I am, I have learned, embarrassingly parochial compared to my fellow B-masters. While renowned auteurs like Akira Kurosawa and Fritz Lang rank at the very acme of my pantheon of great directors, in terms of genre fare my background is almost exclusively in English language films. At B-Fest this year my comrades would nonchalantly toss around the names of Asian and European auteurs, personages with whom frankly I had at best slight familiarity.
Thus, when the votes came in to dedicate this roundtable to the works of one Kinji Fukasaku, I could only nod in mock comprehension before discretely hieing myself to the IMDB. Our more cosmopolitan readers will instantly recognize the director as having a long and popular career. Indeed, he continues to make major genre films even today, as with the recent international hit Battle Royale. For myself, I dug further back into his filmography and glommed onto a title with which I was happily familiar.
Those looking for background information on Fukasaku-san, therefore, are advised to peruse the other contributions to this roundtable, as provided by my more knowledgeable brethren.
Our current object of inquiry opens in ‘space.’ The starry vistas, meanwhile, are accompanied by music that I believe can be heard in a plethora of other, cheapie sci-fi flicks. Sadly, the only version of The Green Slime commercially available in this country consists of a gruesomely pan-and-scanned video cassette.* Therefore, we see only the very edge of what presumably is meant to be Mother Earth rotating on the right side of the screen. This is soon mirrored on the left by an equally clipped portion of an enjoyably cheesy ‘space station’ model.[*Over the years, a goodly majority of films that I’ve really wanted to see on DVD-films ranging from Zulu to Them! to The Haunting to My Man Godfrey to Orca-have eventually been so released. One of the sole long-time malingerers on that roster has been The Green Slime, a film screaming out for a letterboxed, digital presentation. Oddly, the movie was, and presumably still is, owned stateside by MGM, the American company that originally co-produced the film with Japan’s Toho studio. MGM has, for a while now, been steadily releasing a wide array of their drive-in type titles on disc via their Midnight Movie line. So where the hell is The Green Slime?]
Again, we are denied a full look at the tubular structure, but what we do see indicates the facility to be the U.N.S.C. Gamma. (Actually, we learn, it’s the Gamma 3.) Said initials, as anagram guessers might readily have conjectured, stand for the United Nations Space Command. Despite this, unsurprisingly, it appears that most of the actual work is done by Americans and members from a few select allies. We have seen the future, and it’s much like the present.
We cut inside the Gamma 3, as realized by a set that isn’t much more convincing than the plastic model used for the exterior shots. The dÃˆcor is all done in 1960s Futuristic, with the workers in jumpsuits resembling janitorial uniforms, monitor banks consisting of lots of curved white plastic and shiny chrome, dot matrix teletype printers and laughably archaic-looking computers with random blinky Christmas light displays.
A communication officer contacts Cape Kennedy, and for some reason the reply from this facility is heard over the public address system. Does every transmission from Earth get played across the bridge? That sounds a little noisy, not to mention inefficient, but what do I know? In any case, Gamma 3 signifies that it is ready to transmit a “routine video weather report on Channel Five-Six. Solar magnetic influence minus zero-three-point-six-two.” The future is an amazing place.
We cut down to Earth, specifically your typical ‘patently bogus yet utterly charming’ Toho futurescape. This, naturally, is all rounded bubble buildings, rocket ship launch pads, wee plastic jetliners whizzing by on wires and tiny cars moving (all at the same clip) along a model raised highway.
Soon we espy the UNSC headquarters, and cut inside to a control room that basically looks like a bigger version of the one on Gamma 3. Various wads of none-too-convincing technical chatter are heard. Meanwhile, the camera glides over to check out the gams of a blond office worker whose uniform, needless to say, partially consists of a mini-skirt. She hands in a report to her supervisor, who notes, “Same old garbage. Nothing exciting ever happens here.” I don’t want you to fall out of your chair, but amazingly enough, something exciting then immediately occurs. Oh, the Irony!
This is initially signified by “abnormal interference” on one of the monitoring screens, as indicated by sound effects seemingly borrowed from an episode of The Herculoids. They throw the scanner image up on the main viewscreen, and see to their horror that it’s a meatball on a string. No, I’m sorry, apparently it’s a large asteroid, one that is, coincidentally enough, on a collision course with Earth!! Despite all their futurey gear, unfortunately, they apparently didn’t notice this colossal object until just this minute, less than a day from its catastrophically striking the planet.
Here we get the opening credits, which are notable for two reasons. First, as is often the case with heavily pan-and-scanned movies, this is the sole bit that’s letterboxed, so that all the names get their legally required showing. Of course, this merely rubs in our faces that fact that for the vast majority of the presentation we’ll be watching only about 70% of the movie.
Second, we get one of the film’s authentic claims to fame, which is its psychedelic theme song. This tune wouldn’t be out of place in an Austin Powers movie, and is all groovy electric guitar riffs and heavy percussion and synthesizer sound effects. Although we don’t see any, you just know that girls in mini-skirts and adorned with body paint were standing in cages and doing the Frug as the tune was recorded.
The singer, meanwhile, really gives it his all. His frenetic, throat-straining rendition of the lyrics reminded me mightily of something, and eventually I realized that it was the “Flower Power” audition song as sung by Dick Shawn’s hippie character in The Producers. It’s hard to communicate the magic of the tune on paper, so you might want to track down one of the various Halloween albums that features it. It’s great stuff.
Back at Headquarters, commanding officer General Thompson looks at the data and bluffly opines, “The only answer is to blast that thing out of the sky!” Of course, he’s American, so that’s his first impulse, rather than trying to negotiate a peaceful non-collision treaty with it. Also, to be technical, you’d be blowing it out of ‘space,’ not the ‘ the sky’â€¦or so one sincerely hopes. This seems an odd slip for a commander at the United Nations Space Command to make, even if he is a Yank.
Time, though, is of the essence. Again, you’d have thought long-range telescope might have picked this thing up before it was mere hours from Earth, but again, I’m not an Astronomer of the Future. The General heads towards his private office, where one Commander Rankin is supposedly waiting, per orders.
Hearing this name, a junior Expository Officer helpfully interjects that Rankin has recently tendered his resignation from Space Command. Thus, said officer argues, it is somewhat unseemly for the General to send the guy on what amounts to a probable suicide mission. (Apparently, in his opinion, Rankin would be much better off living it up on Earth for the remaining 12 hours before the planet was destroyed. Schmuck.)
Per movie rules, the General responds to the objection by noting, “He’s the only man for the job!” Actually, he hasn’t said that yet, but I’m just guessing. Andâ€¦I’m wrong. What the General actually says is, “He’s still the top officer in my command!” That’s completely different.
We cut to the General’s private office, where-Backstory Alert!-we get a close-up of a wall mounted photograph. This pictures the General alongside a uniformed Rankin, who himself is seen laughing with a second astronaut. The three men had supposedly been captured in a candid moment, albeit one featuring just a bit too much hilarity on their part. You know, like those episodes of Star Trek that end with everyone on the bridge convulsing with laughter after Spock says something particularly Vulcan-y.
Rankin, in a civilian suit, is looking upon the photo with manly wistfulness. At this point, having seen a few movies before, I feel confident in saying that the photo represents Better Days. In confirmation of this, the General enters, greets the Charlton Heston-esque Rankin and then pauses to consider the same photo. “Rankin and Elliot,” he muses. “The best space team we ever had!”
They’re still being coy, but the general outlines of the situation are quickly limned. “Vince and I did pretty well for there for a while,” Rankin agrees, “until I ruined it.” The General objects. “No one’s ever accused you of that,” he replies, “except yourself.” So something happened, and now former best buddies Rankin and Vince Elliot are hopelessly estranged. Hey, wouldn’t it be something if they had to work together on this asteroid thing, what with the bad blood between them and all? Wow, that would generate some dramatic tension there, you’d think.
Anyhoo, having established all this, they move on to the matter at hand. The General refers Rankin’s attention to a nearby viewscreen. “This is Asteroid Flora,” he notes. “We sighted it moving towards Earth less than two hours ago.” This “six million tons of rock” is due to collide with our planet the next morning (!!!). “That’s less than ten hours!” Rankin helpfully observes.*[As Jabootu Proofreading Shadow Minister Billy Leary points out: “That’s a very interesting observation. “Morning,” from the previous sentence, being a pretty slippery term. For me, “morning,” for home things, begins around 6:00AM. For work things, about 9:00. For things like “sometime tomorrow morning” anywhere up to noon. So, just how does this bozo figure “ten hours”? Ah, the wonders of script writers.]
