Yes, The Slime People is every bit as awful as its title suggests. But I love it just the same! It has grown on me like slime on a rock or stuck to the bottom of my shoes like the putrid slush of cadaverous remains!!
It stars one of my favourite actors Robert Hutton (1920-94 pneumonia) known as one of the best-dressed men in Hollywood in his day. He also directed this slimy nonsense.
The moment the Slime People arise from the ground at the opening, we’re not sure if they’re very slimy or not, although one of them seems to be drooling a type of gel, while others seem to be suffering from dry skin conditions. You have to love it… low-budget junk for sure.
Thanks to Tom Weaver’s interviews we have information about Hutton and the movie.
Robert Hutton was reported to be a cousin of Woolworth’s heiress Barbara Hutton but his real name was Robert Bruce Winne, which makes the connection unlikely. Born in Kingston, New York, Hutton was a child movie buff who as a young man took up acting to escape the “boring” confines of his hometown. Studying at the Rockefeller Centre in New York, Hutton was sponsored for a year by his father in Hollywood but nothing happened there in that time.
He must have had connections as he dressed well and somehow he wrangled a test with Paramount and he was asked to sign for the sum of $200 a week. His agent refused but Warners took him up for $250 a week.
It became a problem with his career with his agent asking too much and Hutton didn’t work as often as he liked and gained a reputation as a result. Hutton, who was a conservative Republican in the time of Roosevelt and Truman blamed it on a reverse blacklist at the time. Maybe it really did cut both ways.
He did start off in World War II films and made a few flicks with Joyce Reynolds (1924-) as an unofficial team but his career was more or less disappointing outside his genre movies. There was an uncredited appearance in the Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).
He returned home to Kingston to care for elderly relatives after his last movie, and having written the cat horror Persecution (1974). Hutton had tasted stardom and in 1980 fell off a ladder and broke his back, something that left him in hospital for the good part of a year and compromised his later health. But I get ahead of myself again…
He was asked by Jerry Lewis himself to play one of the Ugly Brothers in Cinderfella (1960) when Lewis said: “No agent involved, you just decide here and now, you don’t read the script.”
They more or less traded what each thought Hutton was worth for the role on a piece of paper and it seems for once Hutton came in with the lower the figure granting him the role.
He said working with Lewis was “wonderful”.
After that came the step down of The Slime People (1963) produced by Joseph F. Robertson (1925-2001) who got a group of people together who ran laundrettes to finance it. Hutton was desperate to direct the script by Robertson and his wife – written under pseudonyms.
“The Slime People was a lot of fun to make, oh, we had a ball,” said Hutton about the experience.
The film was so low budget that there were only a few Slime People costumes. You can count three on screen at one time. All this despite the fact the Slime People had more or less taken over the entire city of Los Angeles.
According to Hutton the budget was $56,000 and he admitted that directing the film went over his head. No kidding…. See the results. If they were having a ball as Hutton said, little time was taken for cinematic tricks or detail, let alone basic filmmaking technique, which is adequate.
“You’ve got the part,” Hutton said to Susan Hart (1941-) when she turned up for auditions in a sweater to play the elder daughter of a professor in the film. It would be Hart’s first major film role and she went on to do American International Pictures films Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) with Vincent Price and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), marrying one of AIP’s founders James H. Nicholson (1916-72 brain tumour) until his death.
Another person in the cast is former radio announcer Les Tremayne (1913-2003 heart failure). He also worked in other movies such as The Monolith Monsters (1957), The Angry Red Planet (1959) and featured prominently in one of Larry Buchanan’s (1923-2004 complications of collapsed lung) legendarily awful Azalea Pictures – Creature of Destruction (1967). Tremayne was a personal friend of Hutton’s whose goat-loving character in the movie is described as “a potential psycho”.
Silent star Richard Arlen (1899-1976 emphysema) was slated to play the professor father of Susan Hart but pulled out the night before production got underway due possibly to his alcoholism. Maybe it was because he read the script! Robert Burton (1895-1962 heart attack) replaced him but would not live to see the film released.
Hutton is the hero of the piece as Tom Gregory. In fact, the entire cast formally introduce themselves to each other a couple of times throughout the picture just so you don’t forget their names! It is the end of the world but names are more important than faces!!
If they did spend half the budget on the Slime People costumes, apparently Susan Hart was given $35 dollars for her wardrobe according to interviews.
