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DVD Review: The Green Slime

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The world of ‘60s Japanese sci-fi movies is indeed an entertaining one. Many of us used to stay up late at night in order to stare at the television screen in awe over the surreal sights and sounds of the very best (and worst) that studios like Toho and Toei had to offer. Hell, some of us still stay up late when watching Japanese sci-fi movies in order to recapture that dreamlike feeling we once held on account of not getting an adequate amount of rest. There’s just something about grown men in rubber suits stomping Tonka trucks into oblivion, wobbly spaceships on wires, and poorly dubbed dialogue bearing the ability to level an entire city block that goes hand-in-sweaty-hand with sleep deprivation.

But there’s absolutely nothing on this Earth that can compare you for the awesome hilarity that is Kinji Fukasaku’s The Green Slime.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I’m a modern PR guy — the kind that gets the unenviable job of promoting god-awful movies to gullible American audiences. Now, if were given the task of promoting The Green Slime for its initial theatrical release, I suppose I would describe it like this: “An epic co-production between the U.S. and Japan, The Green Slime is a action-packed thrill ride that not only bridges the gap between contemporary horror and science fiction movies, but one that successfully merges the sophisticated technical skills of Japan’s leading filmmakers with the absolute best acting talent that there is!”

The actual truth behind the fact, however, is that The Green Slime is one of the most unintentionally hilarious moving pictures that ever had the misfortune to escape the editing room. Take a look for yourself if you don’t believe me…

Made at a time when Americans were growing weary of seeing unknown Japanese actors with voices that didn’t match their lip movements, The Green Slime actually does appear as if it was supposed to be an epic co-production between two countries that only 25 years earlier were trying to obliterate each other from the face of the planet. Shot entirely in Japan, the project’s director was none other than the late Kinji Fukasaku: a innovative filmmaker who had previously helmed several yakuza gangster features in his native Japan — and would later go on to direct the highly-acclaimed (not to mention highly-controversial) Battle Royale in 2000. The cast, on the other hand, was assembled from the finest collection of international military personnel and two American guys who had mostly worked on television (Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel).

Oh, and there’s an imported Italian beauty in there, too — the one from Thunderball, to be precise (Luciana Paluzzi).

Plot? You don’t need no stinkin’ plot, people, but here it goes anyhow… A giant asteroid (resembling a fuzzy jawbreaker straight from the theater floor) is on a collision course with Earth. And so, retired astronaut Commander Jack Rankin (Horton) is sent up the space station Gamma 3 to team with his old partner, Commander Vince Elliott (Jaeckel), in order to blast the mutha out of existence. Unfortunately, a small drop of green goo makes its way back to Gamma 3 once the mission is completed: goo that feeds on electrical energy, divides, and multiplies into hundreds of goofy-looking monsters with deadly electrified tentacles (early shade of hentai, no doubt).

Soon, the alien critters are taking over the entire space station. Worse still, the Japanese children inhabiting the silly creature costumes start to show up the so-called “professional” actors with their superior acting talents! And yet, despite all the on-board tension, the ridiculously small security helmets the embarrassed actors are forced to parade about in, a scientist with a killer hairdo (Ted Gunther) obsessed with studying the extraterrestrial lifeforms, and the ever-looming presence of life in the unemployment line for all, Spankin’ Rankin (who is a complete and utter douchebag, just so you know — and yet, he’s the film’s hero!) and Elliott still find time to rekindle their pissing contest over the luscious Dr. Lisa Benson (Paluzzi).

So, what makes The Green Slime so ambitiously abysmal? Well, if the aforementioned story (co-written by Batman developer Bill Finger) didn’t sell you, than one could attribute it to a combination of efforts from both sides of the production. Fukasaku was indeed a wonderful filmmaker, but either his stylistic editing was altered by the American distributors, or he just wasn’t the guy to direct a sci-fi movie with rubber monsters that look like they could have just leapt out of H.R. Pufnstuf’s nightmares.

Or, perhaps it was something much simpler, such as things getting lost in the translation when Fukasaku was telling his “actors” what to do. Richard Jaeckel emerges as one of the few people in the whole film that seems to remember he’s acting most of the time (even if he overdoes it), while top-billed Robert Horton calmly struts through the picture doing his best Ronald Reagan (read: wooden-yet-invincible) impersonation. One of my favorite moments in the film has the astronauts barely escaping being exploded to bits along with the rogue asteroid they were sent to destroy: Jaeckel sits in his chair, obviously comprehending the fact that he’s supposed to experiencing excessive g-forces, while the much-older Horton is still able to stand up and hit the ship’s accelerator — saving them all.

But wait, it gets better, kids. Actually, it gets funnier. Like many other cult favorites, this “so bad, it’s good” class-ick has ironically benefited from all of the asinine aspects that resulted in the film’s box-office suicide run to begin with. The movie holds the prestigious honor of being the very first film featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (albeit for the show’s KTMA public access TV pilot), and was also listed in John Wilson’s book, The Official Razzie Movie Guide. Additionally, the film’s wickedly-psychedelic and oh-so-‘60s theme song (also entitled “The Green Slime”) by surf-rock composer Richard Delvy (who, sadly, passed away in early 2010) has become a legend in itself: a track that has the honor of being played way-too-many times on my iPod, as well as having been covered by the likes of Josie Cotton and The Fuzztones.

The Green Slime was first issued on home video in 1991 by MGM (who originally released the film in ‘68) via a horrible, pan-and-scan VHS transfer that trimmed off too much of the onscreen fun. The analog videocassette was soon placed on moratorium, becoming a valuable collectible amongst bad movie lovers everywhere. When DVD hit the home video scene in the late ‘90s, fans of the epic disaster began submitting requests to MGM for a digital, widescreen release. The demand was never met, though, and followers of the film once again were forced to stay up late and forego sleep (and sanity) in order to occasionally catch the film on television.

That, however, has changed. In 2009, a downward economy resulted Warner Home Video to start up what they called the “Warner Archives Collection,” which enabled consumers to purchase previously-unavailable movies and TV shows on DVD-R. Although some purists may not fully appreciate the recent studio trend to market “manufactured-on-demand” (MOD) DVD-R releases, there is no denying that we are all eternally grateful to the efforts of the Warner Archives Collection for finally making The Green Slime available to us in a digital, widescreen release.

While many of Warner’s MOD releases lack any sort of restoration or remastering on the studio’s part, The Green Slime is one of several recent Warner Archive titles that boasts the phrase “Remastered Edition.” The film is shown in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (yes, it’s anamorphic), and is in surprisingly good shape. A few flaws pop up here and there (some grain, a bit of print damage, etc.), but, overall, this is a keeper (besides, where else are you gonna get it?). The disc’s Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 soundtrack comes through loud and clear. There are no subtitles or special features for this release, but at least this DVD-R’s cover honors the movie’s original poster artwork.

The Green Slime is available to order via the Warner Archives Collection website, WarnerArchive.com.

In short, The Green Slime is a truly-dreadful, poorly-acted, oddly-edited, and ineptly-written feature film — one that probably set the entire civilized universe back by about three millennia. It’s a disaster in every sense of the word. But, like a small handful of other great catastrophes in history (e.g. the extinction of the dinosaurs, the 2010 defeat of both Meg Whitman and Christine O’Donnell), this one actually seems to have benefited mankind.

Enjoy.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.