The only option remaining is to land upon the object, plant some nukes and blow it to dust. Rankin asks who’s in charge of the mission, which, given the circumstances, seems sort of a dense query. “He’d have to volunteer,” the General responds meaningfully, and Rankin finally pieces it all together and accepts the job. (Again, though, considering he’d be killed along with every other human if the asteroid isn’t stopped, it’s not like it’s that heroic of a choice.)
The base of operations will be Gamma 3, and during the length of the mission, Rankin will be in complete charge of the facility. Oh, and I hope you’re sitting down, because the commanding officer of Gamma 3 he’ll be superseding is none otherâ€¦Vince Elliot! (bum bum bum!!!) Of all the space stations in all the universe, he had to spacewalk onto that one. Anyhoo, despite the fact that the odds of outrunning the blast are miniscule, Rankin does of course take on the assignment. He and the General manfully exchange a thumb’s up (?), and then he departs.
A toy hovercar (or some damn thing) takes Rankin to the inevitable finned model space rocket. Having donned his slim spacesuit, he enters the craft and prepares for liftoff. This leads to a rather fun, if not entirely convincing, launch sequence. That’s what was so great about the Toho sci-fi films of that era. They could be goofy as all get out, but for all that, they really supplied the spectacle. That’s what the kids in the audience wanted, and they knew their audience. And hey, compared to stuff like Doomsday Machine or Mission Hydra: 2 + 5, this film is downright rigorously scientific.
At Gamma 3, a subordinate runs (so much for military discipline) to Commander Eliot to report on the imminent arrival of the rocket. At least, that’s what I assume, “The cruiser’s in the approach beam,” to mean. Eliot’s demeanor suggests his conflicted feelings, but in a subtle, manly fashion. Another subordinate asks whether it’s true that Rankin is on board, and will be running the show. Eliot sharply responds that it is, brooking no discussion on the matter. In other words, whatever his personal situation, he’s a by-the-book officer, and apparently a bit of a stuffed shirt as well.
Leaving, Eliot is called to by his girlfriend Lisa, an auburn-haired beauty in a sparkly, tin foil space mini-dress. The actress is clearly European, no doubt part of the ‘international cast’ that the Toho multinational co-productions boasted to widen their appeal. She too is concerned about Rankin’s appearance on the scene, most especially that whatever the issue between he and Eliot is will flare up again. Moreover, in a plot twist that didn’t exactly have me gasping in astonishment, it turns out that Lisa was, in the past, romantically involved with Rankin. She assures Eliot, however, that she no longer has any feelings for his former friend. Which, of course, means she does.
The Cruiser rocket approaches the station and, instead of docking, actually enters a landing bay. Again, the mechanics of all this aren’t entirely realistic, but they are pretty cool. When the ship is in place, workers emerge to refuel the Cruiser and ready it for its mission. As well as the elaborate miniatures, there’s also some impressively large sets and quite a few extras to man them. I’m not sure if this was the most expensive Toho co-production, but it certainly had to be up there.
Eliot enters and the two shake hands in an bluff, manly fashion, presumably covering up their hinted-at problems while in public. With Eliot is Hans Halversen, an obvious scientist type who identifies himself as the station’s “space consultant.” This, you’d think, is probably a fairly important job on a space station.
Rankin explains that he’ll be leaving for the asteroid in twenty minutes, and Eliot promises that all will be ready. Halversen and his assistant Michael, meanwhile, explain that they will be joining the away mission. Rankin objects, but new orders have arrived confirming this. Why Space Command would assign additional personnel to what we’ve been told is more or less a suicide mission goes unexplained.
Eliot also wants to go along. Of course, as the base commander he should stay behind at his duty station, a point which Rankin makes. However, Eliot argues that “Captain Martin is capable of taking over, one hundred percent.” That’s not really the point, but anyway.
This led me to wonder what rank structure the Space Command uses, as I’ve never heard of a military branch in which a Commander was ranked higher than a Captain. In fact, the only U.S. military branch that has a Commander rank is the Navy, in which a Commander is an O-5 (‘O’ for Officer)-the equivalent of a Lt. Colonel in the Army, Air Force and Marines-while a Captain is an O-6. Yet if Eliot is a Commander, and a Captain will be filling in for him, then that seems mostly likely to be the case.
Anyway, Rankin happily accepts his one-time friend’s help. Aside from the fact that they have been a good team in the past, he presumably might also be hoping for a rapprochement between them.
Down on Earth, the General is nervously pacing around, waiting for the action to start. As he does so, he sips from a small china cup of coffee. Society changes in little ways we often don’t notice, and one is the way portions have gotten so much larger over the years. Exactly when the comparatively commodious mug replaced the cup I cannot say, but it’s actually weird watching a rather large, bulky man walking around with such a dainty vessel.
Being a man of action-not to mention the monstrous levels of caffeine he must be consuming from his wee coffee cup-the General is impatient. “What’s taking them so long?” he snarls. “They’ve only been there five minutes,” a subordinate replies, somewhat sarcastically. That might be true, but were I addressing a general, I might drop the attitude, not to mention attaching a ‘sir’ to that statement.
Back to the Gamma 3. The assembled crew of Rankin, Eliot, Halversen, Michael and several other anonymous red shirts, enter the docking bay and approach the away mission shuttle. As they walk through the assembled workers, Eliot stops and tilts his head up, letting loose with a Significant Glance. Rankin turns to see what the dilio is, whereupon via one of the era’s patented ‘clumsily executed pan-and-zoom shots,’ we see Lisa standing up on a catwalk. She gives Rankin a Significant Glance, and he returns the favor, and soon there are SGs just bouncing all over the damn place. Could it be that, despite her protestations to her beau, she still has feeling for Rankin?
Anyhoo, the four team members enter the typically spacious shuttle and settle in. Outside in the docking bay, a siren goes off, accented with a red warning light that spins over red lettering reading “UTION WHEN”. Really, somebody, how about a letterboxed copy of this film already? In any case, the crew scrambles from the floor as the crew prepares for lift-off. Oddly, though, no one seems to be moving from the catwalk, despite the fact that we see the entire chamber being depressurized and then opened to space about thirty seconds later.
The shuttle takes off, and if the model work is hopelessly unconvincing, it’s still pretty fun. Hell, I’ll take it over CGI any day. Soon the rockets are engaged and the shuttle is heading to Flora. Suspenseful music plays, with a ‘the seconds are passing’ beat, to remind us that, you know, the Fate of the Earth and all. They accentuate the mood by having the folks back at Space Command and the Gamma Three pace about and grimace and suchlike. When Lisa looks over at a clock to check the time, she whips her head it like it just took a shot at her.
The shuttle soon arrives at Flora, which indeed resembles a large meatball that was left in the fridge too long. As they prepare to land, Rankin gives out their assignments. There will be three teams, each of which will set a nuclear device at a designated location. “Take her in!” Rankin then barks, as the music helpfully goes, “bum bum!!”
Outside, the various parties, hauling their bombs and armed with overly designed laser rifles, get ready to head out. Humorously, Rankin checks their helmet radio links by asking, “Everyone reading me loud and clear?” Yes, if you can’t hear him, raise your hand. No one does, so apparently all is well. He explains that everyone must be back to the ship in about fifty minutes. I’m not Nostradamus or anything, but I foresee a race against the clock in our immediate future. That established, they move out on little space carts, and let’s just say that this isn’t portrayed with the film’s most convincing attempts at miniature work.
After a while, Rankin’s team stops. “This looks as good a place as any,” he notes. Sure, why not? They deploy a large drill unit and it begins digging into the surface. Well, not when we’re actually looking at it, probably because the large drill bit is noticeably made of hollow plastic, but you know, let’s go with it. The two other teams are going the same, and one of their drill heads is actually seen moving around a heap of coffee crystals.
Meanwhile, Halversen and Michael, being Scientists, stand around doing science stuff. You know, taking samples from one of the large standing pools of muddy water, or waving around a Geiger counter. Halversen, however, quickly makes a more exciting discovery: a pulsating mass of green protoplasm. Even discounting the film’s title, anyone who’s seen a couple movies in his time will probably be guessing that This Ain’t Good.
Luckily, he’s carrying around a convenient, lantern-sized glass sample jar, which proves just the right thing to stick the mass into. However, as he’s hefting the tissue up, its interior green lighting goes out. Chagrined at first, he notices another, still active clump of the stuff nearby. Moving towards it, he just dumps the stuff he’d being holding, which ends up landing on and spattering all over his Geiger counter.
When he pokes the second mass, it too seems to go dead. Frustrated, he moves on, looking for more. However, unbeknownst to him, the original sample, still sitting atop the Geiger counter, is now glowing and pulsating to beat the band.
