Sunday, March 15, 2009

Unexpected Reassessment Corner: *The Green Slime* (1968)

Alan and I finally, courtesy of Ebay, got our hands on a copy of The Green Slime, a film we'd been wanting to watch for ages, anticipating a 90-minute-long festival of Sixties horror kitsch. Well, although the kitsch was there to some extent (the general look of the film can be summed up by imagining what Gerry Anderson would have done if he had been working on a BBC rather than an ITC budget), we actually found instead that, if you peel away the hilarious-looking monster, the detergent-bottle spaceship, the banal dialogue and the inexplicable decision to have everyone speak in a 50s-newsreader monotone, there's actually a really good film in there (incidentally, if you're not familiar with it, there's a really funny review here and the trailer here).

It's always been a firm belief of mine that the best sci-fi and (especially) horror movies are the ones where the sci-fi/fantasy/horror element isn't an end in itself, but is a metaphor, externalisation, or means of understanding something more basically human. Hellraiser isn't about the cenobites; it's about a woman tearing her marriage apart through adultery. Forbidden Planet, famously, isn't about the robots or the spaceships, it's about one man's suppressed reverse-Oedipal desire for his daughter and jealousy of the younger men who will inevitably replace him in her heart. The Black Hole is about sexual repression and the ways that can twist human relationships; The Blob is every bit as much about the 1950s' ambivalence about the emerging teenage subculture as anything starring Marlon Brando. And so on. Amazingly, The Green Slime turns out to be one of those films.

Taking away the space station setting, The Green Slime is the story of two men who are in love with the same woman. She chooses, not surprisingly, the one who generally seems to be a nicer and more responsible human being. The film's protagonist, the rejected suitor, Rankin, comes back into their lives after a decent interval, and then, in an orgy of repressed lust and desire for revenge, takes away his former friend Vince's command, completely destroys his life, and then kills him. Kurosawa films have been made of less.

So where does the monster fit in? Again, like the cenobites, the Blob, the Id Monster, etc., it (or possibly they) fits perfectly into the story as a metaphor for what's happening at the human level. The titular slime is brought onto the space station because Rankin's anger issues mean that he smashes a scientist's sealed specimen jar, splattering a crewmember's uniform, and then orders the uniforms triply decontaminated, which exposes it to energy which causes it to develop into a marauding creature. As the creature multiplies (and yes, Rankin's personality disorders are responsible for that as well), so it parallels the deteriorating situation between Rankin, his ex-friend, and his ex-love interest. The creature/creatures is/are, in a sense, a physical manifestation of Rankin's jealousy, becoming activated, growing, and multiplying, and not incidentally attacking Vince, his staff, and his girlfriend as it does (though interestingly, although the monsters attack the girlfriend, they don't kill her the way they do everybody else; come to think of it, no women actually get killed, which supports the metaphor), ultimately destroying Vince's space station and him along with it. Not incidentally, the monsters are also green, one-eyed, and possessed of phallic tentacles which kill any man which gets between Rankin and the object of his desire, and it is Rankin's attempts to destroy them which feed them with the energy they need to grow.

Basically, this movie needs to be remade, with a proper budget, a witty script, and an overall presentation which will bring out its hidden messages (arguably, that is; I'm compelled to add that Alan's position on this is that it's the very Sixtiesness of it that makes it so great). As it is, since it's not even been officially released on DVD, I'd just like to encourage anyone who's interested to seek out a copy and watch it with an open mind. Or vote for it at TCM and hope that this will get it an official release.