Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gamma And The Green Slime!


Thanks to TCM I discovered viewed four of the five "Gamma-1" movies. The best of these, and technically not really part of the series I guess is The Green Slime, a 1968 Japanese sci-fi effort starring Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel.


The Gamma-1 series was produced in Italy by Antonio Margheriti under the named "Anthony Dawson". I was first attracted to this oddball series when I discovered that Batman co-creator Bill Finger had a hand in the scripting of some of these.


The movies are strictly low-budget, but with some surprisingly interesting special effects in places (the jet cars are impractical but pretty cool). The four movies - Wild, Wild Planet, Battle of the Planets, Battle Between the Planets, and Snow Devils - were all produced at the same time and were prepared for television presentation in the United States.


All the movies feature many of the same actors and some the characters as the Earth is assaulted by various alien threats. For examples, four-armed androids abduct humans a madman seeking a perfect race, gaseous aliens occupy the forms of humans and link them in a hive mind, and the legend of the Yeti is inspired by aliens seeking to alter Earth's climate to suit themselves.


The Italian productions have charms, but they are of the strictly so-bad-it's-good variety. The pacing of these is awful with the characters actually seeming to even walk slowly through the sometimes splendid sets. Oddball characters, weird lines, ultra-cheap sets, and wacko costumes along with some of the worst go-go dancing you will ever see on screen.


Part of the same scenario, though produced in Japan by the Toei Company for MGM, The Green Slime is a great improvement on its predecessors with brisk pacing, much more deliberate and focused acting, and a goofy if dangerous alien threat.

The Earth is threatened by an oncoming asteroid which threat must be met by Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) and Vince Elliot (Richard Jaeckel), two former partners who have had a falling out over leadership styles and the obligatory women, a sexy doctor played by Luciana Paluzzi. They work together and use the resources of "Gamma-3" to stop the asteroid, but the space station is then overrun by a green slimy life form which proves exceedingly dangerous and damned difficult to remove.

This movie is helped by really excellent pacing throughout, and an actual back story of animus between the two leads which gives some vigor to the proceedings. The Toei special effects are dandy and up to the task of telling the story effectively, and while the monsters themselves are pretty hilarious, they nonetheless are pretty lethal too.


The Green Slime is a surprisingly effective movie, one I'm eager to watch again sometime.

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5 comments:

  1. TCM finally ran Snow Devils a couple of weeks ago, completing their airing of the Gamma 1 series.
    All four (plus Green Slime) are available thru the Warner Archives.

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  2. I found them only by chance. I was checking out TCM, found Five Million Years to Earth and The Green Slime and then alongside it a bunch of other sci-fi titles. I DVR'd all of them, and so stumbled across the Gamma-1 stuff. I didn't know Green Slime was linked to them at all.

    Dumb luck!

    Rip Off

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  3. I first heard of The Green Slime on Granada TV's excellent "Cinema" tv show, as a wee lad one Sunday bath-time in the early 70s. As I recall, there was a clip in a montage featuring The Dunwich Horror, Dracula Prince of Darkness and Barbarella. My wee mind was blown.

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  4. Hearing the name "Green Slime" gets me excited because it was used in the original pilot of MST3K which was never aired.

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  5. 1.) Ivan Renier and Renato Moretti co-wrote/co produced all five films!
    2.) Batman co-creator William (Bill) Finger co-wrote several of the films...including Green Slime!
    3.) The same space station design was used for both Gamma 3 in Green Slime and Gamma 1 (and sister stations) in the other films.
    The spaceships were similar designs as well.

    I think Renier and Moretti wanted to continue the series, found Japanese backers who financed Green Slime, but because they didn't do a cost-effective multi-picture deal (as they did in Italy) involving re-use of sets, costumes, and props, couldn't convince the new producers to do another flick after Slime!

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