Meanwhile, Rankin’s team is done drilling and sets their bomb in place. Busy, they don’t notice more of the green slime congregating under their space cart. By running the film backwards-welcome to a brave new age of movie special effects-we see the slime seemingly begin climbing up onto the undercarriage of the cart.
Halversen eventually returns the way he came and is excited to see the brightly glowing, softball-sized blob sitting atop his Geiger counter. At the same time, Rankin and his underling are finished. They attempt to return to the shuttle, only to find that the cart is inoperable. Looking down, they see a substantial mass of the green material gumming up the vehicle’s underside. They begin pulling sheaths of the stuff off, but with time running out, they decide to abandon the equipment and begin hoofing it back to the rendezvous point.
Meanwhile, Eliot’s team is experiencing similar straits. (I think I’m following the cross cutting correctly, but with everyone clad in spacesuits, it’s occasionally a bit hard to tell exactly who we’re looking at.) Soon they too decide to return on foot, and they arrive at the shuttle shortly after Rankin. The latter heads inside to answer a radio call from the General, who informs him that the asteroid’s velocity is accelerating. (!!!) I’m no astronomer, but that seems a little weird.
Worse, it means the detonation time must be bumped up to a mere twenty minutes from now, meaning that the away team will almost certainly fail to escape the blast radius. Rankin is more than a tad nonplussed at receiving this intelligence. However, given that he knew from the beginning that the assignment was a veritable suicide mission, it seems a bit late in the day to start grumbling about things.
The rest of the team is also less than thrilled to learn all this. Rankin tells everyone to load up, before finally noticing that Halversen and Michael have yet to return. Those scientists, huh? Show them a pulsating, glowing blob lifeform and everything else just goes flying out of their heads. Even so, Rankin again orders everyone aboard. Eliot angrily responds that they can’t leave the scientists behind. “You’ve made this mistake once before,” Rankin replies, in an obvious reference to the backstory behind what killed their friendship.
However, at that moment Halversen runs up, excitedly babbling about his specimen. Rankin brusquely orders him to get rid of it, although whether this due to quarantine regulations or just pique isn’t immediately addressed. Needless to say, however, Halversen is appalled, responding with the inevitable, “But this is a major discovery!” Since there’s not a lot of time for debate on the issue, Rankin grabs the specimen jar and smashes it to the ground before again ordering everyone aboard the shuttle. Nobody notices that a segment of the substance has spattered the distraught Halversen’s spacesuit.
Rankin sets the bomb timer, and with less than five minutes to reach safety, the shuttle blasts off. (I’m not sure why they landed on the far side of the asteroid if time was such an issue, but there you go.) Rankin orders the shuttle’s engines opened up, leading the wary pilot to protest, “She’ll break up!” That seems like a fairly odd concern under the circumstances, but what do I know?
Eliot also objects, noting through clenched teeth (as actor Jaekel pulls his facial muscles taut in an attempt to simulate this stress), “We’re over ten gees now. It won’t take much more!” Again, though, what’s the alternative? This kind of patently manufactured character conflict is pretty lame, even though it’s probably meant to provide further evidence of why Rankin is a better commander than the overly cautious Eliot.
Rankin again orders top speed, and the pilot pushes the throttle up a couple of notches. (Oddly, they seemed to have been going at perhaps 20% of full velocity, assuming the throttle position means anything.) Seeing this halfhearted response to his order-and really, somebody should be court martialed when this whole thing is over-Rankin jumps out of his chair in a fashion that’s pretty impressive for someone experiencing ten gees and rushes forward to jam the throttle all the way to full. The shuttle begins violently buffeting. Still, with over an hour of running time left, I doubt if anyone other than the most credulous audience member really thought they might not make it.
Considering that they were at ten gees before, who knows what they heck they are presently supposed to be experiencing, but everyone bugs out their eyes and assumes agonized expressions. Despite having lacerated his arm, Rankin calls out for the helmsman to “Activate the force shield!” Because this is the kind of film it is, the helmsman has to grunt and strain ‘dramatically’ against gravity to sit up enough to reach it. (Why are the most essential buttons always so unergonomically positioned?)
In the end, despite having lacerated his arm, Rankin again has to do it all himself. (Good grief, and this guy was going to resign? He’s apparently the only one keeping the Space Command functioning.) He throws himself forward and hits the button, just as Flora, looking oddly like a clump of earth suspended on a string, explodes. The force shield, which is basically a pink cartoon effect, protects the shuttle from the resultant shower of debris, which when it collides with the shield is portrayed via sparkler bursts.
And so the shuttle races through space, wobbling a bit on its guide wire, er, I mean, buffeted by its high acceleration and the ongoing impact of the asteroid fragments. This is all observed back on Earth, on one of those magic viewscreens that makes you wonder how exactly they managed to deploy a camera that can not only pick up the shuttle but track alongside it during its speeding journey. Well, that’s the Future, I guess.
This goes on for a while, and indeed, it probably should. Mostly it allows for a montage of sweaty faces and dramatic music cues and suchlike as the away team members, along with the staffs of the Gamma 3 and Space Command, all wait to see whether the shuttle will survive its headlong flight.
I don’t want to surprise the hell out of you, but the answer is ‘yes.’
Eventually the shuttle outruns the debris storm and stabilizes its flight. “They got through!” an extra on the Gamma 3 shouts, as the other extras and the actress playing Lisa bounce around joyfully. In fact, the whole atmosphere becomes so manically festive that much of the station’s crew spontaneously breaks out in what looks to be the Hokey Pokey.
Soon the heroic crew has returned to the landing bay, where they are feted by their coworkers. However, Rankin brings down the cheering throng by observing that “The job isn’t over yet.” Eliot looks confused at this, which presumably is meant to imply once again why Rankin’s a better officer: he keeps his eye on the prize. Meanwhile, Lisa comes bounding through the door and into the enclosed bay, whereupon Rankin chastises her for breaking quarantine before the crew has gone through decontamination.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and Rankin is confronted by lip from Eliot when he orders that the crew go through the decontamination cycle three times to make certain that malign organisms picked up on Flora are sterilized. Now, I realize that Eliot is bristling over Rankin being given command, but still, a little more discipline in the ranks would seem to be in order. Moreover, it doesn’t help Eliot’s case that he would argue with Rankin in front of their subordinates.
Moreover, Rankin’s caution hardly seems all that outrageous. After all, at least one pretty strange lifeform was observed during their mission, and it was one that overran their equipment and rendered much of it useless in a matter of minutes. Thus, the command hardly seems like something Eliot should be arguing against. (Meanwhile, Lisa is still seen eavesdropping in the open doorway. Damn, lady, at least shut the door.) Finally, Rankin brusquely points out that, oh, yeah, he’s in charge, and they all enter the decom chamber. However, no one notices that the small splotch of green slime on one of the crew’s uniforms starts expanding during the processâ€¦
We cut to them after they’ve presumably left the decom chamber, and have removed their spacesuits. Seeing the freely bleeding cut on Rankin’s arm, Eliot opines that he should go to the medical bay. Yeah, probably so. Then, as everyone heads off, Rankin pulls one of the underlings aside and says that the mission report should go under both Rankin and Eliot’s names, so that the latter gets some of the credit. (Actually, the guy he’s talking to is the helmsman who didn’t obey his orders on the shuttle, so I’m not sure he should be the one doing the report.) See, Rankin might be all business when the work is being done-which is a good thing, actually, given the collection of surly malcontents he works with-but he’s not such a bad guy otherwise.
Rankin heads off to the medical bay, where following an elaborate reveal shot, we learn that the doctor tending him is *gasp, choke, surprise* none other than Lisa. (Wait, a minute, she’s a doctor, and the first thing she did when the crew returned was to break quarantine?!) Then she rags him out for being so “tough on everybody.” I think she means when Eliot was openly bitching about his orders in front of the crew. Again, hello, she’s a doctor, and yet also didn’t think that a little extra caution in terms of decontamination might be warranted?
He points out that when he gives an order he expects it to be carried out. I guess this is somehow considered ‘mean.’ “That’s your trouble,” she replies. “There’s no margin in you to let other people be wrong, to fail sometimes.” Uh, I think I kind of know what she means, but again, Rankin is entirely in the right here. In fact, if he were really ‘tough,’ he’d be writing, at a minimum, Halversen, Eliot and the shuttle pilot for insubordination. I mean, he was leading a mission to save the Earth, and people seem put out that he didn’t go about things in a more touchy-feely manner. Blech.
This topic is followed by establishing that Rankin still carries a torch for Lisa. She protests that she’s over him and happy with Eliot, but of course her assertions ring a bit hollow. Gee, I wonder if someone will make a noble sacrifice and who Lisa will end up with? Well, no, actually, I don’t. I mean, this whole situation is all right out of the Romantic Triangle Handbook.