Hutton’s hero arrives in Los Angeles via his light plane at the beginning, landing at Van Nuys airport where he meets up with the professor and his two daughters in the professor’s car.
“First the Slime People came… then the whole army came to fight them then and they lost… then the Slime Men built a big wall but before it got hard Los Angeles got evacuated and everybody’s gone but the Slime Men,” says the professor’s perky youngest daughter played by Judee Morton (1940-), dispensing with any epic battle for the city of Los Angeles. Thus saving the budget a fortune.
All that’s left is the leftovers. But still it makes for a good meal as the end of the world is confined to an invisible dome shrouded on the edges by fog. Not everyone wants to eat these slimy leftovers as The Slime People isn’t particularly scary and isn‘t particularly funny on a bad movie level either.
The burnt out scenes at the beginning of the movie were filmed around Bel-Air after one of their devastating fires, which happen too regularly, and had destroyed a couple of movie star mansions that year. As for other locations, one Hutton used was his father-in-law’s butcher shop. Reports the design and making of the Slime Men costumes costing half the budget may have been an overestimation by someone as it is also reported by Hutton that they only cost $400 each. Still it was a vast sum in terms of the budget. And Hutton never got paid… but he was hardly Hitchcock or John Huston at the helm and according to Tom Weaver even the stuntmen didn’t get paid.
Hutton’s best genre films are Invisible Invaders (1959), which again I will say inspired George A. Romero’s zombies… earlier Hutton did The Colossus of New York (1958) and later the disappointing The Vulture (1967) with its silly monster hardly shown at all. That year he also did They Came from Beyond Space. Jump back again to 1959 and Hutton did the bad classic The Man Without a Body which I cover in the article on W. Lee Wilder.
“It’s like a nightmare here,” says one stilted reporter on a newsreel the gang are watching at a local abandoned television station. The female interviewee responds in an overwrought fashion: “Those things, they grabbed him and he screamed…” before fleeing the journalist clutching her face in horror.
At the television station with Hutton, the professor and his daughters is a Marine, played by an actor who was apparently picked from the street. He looks remarkably like Justin Timberlake.
The Slime People apparently had reshoots after Hutton’s less than sensational stab at directing, which is why second unit director William Martin gets prominent billing. Martin would go on to have a respectable career as an editor and worked on the cinema release of the pilot of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979). Hutton wouldn’t share the billing in this his only directorial effort.
Back to the newsreel and, apparently, the Slime People lived deep underground until they were disturbed by underground nuclear testing.
“This has seriously disturbed their former home,” says an expert, who adds: “They are covered in scales and covered in slime.” Thus The Slime People, remarks the interviewer in one of those landmark journalistic moments.
A lot of the movie is set in foggy situations as this fog occurs around the edges of the dome. In fact, the smoke machine works overtime and some of the scenes are hard to see as a result and there is further film process work to add to the fogginess. This usually puts the first time viewer off this film. Hutton said the smoke machine covered up many of the sins of the movie. At least he’s honest.
Not surprising, for its meagre budget, the film made its money back.
So in the foggy back end of the movie, it is up to Hutton and leftovers to find a way to destroy the Slime People or force them back underground, complicated by one of the professor’s daughters being kidnapped by the titular fiends. That’s when this casually paced movie goes into overdrive… if that’s possible.
Leonard Maltin, who gave this film a BOMB rating says the movie talks itself to death. That maybe true in the lead-up to the fogbound climax which has a wrestling and bumping match between its heroes and the three men in costumes… we know from the beginning it really can’t get any worse! It simply can’t afford to!! Literally.
While guaranteed to disappoint good and bad movie lovers alike… as well as even good bad movie lovers… it does have its moments. They come from Hutton, Tremayne and the pigs at a trough sound effect of the Slime People in person. They do come from the sewers!
That the army was defeated by these spear carrying Slime People is amazing and more amazing still is Hutton and the professor find a way to defeat these creatures with little more than a rope and some table salt.
Why I like this movie it is hard to say as there really isn’t a lot to like. As Frank N. Furter says in Rocky Horror Picture Show, it has “a certain naïve charm” which really goes for most of the bad sci-fi and horror movies of the 1950s and early 60s. It’s one of those movies where the men keep their heads while the women scream. Can you keep yours and not press the STOP button or change channel?
“Remember, keep cool,” says the Marine to another character as they part ways.
But not too cool, as The Slime People thrive in the cooler weather, where fog occurs at dew point. Remember you won’t be afraid!