There's something insane about a joint Japanese/Italian coproduction, one country is know for cheap mass produced knock offs of American cinema that in their surrealism often eclipse the greatness of their source material, and the other one is Japan. Italy was already in the space opera game with Antonio Margheretti's "Gamma Quadrology" and Japan had the Toho and Daiei Studios and Toei TV tokusatsu juggernauts. What typically relegated the Italian space opera stuff to the quiet back closet of film history was horrifically awful special effects, and what the Japanese managed to with special effects was often overshadowed by absolutely stupid plots. So, it would seem that mixing both types of film would be a great way to cut out the bad aspects of the Italians and the bad aspects of the Japanese and wind up with a relatively well written space opera with good special effects. Throw in a few American, Italian, and German B-listers to satisfy the backers, keep the budget on the cheap (post production sound allows for multiple language tracks and worldwide release), and wham, a recipe for an instant classic.
Except this time we got The Green Slime which, as expected gets some of the Japanese tokusatsu expertise, and some of the Italian writing, but it also retains some of the lesser traits of both the Gamma Quadrology and lots if the Toei offerings. Toei was never on par with Toho or even Daiei in the 1960s, they were known more for cheap superhero TV like Planet Prince. Toei weren't the special effects powerhouse that Toho was, or even what Daiei was, though they used Daiei resources in their film venture. The Italians came to the table with Antonio Margheretti's production team from The Gamma film. In fact, The Green Slime is known as Gamma 3 in Italian, and shares many of the sets and costumes and ideas (even some characters) as the films Wild, Wild Planet and War Between the Planets from the Quadrology.
What made the Margheretti space opera films so unique was they tried to blend "off the shelf" science with classic science fiction tropes. Here, with Toei's influence, The Green Slime owes more to the lurid science fiction covers of the pulp magazines of the mid 1950s than the military/space exploration visual style of the other films. That said, the costumes, and some of the sets are straight out of Wild, Wild Planet. Toei bring better ship and station and monster and laser blast effects to the film.
Topping off this strange pairing is the director, Kinji Fukasaku known primarily for making very violent, nihilistic, and action packed gangster pictures for Toei, and here working his first piece of science fiction. The producers (and one of the writers here) were Ivan Reiner and Walter Manly who were both involved in the Gamma Quadrology films (Reiner wrote them) and instrumental in buying and combining the Toei superhero TV shows into confusing and often incoherent B-pictures like Invasion of the Neptune Men (an amalgam of Space Chief episodes), and Evil Brain from Outer Space (and amalgam of Super Giant TV episodes) for US and European audiences. I guess that explains how they managed to get this coproduction together.
Boy, this is a whole lot of backstory for a film that is mostly unknown. For what it's worth, The Green Slime came to the US in 1969 and was marketed strictly at kids and what kid wouldn't love a monster picture so completely top heavy with a love triangle as to almost fall out of orbit?
We begin in space, and like so many of the Gamma films this one involves a rogue asteroid with a doomsday heading for Earth (where the capital city Tabletopopolis is poised for destruction). A peril this mighty requires the work of our heroes who live in the orbital space station Gamma 3 and their flotilla of atomic space rockets. Gamma 3 is under the command of dashing space jockey, Commander Vince Eliot (Richard Jaekel). He's in love with the curvy and well coiffed Dr. Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi). But, she used to be in love with even more dashing Commander Rankin (Robert Horton) who was, at one time, Commander Eliot's best friend until Lisa came between them. But, the hurtling asteroid "Flora" is so dangerous that the leadership of Tabletopopolis sends Rankin to oversee the destruction of the rogue asteroid. Eliot is already pissed that he's been superseded for his first real command, and it's worse that his romantic rival is the guy stepping into his place.
Got all that?
Okay, in a nutshell, the Gamma crew heads off to blow up the rogue asteroid and in doing so brings back a blob of some green stuff that when exposed to the atmosphere and power of the Gamma 3 station, grows into a tentacled, one-eyed, electrically charged monster that wants to kill everyone. Worse, no matter what you do the damn things, they keep regenerating so that if you blow one up all of the pieces regenerate into individual green slime monsters. Therefore, in very short order you have an exponential explosion of electrically charged, one eyed, killing machines rampaging through the station. Of course the human drama will play out too and help determine the fates of the Gamma 3's crew and the station itself.
The special effects from the Toei crew aren't bad, mostly, as they're handled by a spinoff company of former employees of Toho studios and Eiji Tsubaraya's effects house. But we do get a whole lot of Gamma Quadrology effects too, Tabletopopolis, for example, or actors suspended on wires and swung in front of a blue screen with horrible matte lines. The Green Slime monsters are both goofy and weirdly scary as a result of their goofiness.I mean, they look like a bunch of waddling, tentacled latex blobs with one big red eye in the middle and a bunch of small eyes stuck on the front like wayward nipples. What they lack in style though, they make up for in numbers and danger. They also have an awesome ear piercing whiney scream that help amp up the horror of them en masse.
More horrible than The Green Slime monsters is the acting by long time character actor Rickard Jaekel, and our other leads. Yes, this is all post production dubbing and that sort of lends itself to the dry delivery instantly recognizable as Italian cinema. But at times it seems like it's even worse than normal. Jaekel tries to carry his role as the young and enthusiastic if not out of his league commander better than Robert Horton's ersatz Sean Connery who never seems bothered by anything going on around him.
Still, this film is fun.
Until now the film hasn't been released in anything but a crappy VHS that was both EP and pan and scan. Even the nice versions that sometimes pop up on cable are pan and scan affairs where much of the goofiness, especially the extra goofy ending battles, are cut and clipped and confusing. But Warner has yanked this one out of their vaults in time for Christmas and given it a nice remastering and widescreen release DVD. It doesn't come with any extras but the film doesn't really need any as it doesn't hold a place in any great film history. At least not any more detailed than what's already in the review a few paragraphs up.
The Green Slime is fun, dorky, talky, and overun with goofy monsters. It has all the incoherence of Toei with all the razzle dazzle cheapness of the Gamma Quadrology. What's not to love?