There’s a party montage of popping champagne corks as everyone celebrates the fact that the human race hasn’t been wiped out. The fashions on display are exactly what you’d imagine, especially on the women, and the music is Herb Alpert lite. Oddly, all the men are in uniform and the women in civvies. Don’t they have, I don’t know, jobs on the space station? Other than wearing cleavage-baring minidresses and doing the Frug with the men?
Meanwhile, Rankin, Eliot and Lisa sit down so that the men can shoot little digs and generally try to out Alpha-Male each other. Of course, Eliot goes at it more strenuously, and heavily plays his one winning card, that he and Lisa are due to be married the following week. Yeah, well, I wouldn’t be putting any money on that proposition.
Anyhoo, with the ‘character’ stuff all set up, we can actually get on with the point of the film. A technician is seen wheeling the away team’s spacesuits to another, presumably more powerful decontamination chamber. He starts the cycle, and the still unobserved organism starts growing, and glowing, at an extraordinary rate. At first I thought it a bit convenient that he was alone on duty when earlier the station seemed to be bursting at the seams with crewmembers. However, they have established the fact that most of the crew is celebrating, so I’ve got to give them that one.
Then we *sigh* cut back to the party, where an uncomfortable looking Lisa is close dancing with Rankin. This finally allows for a bit more detail on the three’s backstory, although really, why bother? Anyhoo, Eliot had messed something up, something about losing the lives of ten men in an attempt to save one. The idea is that Eliot can’t make the tough calls when a lesser sacrifice is called for.
Rankin reported this incident-as if no one otherwise would have inquired about ten men getting killed-and Eliot faced a Board of Inquiry. (Although he’s still the commanding officer on a space station, so it doesn’t appear to have hurt him much.) Again, Lisa seems to be arguing that Rankin shouldn’t have turned in a friend, which is a pretty gross idea, really. For his own part, Eliot stills carries a heavy burden of guilt and blah blah blah. Damn, where are those Green Slime monsters, already?
Actually, it’s not Rankin’s tough-ass attitude that rubs the viewer the wrong way, or at least this viewer. It’s the fact that he’s a smug dickhead where Lisa is concerned, and that this doesn’t lose him her favor. (On the other hand, it’s not like smug dickheads don’t get girls, so maybe the film’s on to something.) In any case, he preens, “You don’t love Vince, you pity him,” with a conceited smirk on his face. He will be proven right, of course, but how come the women in these things never end up saying, “You know, I don’t think I’ll take either of you”?
Back to the Lonely Technician. (Finally.) Apparently something, although I couldn’t quite figure out what, is wrong. He opens the decom chamber door, there’s a burst of white light, and he screams.
The party is then interrupted by a warning siren. Wow, a space station with a decent automated alarm system. What will they think of next? A crewmember arrives and reports to Eliot, explaining that there’s been trouble in the lab and that he may wish to personally see to it. Eliot takes his leave, ordering everyone else to carry on. Of course, Rankin and Lisa decide to just follow after him. At this point, Eliot should have resumed charge of the station. This means that Rankin shouldn’t do squat without his permission, much less disobey a direct order to stay where he is. And really, damn, just because Lisa’s the station commander’s girlfriend doesn’t mean she should feel free to gallivant wherever the hell she wants when the whim takes her.
In the lab, Eliot is aghast to see banks of equipment smashed up. His mood isn’t improved when the security guard points out the technician’s corpse, which is both bloodily lacerated and charred. Dr. Lisa, having arrived, bends over the shredded and incinerated body and announces, “He’s dead.” Yeah, thanks for the newsflash. “He has been electrocuted,” she continues, which surprises Rankin, although again the body is badly charred. (And, you’d have to think, would smell like cooked meat.)
A bit of dead green slime is observed nearby. Rankin starts giving orders again, presumably under the idea that since this situation clearly somehow pertains to the Flora mission, that extends his authority. That’s debatable, and I’m sure Eliot will object at some point, but it’s not farfetched or anything.
Soon security teams have been established and armed with laser rifles, and have begun searching the stations. When a security monitor in the control room goes down, a technician is sent into the station’s version of the Jeffries Tubes to check out the errant power conduit. (It’s nice to know that technojargon is universal.) For absolutely no reason whatsoever, overripe comedy music plays as he walks along, despite the red lobster claws we see waving behind him. Said music makes his inevitable horrible death all the more puzzling.
Back in the Control Room, all the monitors go dead. Eliot is called to the location where the second technician was killed, and finds a body that looks much like the first. Then Eliot gets an emergency call over the loud speaker system-damn, you’d think they’d have something a little less public-urging him to hurry to the Main Power Room.
There he finds a green beastie lying prone next to some equipment, and emitting a strange call. This creature boasts, er, rubbery skin, a single glowing red eye and, oddly enough, two long flailing tentacles right where a man’s arms would be. Boy, that’s a coincidence. Rankin grabs a laser rifle, and the two officers advance on the creature.
The beast runs a tentacle on some equipment, resulting in a shower of sparks. Rankin begins to take aim at it, when Halversen comes into the room, yelling for him not to shoot. See, Halversen is a scientist, and wants the creature captured alive so as to Advance Science. Rankin, being a hardheaded military type, and noting that it’s apparently killed two men, wants to kill it. Man, that’s some original scripting there.
Eliot agrees that they should probably at least try to capture it, which of course is meant to make him look weak. Of course, an obviously advanced alien lifeform is kind of a big deal, so at least trying to contain it doesn’t seem that unreasonable. Just to make sure that this doesn’t play well, however, Eliot seems to make up his mind out of pure mulishness when Rankin comes out against the idea.
In any case, Rankin steps aside and Eliot orders the security officers to attempt to gas the creature and then throw a net over it. I’m not sure why a “gas gun” would be standard equipment on a space station, especially as it would seem to be more efficient to be able to send gas into a designated area through the air filtration system. On the other hand, nobody in the Star Trek universe ever seemed to figure that out, and crewmembers were constantly being taken hostage on those shows.*[*This used to rankle me particularly on Star Trek: the Next Generation, in which such shenanigans seemed to occur all the time. A knockout gas system would have ended half a dozen threats the crew faced over the years. Also, I’m no genius, but I always wondered why there seemed to be no frickkin’ security cameras on the Enterprise, and why the computer didn’t record all conversations. Privacy rights could be protected by requiring a special order from two members of the command staff to access them.
Also, whether to respond to emergencies more efficiently, or merely to get crewmembers out of dangerous situations-such as, again, the marauders the ship was constantly host to-why didn’t they establish an intraship Emergency Transport Protocol? This would allow for security teams to be instantly transported to problem zones, or personal to be automatically beamed to safety at the speaking of a command code.]
The gas guns prove to be rifles that shoot a stream of gas. (!) That doesn’t seem the best design, but what do I know? I mean, how is that better than a tranquilizer dart? In any case, the beastie is soon enveloped with white smoke, and then the net guns are into action. Since the nets are thus deployed from a distance, I again thought that trying to capture the creature made some sense.
Suddenly, the creature rushes out from the bank of smoke, waving its tentacles like, say, arms in rubber sheathes. The nets are fired, and men grab the attached ropes and try to pull the beast down. However, sparks start shooting out of the thing’s tentacles and, I guess, burn it free from the nets. Then it continues forward, electrocuting anyone the tentacles brush against. Eliot almost buys it, but Rankin leaps forward and lasers the creature. This drives it off, although several more gruesome deaths occur in the process.
Having given Eliot his chance, which he inevitably bollixed up, Rankin now takes command. No more of this capture the thing business; he orders the creature to be fired at on sight. Actually, as things turn out, Rankin’s ideas inadvertently are worse than Eliot’s. I’m not sure if we’re meant to notice that, but it’s true. I’ll discuss that at greater length in a while. Everyone leaves, with Halversen being the only one who seems to notice spatters of green blood on the floor. Hilariously, he tries to gather samples of it with a pair of tweezers (!) and a convenient Petri dish I guess he carries with him at all times.
Lisa is tending to Eliot’s wounded shoulder in sickbay. Rankin shows up and asserts his intention to assume command. This leads to the inevitable showdown with Eliot, who forces Rankin to admit that he doesn’t believe that Eliot has the right stuff for command. “You make too many mistakes,” he gruffs. When Lisa points out that the first alien lifeform is, in fact, sort of a big deal, Rankin snarls, “Tell it to the wives of the men in the morgue,” and stalks off.
