Review Date: November 24, 2010
Released by: Warner Archive
Release date: 11/2/2010
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
There is something amazingly intangible when foreign directors make English-speaking American movies. They can run the gamut from brilliant, like Antonioniís Zabriskie Point
, to bizarre like Troll 2
, but whether itís Door into Silence
, The Ring Two
or (parts of) Gamera
, these films offer a surreal appropriation of North American language and customs. It is often said that films offer a reflection of our times, but films made by foreign directors add the benefit of perspective. Itís how they, or even other cultures, see our culture, and whether itís evident in the dialogue, the motivations of the characters or even the costumes, itís something that can say more about our own culture than we possibly could ourselves. That and sometimes itís just fucking crazy. The Warner Archive is now releasing Kinji Fukasakuís The Green Slime
, the first movie featured on Mystery Science Theater
and truly the warped circus mirror of Americana.
Michael Bay only learns from the best, and the start of The Green Slime
features a first act that basically serves as the template for Armageddon. Thereís an asteroid heading for Earth and pretty boy commander Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel
, Mako: The Jaws of Death
) must send a ragtag crew to quickly land on its surface to plant a bomb to change its trajectory from hitting civilization. The only man to lead the crew to the asteroid is the man Elliott hates most, rival commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton
, a prolific 50s big studio day player before finding a niche in TV westerns). Because no big ticket trip to space is complete without a love story, Elliottís current love interest and former lover of Rankin, Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi
, Tragic Ceremony
), is also the doctor on the American space station outpost where all reside. After some close calls, Rankin leads his troop to victory and they return to the space station heroes.
The drama doesnít end there, though. When the men came back to the ship, they unknowingly brought back with them a small prolific bubbling green substance. When given the catalyst of electricity, the slime is able to grow and multiply at an alarming rate. Not only can it split into different forms, but itís also apparently able to evolve into midget, chirping, tentacle waving aliens. Electrocuting them only makes them stronger, and one little piece of green goo suddenly becomes a battalion of beasties on this US outpost. Itís one thing to have to defeat these creatures, but when there is a love triangle in full force the drama gets, well, gooey.
With his mishandling of the initial containment of green goo, Elliott is demoted and Rankin takes over, but itís going to take more than one man to defeat these warty alien warriors. Although electricity makes them stronger, apparently they are susceptible to laser blasts, and that initially helps the ship contain them. An attempt to eject them off into space fails, since they just sort of flail around and end up causing more havoc without the constraints of gravity. No, the guys must do something more. Something more to win the affection of fiery foreigner Dr. Benson. Something more to make these auto-tuned chipmunk creatures pay the American way.
The Green Slime
has rightfully earned its place on the bad movie pedestal, but let me get a couple compliments out of the way first. Fukasaku, whoíd prove himself more than competent directing with a Hollywood budget for the Japanese sequences of Tora! Tora! Tora!
shows a real visual flair, utilizing a familiar colleague at the Toei Company studios in Japan to lens the film in some glorious scope photography. The camera dollies around throughout, and there are some effective bits during the finale where the dutch tilt is used to really accentuate the action. With a movie with a color in the title, itís also no surprise that Fukasaku exerts particular effort to ensure the film has a vibrant and even thematic use of color, from the reds of the barren asteroid to the greens of nature run amok monster. The visual effects, particularly the in space miniatures, are especially accomplished and must have looked pretty good in 1968 before even 2001: A Space Odyssey
was released. Jaeckel and Horton make a pretty badass pair of leading men, and their rivalry is surprisingly more potent (and probably even more sexually charged) than either of their relationships with the female lead. Itís a pretty respectable production on the surface. But then thereís that theme song
ďOpen the door you'll find the secret
To find the answer is to keep it
You'll believe it when you find
Something screaming 'cross your mind
What can it be, what is the reason
Is this the end of all that breathes, and
Is it something in your head?
Will you believe it when you're dead?
Green slime! Green slime! Green slime!Ē
Composed by Charles Fox (whoíd do the similarly futuristic Barbarella
the same year, with the odd electronic score for Bug
later in 1975) itís an amazingly bombastic psychedelic jazz riff that completely jars the tone of the film when it plays right after the revelation that an asteroid is heading for Earth. Hear it once and you will be unable to say the title without yelling ďGREEN SLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!Ē I donít know who was responsible for commissioning that one, but it was probably the same dude who agreed on the creature sounds for the slime. The creatures sound like Chip and Dale scampering around the apple tree, making it really hard to see the space invaders as anything but cute and cuddly little beasts. In actuality they were little Japanese children in suits, and the goofy aimlessness of their movements is kind of endearing.
