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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Slime People

This low budget independent film was released in 1963, but clearly belongs to the 50s realm of low-B movies. It was shot in black and white, and has strong resemblance to the old serials. Somewhat typically, the science within the fiction is scant or bogus. Notorious for its very heavy use of fog machines, The Slime People (SP) tells the story of a band of five people trapped in LA, hunted by slime people. The movie is a mix of familiar elements. It starts out with the post-apocalyptic feel of Target Earth ('54) It progresses like a variation on Commando Cody ('53) meets militant Mole People ('56).

Quick Plot Synopsis
The movie starts right off with the titular slime people rising up from underground. They kill whomever they can find. Tom Gregory, local LA television personality, is flying to LA in his small Cessna. He lands at a small LA area airport which turns out to be deserted. Up drives professor Galbraith and his pretty young daughters, Lisa and Bonnie. They explain to Tom that the slime people enclosed LA in some sort of impenetrable dome. The fog also cools the temperatures so the slime men can thrive. Most people were evacuated before the dome was complete. Those trapped within, like themselves, are hunted down by the slime people. Tom takes them to his TV studio to look at newsreel footage which fleshes out their story. Slime people attack, so they flee. They try throwing some chemicals at the wall, but none of them affected it. En route to some Plan B, they run out of gas and hole up in a butcher shop's meat locker. During one foray for supplies, Bonnie is captured by the slime men. While rescuing her, Tom and Cal see the slime men's fog machine. Theorizing that salt neutralizes the wall, they set out with two buckets of brine, in hopes of ruining the fog machine that maintains the wall. The fog machine is guarded by many slime men, so there is much fighting. The professor throws one of the slime people's spears at the fog machine. It blows up. The invisible wall vanishes. The slime men clutch their throats and fall down dead. The army moves in and escort our plucky band out. Bonnie loves Cal, Lisa loves Tom and the professor is just proud. The end.

Why is this movie fun?
The starts off with the intriguing empty-city scenario. The acting is poor, but the less-seen faces are a nice change. Judee Morton has a real-girl prettiness that isn't the usual Hollywood mold.

Cold War Angle
Nuclear testing is to blame. Professor Galbraith theorizes that all the underground nuclear testing (in Nevada), has ruined the Slime People's natural underground habitat. They are then taking LA as a sort of revenge invasion.

Serial Flavor -- The low budget, the 2-dimensional characters, the marginal (to poor) acting, and simple sets, all give SP the flavor of the old theatrical serials of the 40s and early 50s. One could easily see Commando Cody, or Video Ranger being the ones to fight the slime people. The various scenes almost lend themselves to having been separate "chapters." The Landing. TV Studio Siege. Into The Hole. Safe Locker., etc. etc.

Brute Geniuses -- It's not uncommon in low budget B movies to have handy contradictions. Typical enough, is the contrary notions of an enemy (or monsters) who are both technologically advanced, yet personally cave-man crude. The slime people are somehow intelligent enough to have figured out how to turn air into an impenetrable solid in whatever shape they want, and make a machine capable of doing this. They are also advanced enough to created a modified environment to sustain themselves. Yet, they have big claw hands which can barely manage to throw their simple spear weapons.

Golden Rides -- Adding to the 50s serial flavor is that the characters drive up and down back roads around LA in a 1954 Cadillac coupe and a 1959 Mercury station wagon. Nothing more modern than the '59 Merc is seen. This suggests that SP might have been snot in 1959, and therefore be a delayed member of the Golden Era of sci-fi movies.

Commander to Crackpot -- Les Tremayne played Major General Mann in War of the Worlds ('53) In SP, he plays the bit part of skeptic and crackpot, Norman Tolliver. Being a skilled actor, Tremayne plays the Tolliver character too well. He doesn't quite steal the show, but he does manage to make the other actors look as lame as they are.

Rubber Monsters -- SP does not make viewers wait until the last 15 minutes to see the monsters. They appear before the title does. The rubber suits aren't all that badly done, and are wisely kept visible for fairly brief glimpses. Longer views of them (such as in the fight scenes) expose their low-budget-ness. Yet, to their credit, the producers had more than one made (such as the single robot 'army" in Target Earth) and hope editing would make it seems like a mob. Their pig-grunt gurgle noises get a bit too much play late in the story.

Bottom line? SP is a very low budget film that is likely to annoy or amuse viewers who are not fans of low budget 50s movies and/or the old serials. Given the evolving style of the 60s, SP seems quite anachronistic. Fans of the old serials like Video Ranger and Commando Cody might find a nostalgic soft spot for this film.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Howdy Film Gurus,

What a fun movie.

You land your Cessna at the airport, and no one is around.

Just fog, not smog (it is in L.A.).

The tenor of the movie is great – it was scary when I was a kid.

The acting, average except for Les Tremayne and his goat.

The creatures from down under, the inner world – not Australia, were great.

The soldier frozen in the bubble scared me silly as a kid.

Science saves the day.

Put on your “Golden Age” movie hat, grab a soda and a couple of microwave treats and have a good time,


Keep some rock salt handy (maybe even leftovers from “The Monolith Monsters”) and practice your javelin throwing (in case you have to destroy the bubble generator again).