Soon teams of riflemen, supported by a rather goofy-looking battle wagon sort of deal (which is obviously mounted on a golf cart, undoubtedly the same one used for the supposedly plural landers the mission team drove around), are sweeping the corridors. Teams of men in spacesuits are even sent out to scour the outside of the station, via some really horrendously bad bluescreen work. And if the effects look that bad on my TV, I can only imagine how they appeared on a theater screen. I actually admire the filmmakers’ ambition, but sometimes you really should just admit your limitations and retire from the field.
Halversen contacts Rankin and Eliot and asks them to come to the lab, where he shows them a sample of the creature’s blood. If you’ve ever seen a sci-fi monster movie before, you will probably not be entirely shocked when he announces, “These cells duplicate faster than anything known to man. Their growth rate is incredible. In fact, it’s frightening!”
The news gets even better. It turns out that the alien organism is able to feed off of any sort of energy, which explains why the beastie has generally been found around some power source. To demonstrate this, he runs a current through a minute sample of the blood, which quickly grows in size. “The blood cells look like they’re getting larger!” Eliot guesses. (You know, maybe he shouldn’t be in charge of a space station.) Needless to say, the correct answer is that the cells are multiplying at a fantastic rate.
It’s here that Rankin realizes that the alien organism actually fed off the decontamination chamber, rather than being killed by it. This means that it’s time to address his command decisions so far.
To be fair, each of them made sense on the face of things. On the asteroid, he meant to keep Halversen from bringing a potentially dangerous organism back to the station. However, his smashing of the recalcitrant scientist’s sample jar merely ended up spattering a bit of the stuff onto their space suits. Then he ordered the suits to go through an abnormally heavy cycle of decontamination, thus going beyond the standard steps used to make sure nothing dangerous survived. In this particular case, however, the radiation merely fed the creature, and thus the order was counterproductive.
Finally, when Eliot’s attempt to capture the creature in the energy room failed, he quickly stepped in and started blasting it. After it escaped, he issued general orders to fire upon the alien on sight. Again, in the normal course of things, this would show a respectable measure of caution. Here, however, it proved exactly the wrong thing to do. As with the equally goofy Reptilicus, any speck of a wounded Slime Creature left behind will independently seek out some energy source and grow into an independent monster.
Again, it’s hard to blame Rankin for the orders he’s given. Still, considering what an ass he’s made of himself chewing out Eliot, you’d at least hope he’d be a bit chastened by everything. I will give him this, he’s smarter than General Grayson, his analogue character in Reptilicus, who hilariously kept attacking his adversary with explosives until one of his advisors would explain once again why blowing a regenerating nemesis to bits wasn’t the best idea. Here, Rankin at least proves smart enough to immediately give out an order for the crew to cease using their weapons.
At this point, it’s time to give the movie a bit of a nod. Although the monsters seem specifically designed to give the characters trouble, the set-up is pretty nice. The monsters regenerate, and so can’t be attacked conventionally. Nor, since the crew is on a space station, can they try to starve the creatures out by turning off the power, unless they are willing to contemplate mass suicide in an attempt, one that might not even work, to kill the creatures. As well, there’s an even larger issue, which that obviously it would be an extraordinarily bad idea to allow these creatures, or any part of them, to get to Earth.
On the other hand, the real buff might object at this point, this is all largely just a rip-off of the 1951 The Thing From Another World. There too a regenerating alien lifeform threatened a crew living in an extraordinarily hostile environment, in this case the Artic, in which a loss of artificially generated power meant death. Here, as there, the respective physical needs of the alien organism and the humans denied any possibility of co-existence. In the earlier film, the alien literally nourished itself on blood, and thus the humans were literally its food source, necessary for it to survive and propagate. Here, both the aliens and the human require, for different reasons, the power the station generates. So it is certainly true that much of our scenario here was lifted from that earlier picture. However, most films, especially genre ones (indeed, that’s pretty much the definition of a genre film), rework earlier source movies. So I still give this one points, because at least they ripped off a particularly good one.
In the sickbay, Lisa is tending to the wounded. After using a stethoscope on one severely messed-up soul, she declares, “Let’s check him with the Analyzer.” Hey, watch the techojargin! Also, I thought it a bit funny that they would have some sort of hi-tech ‘analyzer,’ but that she’d bother employing a stethoscope (on a burn victim?) before ordering its use. We then cut to a wall sign reading “ELECTRONIC SYMPTOM ANALYZER,” which opens to reveal a typical ’60s superscientific control panel, all flashing lights, myriad flip switches and bleeping electronic sound effects. Apparently it’s out of sorts, however, as Lisa announces, “It’s very strange,” and looks behind it to check things out. I suppose there were viewers who didn’t get the significance of the “ELECTRONIC” part of the signage, but in any case, Lisa *gasp, choke* discovers a Slime Creature merrily sucking away at the Analyzer’s power cables.
The monster emerges from its hidey-hole, although why it would cease suckling at a power source when it’s not actually being attacked is left to our imaginations. This is easily our best look at that monster suit so far, and let’s just say that it’s resemblance to Ronald McDonald’s buddy Grimace doesn’t go entirely unnoticed. Still and all, this is meat and potatoes for any monster movie lover, what with the mass of screaming nurses gathering up their patients while a guy in a rubber suit stands in the middle of the room waving its tentacles around. And, hey, the fact that you can occasionally spot the wires used to manipulate said tentacles just adds to the moment.
Despite the fact that Rankin has ordered that weapons are not to be employed under any circumstances, all the security guards remain armed with laser rifles. The alarm sounded, they storm into the sickbay. I was wondering what they had hoped to accomplish when the head security guy began running around the chamber, yelling for the terrified nurses and patients cowering against the walls to “Get back! Get back, everybody!” Boy, good thing he showed up.
Sure enough, despite the fact that you’d think they would just try to evacuate the room and then barricade the monster inside, they instead open fire. Making this especially dumb is that the creature isn’t actually attacking anyone. Admittedly, its waving tentacles are a menace, but all in all, it’s really just standing around. In fact, although they never really address how intelligent the creatures are, perhaps it’s come out in the open actually hoping to be attacked. In any case, the laser guns cut into it, and soon quite a lot of its green blood is spilling on the floor.
Here Rankin, Eliot and Halversen make the scene, and Rankin only now, I guess, actually gives the order not to fire on the monsters. This had me pretty confused, since I couldn’t quite figure out the protocols for using the public address system. Given the apparent size of the station, and the fact that you’d presumably want to the weapons stand down command to be immediately promulgated, why wouldn’t you just issue it over the P.A. system?
In any case, Rankin and Eliot distract the sparking monster by shoving wheeled hospital beds against it. (I couldn’t help noticing that the frames of these were made of metal, meaning that they should have been electrocuted.) Enraged, or something, the creature follows them into a side room, whereupon the two narrowly manage to escape and seal the alien in.
However, the released blood is already starting to exhibit growth, and Rankin orders the entire sickbay cleared. Once the doors have been sealed, he uses the security cameras to see what’s happening. It turns out that the wounded monster is capable of healing itself, meaning that they will be almost impossible to kill. Meanwhile, the blood tissue quickly gains mass and soon has spread all over the room. Soon any number of creatures seems to be emerging. This is actually pretty neat stuff, although the tension is somewhat undercut by the weirdly comical background music. Note to composer: the xylophone is not an instrument that naturally lends itself to fostering suspense.
After sitting there watching all this, Eliot decides to get on the horn and order all power cut off to the sickbay. Rankin looks on admiringly, noting, “Smart move, Vince!” Yeah, wow, that’s some brainstorm there, I’ll say. Of course, it might have been even handier a couple of minutes ago, but whatever.
Rankin tells Eliot to call for a meeting of all the station’s officers. Then a report is sent to Space Command, declaring the station to be quarantined. Rankin is next seen visiting the ad hoc sickbay, having a word with the wounded and giving them a manly thumbs-up. Lisa, seeing him, strides over and asks whether he’s really quarantined the station. Of course, she does so right in the middle of the patients, and he has to pull her aside to discuss the situation.
She is upset because the quarantine endangers her patients, some of who require treatment beyond what she can provide. I realize the screenwriter probably thought that just having a female on the station who actually has a job was all futurey and progressive and stuff-because heaven knows, there weren’t really any female doctors back in 1967, I mean, who could imagine such a thing?-but there’s no excuse for making Lisa such a complete and utter moron.
To date, she’s broken quarantine when the away team returned, all because she wanted to greet her boyfriend. Then she begins to discuss a sensitive command matter in the middle of a bunch of people. Finally, she bitches about Rankin quarantining the station. Hello, she’s a doctor. If she doesn’t understand the point of a quarantine, who would? She should be arguing for the quarantine, not against it. It’s nice that she’s concerned for her current patients, but a physician who would literally risk all of humanity to get care for a couple of dozen people isn’t just medically incompetent, she’s a monster.
