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Movie of the Week: The Slime People (1963)



For a movie that turns the fog machine so high that it’s hard to distinguish the actors, The Slime People (1963) isn’t concerned with hiding its monsters. The first thing we see, even before the opening credits, is one of them climbing to the surface. It’s a great monster, too! I’m not surprised to read that the production, which ran out of money after nine days of filming, spent half its budget on the costumes.

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The slime people are thick, chunky beasts with lumpy faces that occupy about two-thirds of their pointed heads. They don’t seem to have necks; instead, their bodies go from the tip of these points down to their waists in one big “cone.” Then, from waist down, they’re hairy, like they’re wearing the bottom halves of ape suits. Their feet are v-shaped, flat and hairless. I really, really like these creatures…

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…much more than the movie itself. The Slime People has a terrific opening and set-up: Tom Gregory (Robert Hutton) blindly lands his plane in Los Angeles, but finds the airport deserted. With pay phones out of service, he doesn’t know what’s happening. Thank goodness, Professor Galbraith (Robert Burton) and his daughters, Lisa (Susan Hart) and Bonnie (Judee Morton), soon arrive in their station wagon.

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Utilizing an extremely cost-effecient method of storytelling, not to mention set-building, we learn what has happened from film they discover at the local TV station where they take refuge. The escalation of the city’s situation unfolds over the course of five previously aired news reports, from the first appearance of dead bodies on the beach to hardening fog that forms a dome over Los Angeles.

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In between, on the spot reporters and eyewitnesses describe large, monstrous creatures that emerged from the sewers and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. They came, not from outer space, but from inner earth, driven out by man’s interference with the underground ecology. Casualties become “tremendous” during two days of fighting until the fog hardens and the army is trapped outside its walls.

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It’s all downhill from there as our ragtag group of survivors try to find a way to breach the dome and escape, while along the way discovering the slime people’s fog machine and dismantling it. Parts of their adventure are fun, but bigger parts are just silly. The quality is exacerbated by some bad acting, particularly from the women, although they’re not exactly performing Shakespeare.

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When they encounter Cal Johnson (William Boyce), a young Marine who’s prettier than the women, the threat of the slime people takes a back seat to the romance. Within moments of meeting, Cal asks Bonnie if she had a boyfriend before all this happened. She tells him how brave he is and they kiss. “As long as you’re sitting here, I don’t even want to thing about slime people!”

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If they would somehow end up being the last people on earth, we wouldn’t have to worry about repopulation: Tom himself is soon kissing on Lisa. That leaves poor Professor Galbraith unpaired. They couldn’t procreate, but at least he’d have a companion when they encounter Norman Tolliver (Les Tremayne), a nut job with whom Tom is coincidentally familiar.

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Norman adds some much needed energy to the proceedings in what (spoiler alert) amounts to a glorified cameo. Tom describes him as “a great writer, but the biggest troublemaker he knows.” His character at least has some personality. He has to leave his beloved goat behind, but he hops in the station wagon with everyone else and they drive… until Cal lacklusterly exclaims, “Oh my gosh; we’re out of gas.”

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The Slime People is out of gas at this point, also. The remainder of its 76-minute running time is comprised of talky chases through the woods and unconvincing fights with the monsters. They may look great, but they have limited mobility and are easily toppled. They never seem like much of a threat. Still, it’s the potential of an apocalyptic story I’m going to remember (and recommend), not the execution.

Written by Blair Robertson and Joseph F. Robertson

Directed by Robert Hutton

Starring Robert Hutton, Les Tremayne, Robert Burton, Susan Hart, William Boyce, Judee Morton Released Sept. 18, 1963 (Boston) RT 76 min.

Home Video Rhino Theatrical (DVD)




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