An old saying advises not to speak ill of the dead. And I suspect this also applies to the living dead. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a classic horror film that represents the maturing of the genre. Of course, it’s not the only horror film of the sixties, and I don’t mean to speak ill of it by suggesting that George Romero—who was used to working with a small budget—had seen The Slime People. But I wonder if he had. Directed by and starring Robert Hutton, The Slime People was released in 1963 and although it’s really bad, some of the scenes from this black-and-white groaner seem to have been borrowed five years later by the more able director. The interviews by the newscasters and the driving country roads, and even the chasing of the angry mob could’ve served as direct inspirations.
The slime people are from subterranean earth, forced into action by underground nuclear testing. Building a solid fog wall around Los Angeles, they take over the city while a pilot, a scientist and his two lovely daughters, and a marine, save the day. Although the military had been fighting the monsters, they just couldn’t win. The scientist really doesn’t help solve the issue but the pilot (Hutton) finds the creatures’ wall machine and the scientist is able to blow it up with a spear, saving the day. This is one of those films so bad that it’s good. The writing is poor and the plot makes little sense overall. It doesn’t quite have the style of an Ed Wood film, but it participates in the aesthetic of watching bad movies.
Hutton isn’t a bad actor. Hampered by a too-low budget (one of the signs that a movie might be one of the good bad ones), he couldn’t film the story he envisioned. Much of the budget was reputedly spent on the slime people costumes, ensuring that Hutton drew no salary for his own role in his movie. A couple of the other stars were veteran actors, and this prevents the movie from being a mere hack job. I take some hope from the fact that many films like this eventually become cult classics. Yes, sometimes it’s so that we can laugh at them, but I think there may be something deeper involved. Those of us who watch bad movies might recognize something of ourselves in them. We too struggle to tell our story, without big budgets and without studio support. And yet we persist.