The lights start flickering. “What is it?” Lisa asks. “I’m not sure,” Rankin replies. (Amazingly, it turns out that the problem is connected to the monsters’ habit of tearing up the stations wiring to suck off the electrical system. Go figure.) After he goes off to investigate, one of the nurses, who was apparently wounded earlier, begins to scream her head off. Man, they really have to work on discipline on this tub. Anyway, Lisa consoles her by running over and giving her a hug. From everything we’ve seen, I can only assume she received her medical degree from Leo Buscaglia U.
Eliot is meeting with the officers. “Commander Rankin and I have doped out a plan we hope will work,” he explains. (When did this happen? Didn’t they split up like five minutes ago?) Given what we’ve seen so far, ‘doped out’ sounds like a remarkably accurate turn of phrase. Meanwhile, I’m sure the men are assured by the phrase “we hope will work.” That’s better than being told, “We have formulated a plan we are convinced is doomed to kill each and every one of us,” but not by much.
It turns out that at this point, the creatures seem to be contained in the round pod counterintuitively denoted “C Block.” The first part of their brilliant plan is to evacuate that section of the station. “That’ll be rough on some of the injured,” one officer objects. (Seriously, did they just give up using the word ‘sir’ in the future?) “We’re going to have to do it,” Eliot replies. Probably because of, oh yeah, the monsters and all.
After C Block is sealed, all power will be cut off except to a storage room. Presumably this will draw all the creatures there, where they can be dealt with. They can’t route power only to the one room, however (which seems like sort of a design flaw for a space station, but anyway), so this will require someone to manually set up a generator down there. Rankin is next seen leading a team of men, accompanied by a power cart, as they presumably head to the storage room. I’m not sure why they’re bringing the cart along, since it mostly serves to slow down how fast they can walk to their destination. Plus, I don’t know, just the phrase ‘power’ cart seems bad when you’re talking about monsters attracted by energy sources. Here again some of the men are armed, although I guess in this situation it makes sense. If they encounter a monster, they’ll need to drive it off until the generator is set up, even if it ends up resulting in more of the creatures. On the other hand, I might be giving the scriptwriter a bit too much credit for thinking all this through.
However, it turns out that another set of men have already set up the generator. (??) They report in to Rankin that it’s ready, whereupon Rankin starts the generator up via a remote control switch. Once they see that everything’s working, the generator is shut off again and the installation crew leaves. I still don’t understand why the plan requires three separate squads-Eliot too is sequestered somewhere with his own team of riflemen-to be lurking in the corridors of the area they intend to evacuate, but whatever.
The idea, I guess, is that the power cart will draw the monsters down to where the generator is. You’d think the monsters would be able to seek out power sources, but anyways, the plan quickly works and the assembled creatures come strolling towards them. Meanwhile, I still have no idea what Eliot’s team is meant to do. They just stand in a little cul-de-sac and watch as the monsters walk by. In fact, if even one of the beasts turned and attacked them, they’d be screwed, since they have no other exit. That’s some fine planning there.
Meanwhile, we see that they built maybe four to six monster suits. Per tradition, the camera stays very tight on their group, presumably so as to keep us from noticing how few of them there are. In fact, given that we can only see the top parts of the costumes here, it’s quite possible there were only one or two full-length outfits, and that the rest are head pieces. As is often the case, I started wondering how much one of these would draw on eBay. Of course, they probably wouldn’t have lasted forty years, even assuming they didn’t just toss them out once production was over, which they probably did. Still, it’s an amusing idea.
In a bit that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, it turns out that the power cart lures the monsters right past the open room where the replacement sickbay has been set up. (????!!) Some of the monsters turn in there, for no real reason, other than to suspensefully threaten Lisa and the rest. Luckily, Rankin is able to draw them back into the corridor-or something, I mean, the editing is really confusing right here-by tossing a lit flashlight at them. Wait, except that now Rankin is personally drawing the creatures out with another flashlight, and they almost get him but don’t, and he escapes and the patients get out, which of course leaves us wondering why they didn’t leave before. Anyway, the retreating Lisa is able to close the air lock door and seal the corridor off.
Because I can’t figure out where everyone was supposed to be, I have no idea how Rankin suddenly finds himself trapped in an otherwise deserted section of hallway, with creatures to either side of him. However, Eliot yells out for him to turn off his flashlight-well, duh-and his men use theirs to draw the monsters away from Rankin (despite the fact that Eliot’s men are still standing in a niche with no exit behind them).
Rankin then runs to the power cart, which I guess was just standing there several feet from him, and then it turns out that Eliot’s team is down the hall and leading the monsters towards the power cart, and I really have no idea how any of this was supposed to work. On the other hand, I am now pretty sure that there are five monster suits in total, although again, I can only assume that not all of them are full body ones.
Wanting to be fair, I went back and watched the above sequence again. Surely the positioning of all the characters couldn’t be as poorly handled as I thought. So I started over: Lisa closes the secure air lock door (which noticeably wobbles when it comes down). Rankin backs away from a slime monster or two, only to turn and find more on the other side of him. I think there’s even a monster coming from a third direction.
Eliot then cries out, noting, “I’m behind you.” I can’t quite figure out what this means, position-wise. In fact, I suspect that it can’t really mean anything, which is why, I suspect, the camera is kept so tight on the action. Anyway, Eliot and his team turn on their flashlights, and Rankin ducks into a very convenient wall niche, and the monsters stride past him towards Eliot’s position. At this point, it’s pretty clear that the line of monsters is between Rankin and Eliot’s team.
Once the monsters are past, Rankin runs over to the power cart, which was literally about six feet away from him. Why didn’t they turn on their lights to distract the monsters? Well, it wasn’t in the script. But then, and this is where things just cannot be reconciled in any way, Eliot’s team is now between the monsters and the power cart, instead of the monsters being in the middle. There’s really no apparent way this could have happened, and all in all it’s just a horrendous display of bad editing being used to disguise impossible blocking.
In any case, the teams come together. With the monsters about four feet away and closing, Rankin orders the power cart to move back. Wow, good thing he’s in charge. They backtrack past the room containing the generator, and at the correct moment, Rankin orders the remote control switch-which is a big red button helpfully labeled REMOTE-engaged. The monsters stampede towards the activated generator and are sealed in the room.
Sadly, being complete and utter morons, Rankin and the rest have forgotten, oh, yeah, that they had earlier sealed a monster in the sickbay. Apparently this is a big deal. Why this should be eludes me, since supposedly they basically wanted to contain all the monsters in C Block, which is where the sickbay is anyway. I guess the doors to the storage rooms are stronger than the regular doors, although you really have to work this out on our own, assuming that’s even what they are really getting at. In any case, there follows a typically confusing exchange:
Eliot: “That [sickbay] door won’t hold it!” [Although at this point it’s apparently held it for several hours.]
Captain Martin: “We can brace the door with the cart.”
Rankin: “That won’t help much, Captain.” [Uh, OK, if you say so.] But the airlock panel might!” [Cut to an airlock panel button, apparently but a couple of yards down the hall.] We can isolate him in C Block.” [Uh, wasn’t that the plan in the first place?] Eliot: “I don’t know if this section can handle it!” [Handle what? And what was your original plan again, because now I’m totally confused.]
Rankin: “This place is stronger than that!” [Uh, OK, if you say so. Although you’d think the base commander would know the capacities of his facility better than a drop-by visitor.]
Rankin makes to give the command, and Eliot attempts to stop him. “There must be another way!” he protests. (Dude, we don’t even know what the first way was yet.) Rankin, as usual, doesn’t have much patience for Eliot’s constant dillydallying. “When you think of it, let me know,” he sneers. It’s really kind of hard to argue with him there. Then he gets on the microphone and issues the following order: “Prepare to evacuate C Block immediately, and make ready to drop the air lock panel!” Listen, I realize I’m a bit dense, but wasn’t that the original friggin’ plan?! In fact, wasn’t C Block supposed to be evacuated before you tried to lure the creatures into the storeroom? Yeesh.
At this point Halversen appears, yelling that he has to collect his “papers.” Apparently the idea of back-up computer discs, not to mention networked computer systems, has gone out of fashion. When Rankin denies his request, Halversen disobeys and runs down the hall to his lab. Those wacky scientists, huh? Meanwhile, Lisa has shown up too, and again, I have no idea why she’s here. Shouldn’t she be seeing to her patients, some of who are presumably in distress after the emergency evacuation?
Meanwhile, a monster pretty much literally pops up right behind Rankin. I guess maybe it’s supposed to be the one that was in the sickbay, and it broke out. Or something. The party backs away, and then the rest of the monsters smash down the storage room wall and join in the attack. Luckily, guys in cumbersome rubber monster suits can’t move very quickly, and the crew mostly manages to stay out of their electrified grasp.
