation ship as the station burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, he radios Space Command and requests the highest commendation for Vince Elliot, posthumously of course. Thanks, you big jerk, I’m sure Elliot’s spirit will get great comfort in that while you’re consoling his grieving fiancé. The big slab of beef jerky actually gives the crying Lisa a thumbs up.
The Green Slime was a co-production between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Toei with MGM providing the funding and script while Toei provided the film crew and location to shoot the film. Much of the supporting cast were American military stationed in Japan and who probably had a great time pretending to shoot space monsters. This came out the same year as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey which kind of gave audiences of the time a perfect example of what science fiction and cinema were capable of doing in the right hands and how godawful it could be in the hands of those who clearly failed High School Science Class. Though far from being a good movie The Green Slime does provide some good unintentional laughs, this was the first movie to be lampooned on Mystery Science 3000, and Richard Jaeckel grit toothed acting is always a treat. So if you are flipping channels one night and you happen to come across this little piece of sci-fi nostalgia give it a peak, you may find yourself surprisingly entertained.
The Green Slime (1968)
Movie Rank - 5.5/10
While the bulbous tentacle-waving suits of the title monsters may not scare audiences today they did scare the crap out of five-year-old me, I covered my eyes during much of it, but The Green Slime does have some goofy charm, making it worth checking out for fans of the genre.