REVIEW: The Green Slime (1968)

A film directed by Kinji Fukasaku

The Green Slime was a co-production between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Ram Films, and Toei. Known over in Japan as ガンマー第3号 宇宙大作戦, or Ganmā Daisan Gō: Uchū Daisakusen, lit. ’Gamma 3: The Great Space War‘, it was completely undermined by coming out after the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as such received tons of negative press upon release. Despite it being every bit as good as some of the best monster films of the era, many saw it was taking a step-back in the tastes of contemporary filmgoing audiences.

I had actually never seen this before a friend at work loaned it to me, and with my adventures in reading about various tokusatsu films, I figured it would be right up my alley. For me, it’s most notable for being an early film by Kinji Fukasaku, a popular Yakuza and samurai film director that would later go on to make classics such as Samurai Reincarnation and Battle Royale. To say he’s influential is an understatement, because Battle Royale has become the basis for just about every modern videogame popular with children (which is weird to me), and even seems to have influenced HUGE TV shows like Squid Game. He sadly passed away during production of Battle Royale II, which was not very good unfortunately.

“After a perilous mission to a huge asteroid, a crew returns to its space station, unaware that a bit of ooze from the asteroid clings to a crewman’s uniform. The green goop grows – into murderous, tentacled monsters. And as station members fight to live, gunk from the monsters’ wounds turns into more monsters! That’s the story. Now enjoy as our heroes fight to preserve Earth and, unintentionally, our own senses of humor with a movie that Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called “one of the funniest made-in-Japan sci-fi monster movies ever.” Kinji Fukasaku, whose later work was championed by Quentin Tarantino, directs. The world would be a far more bleak and joyless place without marvels like The Green Slime.”

From the moment the amazing theme song starts up (do me a favor and play that video up there), I knew I was going to be treated with something special tonight. On the surface, this may seem like a schlocky B-rated feature, the sort you’d see in a double feature at a drive in back in the day, but this is way too good for that branding. The miniature work is superb, and almost gives off the same sort of vibe as Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet, which may not seem like a complement, but for me it is. The film has some really cool shots including zero gravity stuff that are almost on par with what we later saw in Moonraker, and despite the cartoonish shape of the spaceship, its a relatively realistic depiction of space travel. The only real silly part are the ray guns the crew use.

Your top billed actors are Robert Horton as Commander Jack Rankin, Richard Jaeckel as Commander Vince Elliott, and Luciana Paluzzi as Dr. Lisa Benson. Horton is perhaps bets known as Flint McCullough in Wagon Train (1957–1962), and won many awards for his work in television and film westerns. Jaeckal eventually was nominated for an Oscar, and is also noted for his work in westerns, and Paluzzi is perhaps best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball. The acting is typical for the time, I wouldn’t say anyone really blew me away, but you can tell everyone were studio actors by the way everything is plotted out.

Some of the more dramatic moments are when Jack and Vince are arguing, which apparently was all cut out in the Japanese version. The two men both fawn over Lisa, who doesn’t help things by hitting on both men constantly. It makes me wonder if the cut was intentional or if it was too hard to dub everything over in Japan? I am somewhat glad this film was largely intact in both versions rather than having a Japanese version, then shoe-horning Americans for an inferior version later. I will say the two men “Big Dogging” each other constantly gets old pretty fast.

The titular monsters, originally a glob of sentient green slime, are accidentally brought onto the space station Gamma 3 after a mission to blow up a huge asteroid. A scuffle on the asteroid splashes the goop onto the crew, and like a Trojan Horse it all begins. Even after a lengthy decontamination process, all it takes is one glob to doom the ship. Once aboard they start killing crewmembers in a methodical manner, ever evolving until they eventually become these weird green creatures with tentacles and one large eyeball. I could see people thinking these guys look bad, but I’m so used to far worse creatures in early Doctor Who episodes that I wasn’t too bothered.

I was actually somewhat surprised by the amount of gore in the film. I know some films were edited to pieces for having blood and sinister deaths on screen, but some of the effects in this film are pretty good. Both the plot and the structure of the earlier part of the movie reminds me a lot of the Quatermass series, especially the first film produced by Hammer Films. We see tons of “kills”, including people getting torn to shreds, a man getting electrocuted, and another that basically gets burned to death. These are all pretty creative, and are the sorts of scares worthy of a slasher film series.

Overall, being a fan of both Japanese film and classic monster movies means I quite enjoyed this movie. It’s not the “so bad it’s good” sort of thing I was expecting, but somehow it’s just a solid film all around. I can see why some would find it silly, but I’d imagine it’s the same sort of people that look down on most science fiction. It’s cool to see the early works on a director so ahead of his time as Kinji Fukasaku, and I feel like I have a greater appreciation for his work now. Supposedly this is seen as an unofficial sequel to an MGM science fiction quadrilogy by the Italian director Antonio Margheriti, I may have to seek those out as well. Overall, I’d say if you like classic science fiction or monster films, this may be up your alley.

If you are interested in this film, a few different versions are available on Amazon, for the purposes of this review I watched the remastered DVD.

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