However, Halversen shows up with maybe half a dozen file folders-that’s his lifetime of work?-and in a panic runs in front of the power cart. This sends the thing careening out of control down the hallâ€¦sort of. I really think they had only built maybe twenty or thirty feet of hallway, and thus again the camera stays really tight on things in an effort to hide this. Even so, it gets through, and the air lock button is pushed, and the door comes down, and Rankin has to do a purportedly exciting Indiana Jones leap and roll across the floor it to reach safety. Sadly (well, sort of), though, Halversen is still bumbling around on the other side of the door, desperately dodging the creatures. Well, that’s what happens when you ignore the hero’s orders.
There’s another air lock door that can be deployed further down the hall, but the errant power cart is now wedged under it. Rankin orders it moved, and the men struggle to muscle it aside. Meanwhile, Eliot argues that they must raise the first door to save Halversen. Rankin predictably, if logically, shoots this idea down, as it might allow the monsters loose to threaten the entire the station. Eliot, who really is proving to be sort of an idiot, decides to take things into his own hands and goes to throw the switch. Rankin levels a gun at him and orders him to stand down. Sadly, though, when Eliot continues down the hall Rankin is stymied by Lisa throwing herself in the way. At this point you really want Rankin to just shoot both of them, but of course he doesn’t. However, when the door opens, it’s merely to set up the film’s most famous shock sting, as the face of Halversen’s mutilated and burned corpse fills the screen.
Eliot pulls Lisa back, because she’s a girl and can’t do so on her own. Rankin covers their retreat by firing on the monsters, despite the fact that this will result in more of the beasties in short order. (Actually, that’s not necessarily true, if they can contain the monsters in C Block and then cut all the power there.) Luckily, the monsters are distracted by the power cart, and Martin manages to drop the second air lock door. However, for some reason (It’s In the Script) there are numerous barrels of flammable material stored behind a nearby wall panel. The sparking tentacles of the monsters manage to set these off, and a good portion of the station explodes, resulting in massive, billowing flames. That’s right, flames, in space. These are still seen about half a minute later when we cut to an exterior shot of the damaged Gamma 3.
That must have been a hell of an air lock door, because despite a good third of the horizontal ring of the station being blown to hell, Rankin and the others have survived with nary a scratch. Moreover, a crewmember reports that the monitor system in what remains of C Block is still functioning. (!!) Inside the wreckage, several of the monsters are dead. However, a magic outside camera shows that dozens more of the monsters are now clinging to the outside of the station, sucking up raw solar energy. This is probably the film’s worst effects stuff, with the monsters being represented by small green blobs glued to the Gamma 3 model.
Rankin contacts Space Command and fills them in. He intends to evacuate the station, and requests tight quarantine for the arriving personnel and equipment when it arrives on Earth. (Yeah, you’d think.) Then he requests permission to destroy the Gamma 3. Eliot and everyone else appears shocked by this, although with the creatures infesting the station by the hundreds, I’m not sure what the hell else they would do. Of course, Eliot argues against it, and Rankin remains stalwart, etc., etc. You’d think Eliot might want to shut up after a disobeying direct order, with the result that a good chunk of the station has been vaporized, but I guess not.
Eliot attempts to interfere again. (Again, how did this utter moron ever become the commanding officer of a gigantic space station?) Rankin orders him escorted to an evacuation vehicle, and to be placed under arrest if he offers up any further resistance. Eliot gets so tetchy at this that he takes a swing at Rankin. Of course, he’s not he-man enough to actually land a blow, and merely ends up getting socked in the face before being ushered out.
General Thompson gives the OK for the station to be destroyed. However, the evacuation is blocked because the exterior of the “escape hatch,” through which the vehicles are to leave, is crowded with slime monsters and won’t open. (Again, the effects here are awful. I actually believe the ‘monsters’ we see gumming up the hatch are finger puppets.) I guess that means that if this part of the ship had been destroyed, rather than C Block, that there would be no way at all to get the personnel off. The situation is reported to Rankin, who orders a party of four men sent outside to clear the monsters off. Of course, Eliot has proved such a noodle that the only course left for him is a Tragic, Redemptive Death. Therefore nobody is watching over him, and he is free to set things in motion. Having donned his spacesuit, he shows up and assumes command of the team.
Lisa then pops in for the obligatory Tearful Last Farewell. She attempts to stop him, whereupon he barks, “Now don’t you tell me what to do! I’m tired of being told what to do! I’m tired of taking orders!” Well, then, maybe you shouldn’t have joined the friggin’ military, you ass. As if this doesn’t all nauseate us, then he whines about how Lisa never really loved him, she still loves Rankin, blah blah. Gad, what a dip. And so the team sets out, via a truly mind-bogglingly horrible array of clumsy wirework, inept bluescreen effects and laughably unconvincing miniature work. Obviously it’s more than a little unfair to compare the stuff here to modern effects work. However, even based on contemporary standards, it’s woeful stuff. After all, The Green Slime came out the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey. No, the problem is basically that the script wrote some pretty big frickin’ checks, ones that were way beyond the capacity of the film to cash.
Soon the party has landed on the hatch and begun blasting the monsters, which noticeably remain pretty noisy even in the vacuum of space. Of course, so do the laser guns, et al. Inside, Rankin orders the solar energy collecting dishes swung in their direction. The glare of all that pure power draws the monsters’ attention away from their attackers. Then, although we’ve seen nothing to make us believe the hatch has been cleared, we’re told it is, and the first escape ship makes it way out. Despite the fact that the mission has now presumably been successfully completed, the away team still swings over the monsters on wires and blasts away with their ray guns. In a pretty laughable bit, Eliot’s rifle runs out of juice, or something, and he-what else?-tosses it the nearest monster, impaling it. (!) Then he grabs the gun of a downed comrade and continues firing. Once he’s cleared some room, he grabs the wounded guy and jetpacks off. Rankin, watching on the Magic Tracking Monitor System, nods in admiration at this manly feat.
During all this, a second ship gets off, leaving only the command and security staff still on board. Rankin orders everyone to the evacuation area, noting that they’ll pick up Eliot’s party on the way out. Meanwhile, Space Command readies to assume remote control of the station’s guidance systems after everyone has left. Sadly, though, the reduced power situation-personally, I would have blamed it on the damage from the explosion-precludes this. Rankin decides he will stay behind and destroy the Gamma 3 himself. But, you know, it’s always something, and the control room is now full of slime monsters. He orders everyone else out, with an obviously lame explanation that he’ll jettison himself to safety after finishing the job. This is an excuse for Lisa to *gasp* tacitly admit that she really does still love him, blah blah. “I’ll be back,” he manfully replies, beating Schwarzenegger by a good fifteen years.
The last evacuation ship leaves the launch bay, pausing to pick up Eliot’s team. Needless to say, when Eliot learns what Rankin is up to, he immediately heads back down to lend him a hand. Meanwhile, Rankin enters an apparently deserted control room, only to have the monsters suddenly burst out from behind a wall panel. I have to admit, they may just be slime creatures, but they do have a highly developed flair for the dramatic.
Rankin’s gun soon runs out of power (can’t you monitor the charge on those things?), and he repeats Eliot’s feat of chucking it and impaling one of the monsters. I suppose it’s possible that slime monsters would be porous enough for them to be easily skewered, but I am a little surprised that the clunky rifle would prove so reliably aerodynamic. Meanwhile, a now defenseless Rankin hops around the room, trying to avoid the deadly sparking tentacles.
Just when it seems his goose is literally cooked, Eliot appears and provides some cover fire. The two briefly exchange some manly chatter, and then Rankin makes for the control panel. As Eliot holds the monsters off, Rankin engages the propulsion system and sets the Gamma 3 into the Earth’s atmosphere. (Unwisely, this is visualized by having the miniature model wobble around on a string.) Personally, I’d have sent it into the sun, but then I’m just a worrywart.
Their task completed, they head out. However, the monsters are thick on the floor. Suddenly, just when we most expect it, Eliot is fatally embrace by one of them. Man, who could have foreseen such a fate befalling the patently weak side of the film’s romantic triangle. Actually, the only surprisingly part is that he doesn’t last long enough for a last manly exchange with Rankin. Still, at least the monsters have enough class to allow Rankin a moment of manly sorrow over his friend’s demise. Rankin attempts to haul Eliot along with him, but the station is now rocketing full blast towards the Earth and Our Hero is sent ass over teakettle. Still and all, he gets them out a pretty convenient hatchway and they spin away to comparative safety. Luckily, their minute presence is somehow visible from the evacuation ship, and they are picked up. There’s actually a fairly spectacular bit where the station catches fire and we see all the little blob monsters go up in smoke. Soon the entire superstructure is entirely engulfed in flames, whereupon it explodes in a big burst of talcum powder. I guess this supposedly will keep any shrapnel from the gigantic structure from raining down upon the planet.
