From the DVD case: They came from deep beneath the earth’s surface: grotesque, reptilian creatures covered with slime, forced from their subterranean lair by underground nuclear testing. Setting up an almost impenetrable dome of fog over L.A. to lower the city’s temperature and make the surface more habitable, they’ve emerged from the sewers and cesspools, impervious to attack and mad as hell. Now, Los Angeles has been evacuated, its empty streets shrouded in a permanent twilight. Except for a small band of survivors, the Slime People have the city all to themselves. Holed up in a television station, pilot Tom Gregory, Professor Galbraith, his daughters Lisa and Bonnie, and marine Cal Johnson have been left behind doomed to a fate worse than death, unless they can find a way to penetrate the wall of fog that imprisons them.
Mark says: Robert Hutton (Invisible Invaders, The Colossus of New York) stars in and makes his directorial debut with The Slime People. Hutton’s inexperience as a director is painfully evident from frame one. Any chance the film had for building suspense is blown in the first few minutes of footage. Without buildup or fanfare, we are introduced to the creatures as they emerge from their sewer lairs. The monsters, undoubtedly, are the highpoint of this movie, but exposing them so early on seems premature and demonstrates poor showmanship. Or perhaps the philosophy was to hook the audience immediately before they could walk out from this talky and mostly non-action filled flick.
Though released in 1963, The Slime People seems more at home with the cheapie science fiction fare of the latter 1950s. All the elements are here: a cheesy premise, subpar acting, rubber-suited monsters, and an exceedingly low budget. Hutton states the budget for the film was $56,000, with three or four thousand dollars going to the creation of the Slime People costumes alone. Still, he was able to bring the movie in under cost, allowing the excess money to go for advertising. Roger Corman himself couldn’t boast more efficiency. Well, maybe.
The monsters are pretty cool, as long as we see them in head and shoulder shots. Once we see full body shots, they lose their menace. From the waist down it is apparent they are wearing costume pants. Robert Hutton reported in an interview with film historian, Tom Weaver, that they could only afford to have two Slime People outfits produced, but in several brief scenes we see three. Three stuntmen are also listed at IMDb (Bob Herron, Jock Putman, and Fred Stromsoe). We see these two or three creatures a lot, as they need to represent an army of Slime People. The monsters are bulky, and clumsy, making it hard to believe they could defeat the entire U.S. Army and drive out the inhabitants of Los Angeles. It’s also unlikely that creatures that can construct a machine that creates a domed wall around a metropolitan city would be reduced to using hollow spears as their only form of weaponry. But that’s part of the fun of B movies.
Richard Arlen was originally slated to play Professor Galbraith, but became ill the day before shooting and was replaced by Robert Burton (I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, Invasion of the Animal People). This would be Mr. Burton’s last picture, as he died of a heart attack shortly after filming. Professor Galbraith’s daughters, Lisa and Bonnie, are played by Susan Hart (The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini) and Judee Morton, respectively. According to Robert Hutton, Susan Hart landed the role because she looked good in a sweater. William Boyce, who plays the young marine, Cal Johnson, was found, “walking down the street one day,” and had no previous motion picture experience. The acting is about what you would expect, with a lot of awkward romantic scenes between the two daughters and the leading men.
Surprisingly, Les Tremayne (War of the Worlds, The Monolith Monsters) makes a brief appearance as the eccentric writer, Norman Tolliver. This role is beneath a man who is legendary for his early radio work and extensive acting resume. Les Tremayne is one of my personal heroes, and I have mixed feelings about seeing him in this production. It’s a pleasure to see him in anything, but the role of Tolliver is so ridiculous that it is almost painful to watch. I was pleased to read that Mr. Tremayne did this picture as a personal favor to Robert Hutton and that he wasn’t doing it because he was down on his luck.
A major flaw, or one of many major flaws, is the film’s use of fog. The premise is that the Slime People create the fog to keep the temperature suitable for their existence. The fog also solidifies to create the dome over the city. Unfortunately, the fog becomes so thick at times that we can barely see what is happening. This is particularly frustrating during the action sequences. We wait and wait for something to happen, and when it does, we can’t see it.
The Slime People, for all its failings, is not a total loss. I begrudgingly enjoy the movie on a childlike level. On an adult level, it is just silly enough to be fun. Mind you, I have a high tolerance for schlock entertainment.
It should come as no surprise that not only was this the first motion picture Robert Hutton directed, but it would also be his last.
Scene to watch for: Mrs. Castillo has a hysterical breakdown during her television interview.
Line to listen for: “He’s a great writer, but the biggest troublemaker I’ve ever known. Besides, I think he’s a potential psycho.”
Note: Much of the information used for this review was taken from an interview Robert Hutton gave to Tom Weaver in his book, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes. Very highly recommended.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ½ out of 5.