Did Stephen King see “The Slime People” (1963) in his youth, where it somehow wormed its way into his subconscious? I thought of that as I watched “The Slime People” this weekend, the same weekend I started reading his 1,000-page opus “Under the Dome”, about a small town in Maine mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world when a massive invisible dome encircles it.
So here I am, by coincidence watching “The Slime People” about a very small group of survivors (the budget for it seemed to be $12.88) in Los Angeles after it has been encircled by a huge dome, and prehistoric slime people emerge from the bowels of the Earth to wreck havoc on the surface.
I don’t know if “Under the Dome” has any slime creatures in it (I’m only 300 pages in), but another famous King situation rears its (slime) head later on in the movie, when the gang of five hold up in a butcher shop and make it their headquarters. Occasional reconnaissance jobs outside leads to fighting slime people, only to cause a mad rush to the back door of the butcher shop, with slime men working their beastly hands through the door as hero Tom Gregory (Robert Hutton) strains to slam the door.
One can’t help but flashback to King’s superb novella “The Mist” about a group of people trapped in a small town grocery store beset by all kinds of creepy, crawly creatures, one of which is a tentacled beastie fighting its way through the back door of the store. “The Mist” was made into a pretty good fright flick in 2007, marred mainly by a too cynical for its own good ending.
Stephen King similarities aside, there’s not much to recommend “The Slime People” but that’s not to say it isn’t good. Actually, it isn’t. It’s pretty indefensible. So why did I still enjoy watching it?
Well, in the cast as one of the survivors is Susan Hart, one of the prettiest and liveliest 1960s starlets in her film debut, following a couple of TV appearances. She’s a familiar face and, ahem, body in several 1960s beach movies, including the title role in “Ghost in the Invisible Bikini” (1966).
She plays Lisa Galbraith, who along with sister Bonnie (Judee Norton) and professor father (Robert Burton) team up with Tom Gregory to navigate their way through the empty landscape to seek shelter and find a way to defeat the Slime People.
Star Robert Hutton also directed, and according to a recent review by ace writer DVD Savant (www.dvdsavant.com) talked a relative into letting his cast and crew shoot in his relative’s butcher shop because there was no money for sets. So one has to give him props for ingenuity.
But it’s not very well made, and the monster suits are beyond cheesy, but I tend to cut a movie a lot of slack when there’s no budget. Hutton promised his producer/investor a monster movie, a sure winner in the 1950s and 1960s. He made a movie called “The Slime People” and, by golly, we get to see them the very minute the movie opens, coming out of the sewer. This is one movie that delivers what it promises.
But the monsters aren’t very convincing and they move so slowly it’s a marvel they took L.A. as quickly as they do. No doubt to hide the paucity of sets and monster costumes, Hutton shoots everything through a haze of mist.
So why did I still enjoy the movie? Well, its only 77 minutes long, knows what it’s about, and gets on with it. Character development is non-existent, but so it is in the “Transformers” movies, which run well over two hours, have budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and are supremely headache-inducing. “The Slime People” offers the same entertainment experience at 1/99th the cost, half the running time and minus the headaches.
Robert Hutton had a minor career at Warner Bros. in the 1940s. He’s perhaps most famous for his role as the G.I. in love with Joan Leslie in “Hollywood Canteen” (1944). While watching “The Slime People” I remembered how much I enjoy “Hollywood Canteen”, and how I should watch that again soon. I’ve never thought anything during a “Transformers” movie except how soon it would be over.
Yep, I’ll take “The Slime People” anytime.