Rankin gets on the horn and reports in, and naturally gives all the credit to Eliot. Then he salutes Eliot’s body with, I kid you not, a big thumb’s up. (!!) He and Lisa have the class not to just jump into each other’s arms-which is a lot of restraint, actually, for this sort of picture-but even sans this the implacable force of Movie Logic convinces the viewer that they’ll end up together. And so the ship rockets down to Earth, andâ€¦
THE END (Reprise theme song)
Dig this groovy tune, man:
“Open the door, you’ve got a secret.
To find the answer is to keep it.
You’ll believe it when you find,
Something screaming ‘cross your miiindâ€¦
“What can it be, what is the reason?
Is this the end of all that’s breathin’?
Is this something in your head?
Will you believe it when you’re dead?
Green Sliiiime! Green Sliiiime! Green Sliiiime!”
Super competent medical doctor Lisa grapples with the concept underlying a ‘quarantine’, not to mention the phrase ‘I understand’:
Lisa: “Jack, are we really in quarantine?”
Rankin: “That’s the order.
Lisa: “But what about my patients?! They need treatment they can’t get up here! They should be sent down [to Earth].”
Rankin: “It’s absolutely out of the question. Lisa, don’t you realize that if one drop of the creature’s blood or whatever it is got to the Earth, that would be the end of all of us?”
Lisa: “Jack, I understand. But it might be their only chance!”
As I mentioned earlier, several of my comrades are in a far better position to expound upon the career of director Kinji Fukasaku. However, that still leaves a number of people associated with this particular Fukasaku entry to discuss.
In the ’60s, U.S. film companies often co-produced movies internationally, as a way to keep down their own investment, as well as to take advantage of local tax breaks and such. Such arrangements still occur today, although now American studios generally just pre-sell the release rights for various portions of the globe rather than investing in films with multi-national casts and whatnot. Thus, in a very real way, such films of the ’60s were truly international in a way that today’s films seldom are.
The Green Slime was a Japanese / Italian / American co-production. As Toho Studios had a history of making monster movies, most notably the Godzilla series, they were the ones who actually produced the film. Therefore, the film was made in Japan (I’m assuming), with Toho providing the director and special effects expertise, yet with a story by a European writer and featuring American and European ‘stars.’
However, unlike the several Toho films of the period which planted a token American among otherwise overwhelmingly Japanese casts-Russ Tamblyn in War of the Gargantuas, Nick Adams in Monster Zero and Frankenstein Conquers the World, etc.-The Green Slime features not a single Asian face throughout. Which, actually, is a little weird. Even Latitude Zero, a film featuring several Western actors, including Joseph Cotton, Cesar Romero and The Green Slime‘s Richard Jaeckel, still boasted a cast that was primarily Japanese.
The story for The Green Slime was provided by Ivan Reiner, who worked in Europe and wrote and produced a handful of typically campy Italian sci-fi pictures. All of these suffered from what might be called Barbarella Syndrome, by which I mean egregious levels of Psychedelic ’60s Hipness. Let’s just say that if Austin Powers had been a film producer in the sixties rather than an international man of mystery, his filmography might well have mirrored Mr. Reiner’s.
Except for our current subject, Mr. Reiner’s films were directed by the great Italian schlock auteur Antonio Margheris, a.k.a. Anthony Dawson. The latter moniker being the one he assumed for the dubbed English language versions of his movies, since having too many obviously Italian names in the credits was assumed to be a turn off for red blooded American audiences. Few directors have been responsible for such a mindnumbingly awful slate of pictures, and indeed, Margheris has not nearly the street cred with the bad movie community that he should have.
Indeed, it seems inevitable that he eventually be honored with his own B-Master’s roundtable. Indeed, here’s but a partial listing of his work: Castle of Blood. The Long Hair of Death. Mr. Superinvisible. Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye. Hercules vs. Karate. Killer Fish. Ark of the Sun God. Alien of the Deep. Oh, and let’s not forget Yor, the Hunter from the Future.
The films on which Mr. Margheris and Mr. Reiner collaborated did indeed pop up in the States in dubbed versions, under such titles as The Snow Devils (a laughable film about intelligent Yetis who prove to be space aliens), Wild, Wild Planet and War Between the Planets. Alien invasions were a common theme, and oddly enough, a couple of these earlier films featured a space station called the Gamma One. Therefore, if I’m following this, The Green Slime might indeed be part of a discrete series.
If Mr. Reiner provided the story and, apparently, the film’s setting, however, the actual screenplay was written by Tom Rowe and Charles Sinclair. Mr. Rowe, otherwise, helped write The Aristocats and not much else. (!!) Nor was his partner all that prolific. Mr. Sinclair worked on the scripts for The Snow Devils and Track of the Moon Beast, but more importantly wrote nearly thirty episodes of the Adam West Batman TV show. It’s interesting to note that on the above cited films, however, he worked with Bill Finger, who with Bob Kane actually created the Batman comic character back in 1939, as well as much of the character’s classic rogues gallery.
Jack Rankin was played by Robert Horton, who appeared in numerous movie westerns and TV shows, most notably co-starring in the series Wagon Train. He also guest starred on several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, continued to act through the late ’80s. Aside from Wagon Train, he probably remains best remembered for The Green Slime, if only because horror and sci-fi buffs never forget anybody.
Lisa was played by the beauteous Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi. Although in The Green Slime her resemblance to the more famous Ursula Andress (famous to American audiences as the first Bond Girl in Dr. No) is maximized, Ms. Paluzzi had a lengthy and successful career in her own right. This included appearances on numerous American TV shows, her own stint as a Bond Girl, the villainous Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, and lots of other film work, some American, some European.
Ms. Paluzzi’s oeuvre includes a small role in the 1957 Steve Reeves’ Hercules, the film that kicked off the Sand and Sandal genre here in the States; Muscle Beach Party, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, Return to Peyton Place, and, most pertinent to this site, the role of Lee Marvin’s secretary in the memorable stinker The Klansman.
Richard Jaeckel (Vince Eliot) is a name and face familiar to even casual viewers of a certain age. Jaeckel appeared in dozens of TV shows, including recurring parts on Baywatch and Spenser for Hire. He also racked up nearly a hundred films, including genre fare like Walking Tall Part II, Latitude Zero, Grizzly, Mako: The Jaws of Death and Day of the Animals. Mr. Jaeckel most typically played hardass cops and military types, generally bullheaded ones. In essence, he was sort of a second tier Richard Widmark. He passed away in 1997.
Robert Dunham (Captain Martin) was an American who moved to Japan and worked in several Toho films, including Mothra and Dagora, the Space Monster. He remains most famous for his role as the Emperor of Seatopia in Godzilla vs. Megalon. Mr. Dunham passed away in 2001.
Jabootu Proofreading Minister Carl Fink raises and/or clarifies several issues [remarks by Ken in brackets]:
- Do they even mention the problem of no (meaningful) gravity on a small asteroid? [A: No, oddly, they do not.]
- Wait…pools of water ON AN ASTEROID IN VACUUM? Do they mention how ridiculous that is? [A: No, oddly, they do not.]
- Also, asteroids come from the outer solar system: even if it had atmospheric pressure, the water would freeze. (Mars has only frozen water, and the asteroids come from further out.
- [As to my surprise that Flora would suddenly accelerate]: “No, you aren’t an astronomer (or a physicist). Of course it’s accelerating — it’s falling towards the Earth! Not that this should surprise an astronaut, but it’s an accurate statement. Let’s be clear: Newton and Leibniz, for practical purposes, solved the problem of orbital prediction. Once they have a small number (~3) of observations of the asteroid, they can predict its
- Why do they design the shuttle with a throttle that goes way, way past the point where it’s safe to use. [A: Because it’s dramatic!!]
- [To my suggestion that the hopelessly contaminated Gamma 3 might better have been sent into the Sun, than the Earth’s atmosphere]: “Sure, if you were on a spacecraft DESIGNED for that. Maneuvering thrusters on a spacecraft in Earth’s orbit could de-orbit it (actually done during Gemini as a test of the backup plan if the dedicated retro-rockets failed), but it takes a LOT more delta-V to reach Terrestrial escape velocity, then negate Earth’s orbital velocity around the Sun so you could fall into it. A LOT.
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Thanks, as always for
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Mr. Bill Leary
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and logical, which
sadly multiply in much
the same fashion as
a legion of Green Slimes.