And last but not least, the overt swinging sixties vibe (down to the awesome theme song and scantily clad astronaut ladies drinking champagne…) readily encourages the prevalent “so bad that it’s good” interpretation of the film.
“We found something strange up there, sir.”
But Jack is a non-nonsense kind of officer, and rushes in where angels fear to tread. On a rocket mission to the rocky surface of Flora, Horton’s team detonates several explosives in short order. The threat to Earth is pulped, but a single glop of indigenous green slime lands on one astronaut’s pants.
Very soon, Jack realizes that there is no choice but to abandon and then destroy the overrun Gamma 3 station, lest the alien threat reach planet Earth…
“If he’s right, those things are going to be all over the place!”
As I wrote at the start of this piece, it’s easy, from a casual viewing, to detect what’s bad and unintentionally funny about The Green Slime.
I do not now and never shall deny any of those important elements.
But solid film criticism isn’t merely about plucking low-hanging fruit from the vine. In some instances, it’s about excavating those things that get buried in favor of the obvious. And the fact of the matter is that The Green Slime is highly entertaining for a number of reasons, and it seems fair and judicious to enumerate those reasons in this review.
In particular, I recommend that viewers pay special attention to the visual compositions, and the ways Fukasaku uses the frame to create an escalating sense of tension.
For instance — effortlessly and perfectly — Fukasaku shifts to hand-held shots in the interior of a small spacecraft set just as the movie’s protagonists undertake their important mission to Flora. The sudden shift from a more stately grounded camera to the hand-held shots supports the story’s rising anxiety level.
That sense of artistry extends to the film’s numerous space sets, which have sometimes been termed “cardboard.” I didn’t see that much, frankly, except in a few short sequences where Gamma 3’s doors appear momentarily light weight. And on the contrary, the surface of the planet Flora as visualized here is quite dynamic and intriguing: a live-action studio set of considerable intricacy, color and depth. In the days before CGI, everything had to be built — including whole planets — and The Green Slime’s foreign Flora looks like fantastic on DVD.
I could also comment on the effective choreography and early wire-work in some of the flying/battle sequences in space, a precursor to such EVA battles as we’ve since seen in Moonraker (1979), among other films.
With all this good work, it is a mystery to me why a clearly capable director allows his poorly-designed, silly-looking monsters to get so much damned face time on camera. This film could have been significantly improved by some shock cutting, by featuring dimmer light in a few moments, and by other techniques that could hide or mask the fakery. If those steps had been taken, The Green Slime might be remembered very differently today.
In terms of atmosphere, The Green Slime is gloriously a product of its time and specific context, the late 1960s. This was our world in the midst of the Apollo Program, with a moon landing on the horizon. Accordingly, the film benefits from the same kind of 1960s retro-futurism and can-do attitude as TV series like Thunderbirds or Star Trek.
That means the film is veritably filled with astronauts in red and blue jump suits, bustling about and moving quickly into action to face danger and save the world in the process. Launch a space mission to save the Earth in under ten hours? No problem! Just hit the accelerator! The Green Slime goes into laborious detail showing space cruiser launches, futuristic cities and other examples of man’s “high technology” in this possible future. The breadth of imagination in terms of production design and miniature work on display here is not so easily dismissed, even if we have outgrown both miniatures and can-do futurism.
In terms of the world it presents, The Green Slime offers an irony-less view of can-do space adventuring, with serious men and women going about their business without tongues-in-cheek. In today’s hipster world, this is just something else to laugh about, no doubt, but The Green Slime is the product of a more optimistic age. One in which we all believed — without question — that man would conquer space. I find this facet of the film charming and innocent, I must admit. The film’s confidence in us, in mankind, is one of its finer qualities. This faith is reinforced in the subplot that many critics find so deplorable, the Rankin-Elliot rivalry.
Specifically, Rankin is all about the job, damn the consequences. We’re all expendable!
And Elliot is the opposite, willing to save his men at the expense of the mission.
In the end, both men — and both approaches — are required to save the day. This plot-point alone seems evidence of a more innocent, less polarized time in our world. Today the answers to a lot of our national and international problems are both liberal ones and conservative ones, but no one wants to admit that fact. It always has to be either/or; not a little bit of both.
The Green Slime’s dueling commanders — fighting over the love of a woman and the path to success — each must compromise a bit, and come to see the validity in opposing approaches. Is this particularly deep? Perhaps not, but it’s another byproduct of The Green Slime’s more optimistic epoch..
If you think that comparison is a valid criticism and a sign of “bad” cinema, then don’t waste your energy on The Green Slime. You won’t be that into it.
On the other hand, if you believe the comparison to Godzilla films is a positive, then by all means, sit back, relax, and have a good time with this silly movie played ever-so-straight.