Usually the formula for good sci-fi horror is to keep your monster in shadows and scare more with the anticipation of the beast rather than the beast itself. It works for Alien
. When youíre dealing with bad movies, though, you want to see those odd, rustic creations as much as possible. What would Troll 2
, The Deadly Spawn
, Ghoulies III
, et al. be without the slimy beasts running around at any given moment? The Green Slime
gets it right by having the first creature run amok at the end of the first act and upping the pace once it begins to multiply throughout the rest of the picture. Thereís a healthy amount of scenes with the beasts just running around with their chipmunk chirps, not for plot but just for pandemonium. If you donít care about the story, then thatís a surefire way to make sure the proceedings at least stay entertaining.
Shot entirely in Japan, the idea of a beast that thrives on electricity seems a particularly potent one for a country defined by the electrically charged Tokyo landscapes. While Godzilla is more a beast made to illustrate the fears of war, the slime here ask instead what weíd do when our technology is no longer there to save us. Indeed, technology and electricity are the enemy. Itís interesting that another famous Japanese monster, Gamera
, seems to fuse these two concepts, making him a giant nuclear-grown monster that also thrives on energy. Of course, the sociocultural dilemma here really means diddly in this silly movie, since outside of a doctorís establishing explanation for plot purposes, the concept is nothing other than a device to get the creatures going.
The more interesting thing about the Japanese country of origin is the way in which the dialogue is delivered in that surreal, English-but-not-really matter of factness. If youíve seen Troll 2
youíll know what Iím talking about, where it seems as if characters were put through a Babelfish translator. Thereís on the nose dialogue and then thereís The Green Slime
, where Richard Jaeckel should really have been named ďPlotĒ given all the story driving factoids he has to bellow out through the movie. The macho grandstanding throughout between Jaeckel and Horton also seems like an outsiderís appropriation of American masculinity. That Paluzziís good doctor is a foreign love interest that neither really end up caring about at the end, it could even be argued that the whole film is some sort of Cold War parable about how the big, WMD countries like America and Russia care only about besting the other and not about their impact on other countries or the whole reason they were fighting in the first place. Or how about an America-Japan-Germany love triangle? Iíd like to hope there is something of substance to this movie other than the heft of the theme song!
I think the ending sort of summarizes how to approach this movie. Instead of offering a resolve, like an answer to what is going to happen in this love triangle that has been central to the film, or perhaps how humanity is going to respond to knowing there exists a killer creature beyond the stars, the movie instead cuts to a special effect shot of space and thenÖĒGREEN SLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!Ē Itís a goofy lounge act with some laughs, a little entertainment and a strident, shallow delivery. Youíll have some segments stuck in your head, and hey, as long as the beer is good, whatís so bad about that? Just donít try the relish.
Many Warner Archive releases donít bear the ďRemastered EditionĒ header that The Green Slime
does, but in my experience, the quality has always been pretty comparable between all releases. At any rate, The Green Slime
looks very vivid in this progressively encoded 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The color green is as lush as a color bearing its title would lead you to believe, but itís the reds that makeup the Mars-like planet that appear with the most saturation. In addition to the colorful palette, the film is often quite sharp and with only light grain. That said, there are several instances of scratches and dust throughout, although many of these seem to be inherent in the optical effects work and something married to the negative. Overall, a quality release thatís better than a lot of factory pressed DVDs out there.
Far less engaging is the original mono sound, which sounds pretty flat and even a little crackly at times. Dialogue is clear and intact, and all those alien chipmunk squeals are just as high pitched and annoying as ever. Still, the movie may be green but this track is vanilla.
Like most other Warner Archive DVD+Rs that are pressed to order, this has no extras. I know, I wanted a music video too.
The Green Slime
is a fun cheese-fest, with hammy masculine grandstanding, an absurd premise and dozens of midget, squealing martians running around causing a grand mess. Like many other Hollywood pictures shot by a foreign director, itís got a strong visual style and good production value, but something surreal was gained in translation. The image quality is solid, while the sound is perfectly standard and the extras non-existent. Iíd recommend this film for the jazz theme alone, but with a nice image, this piece of swiss is all that is holy.
Purchase this exclusively from the Warner Archive
Movie - C
Image Quality - B
Sound - C
Supplements - N/A
- Running Time - 1 hour 39 minutes
- Rated G
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono