Tracking the green slime in The Green Slime (1966): intermedial representations of menace in 60s sci fi horror, Part 1.

Rev, Nov 21, 2017

In the past year, I have sensed a continued retrograde movement in the culture, which is worrisome. According to my thinking, the culture has been in a retrograde motion for more than a decade, and as such that serves as a riptide that, even as those on the left wrestle with those on the right, continues to pull the whole grip of the wrestlers in the tide further right, right out to sea. At the same time, I have argued that when a liberal pingponging begins to reveal itself, succumbing to the riptide by in anger only, and without sense, beginning to mimic and pingpong rightwing attacks of a former debate period, this inversionary irrational movement creates “monsters”. In the same way, when they attack from the position of having let the person they attack control the conversation, allowing themselves to be hypnotized by and paralyzed by anger and rage, by his tweeting, falling, therefore, into the troll war, which has been raging since May, then he becomes a “god”. That is why we are no longer in a period of presidents and peoples, but of gods and monsters. Then, one more thing, I began to wonder, well, then, if the climate is so contested, how do you get back to your original position, to reestablish your ground and fight from a POV originating in your voice, and not a reaction to his? Formerly, I have argued that art only begins to occur as one gradually drops off the training wheels and approaches the heat and fire of the central core of elan or life force which circulates vertically through my way of thinking. To state that differently, one moves from rationalization and all its scaffolds, in adjunct spaces, to the space of agency, in the heat of life. But, lately, I have begun to acknowledge that the way can be so blocked by so much confusion that this leaves the artist to start making art from the margins and, in fact, make the art itself about the wriggling that must be done, as if through a narrow, underground cave channel, in order to crawl to the light (this modus have much in common with forms of divination, which I have also been greatly interested in of late). Thus, I developed the idea, partly verified by a number of developments in the art world, especially in Euro, of troll sculpture or wriggling figuration.

A major document in my development of these ideas in the Spring of 2017 was the movie The Green Slime (1966), which I saw not once, but twice. It is quite good, for several reasons. But, most of all, it struck a chord because the green slime is represented in a wriggling way that bespeaks the situation and status of creativity in the current moment. For that, I first have to figure out how and why the movie “worked” as a visual experience, and in fact, for all its obvious phoniness, made itself come off as a real terror. In the movie, there is the fictive space of the characters

slim 1and then there is the constructed space of the outer space, basically a stage set with artificial creations, where they act.

slim 2this space also includes scale models which they can interact with on set

slim 3And then toy miniature models which they do not

slim 4there is no question, from the first, that one is not expected to be fooled by the artifice and special effects, and think them real. No, that point is granted, this is miniature toy work, made famous as a film art all its own by the Japanese, here being imported by the Italians with American help, to be enjoyed in its own right. The only point that makes or breaks the movie is if at some point in the interaction of the spaces what is obviously fake somehow emits a vibe of visual compellingness that comes off on screen, within the context of the screen, as “real,” even if for a moment. This effect, which I call, to oppose it to the uncanny valley, the uncanny peak, is essential to a movie with special effects, and, as these primitive movies in the miniature art form indicate, the issue is not whether the special effect is special or believed to be real, the issue is whether or not they interact with the actors in a way that is convincing in a dramatic way in the moment on screen.

As a result, the space of the movie is set up, to use my model developed to address radio pictures, as follows

slim 5

and in this movie, as noted, the fictive space is the middle of the movie where the characters are located, then the background space is where the miniature creations occur

slim 6

within the background, the backmost level being space, the middle is host, the object on which things are happening, and then the slime itself seems to be staged in the foreground of the background. Then, within the fictive space, there is the background set, the characters and actors in the middle, and then their interaction with an assailant of some sort in the foreground. But, in this particular case, what really happens is the background set of the middle space becomes as it were the doorway into the magical miniature unreal background space in whole and by that parenthesis of the background and the background of the middle a parenthetic coalition of space and style is made to convince the audience that what they are looking at is a cult space, outer space for real

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in which the A defining the parenthesis, being artifice, balances with the C cult space of some sense of actual ground in a depiction of outer space being made, to transit over that terrain in a way that makes for good convincing visuals for the viewership. And it is by this strong impulse, emphasizing artifice, that one comes to, even in the fictive space, accept, in the manner of suspending one’s disbelief, in the fact that in this one the actors are more or less going to be playing with dolls and mannequins for the whole time, and, for the run of the movie, you are OK with that

slim 9

but, then, it is necessary for the movie to suture these layers together in a fun and also convincing way, in order to work, in order to not to seem like just another “rubber suit” movie, and this it does by impressively creative visuals. This is done by mixing it up in the elements of the background, but, more importantly, continuing to send elements of the background forward into the middle space, to mess with them. This takes a good deal of balance or finesse, and right from the start, the movie shows its skill in this. The first sighting of the green slime occurs when the space troop has a mission to collect a wreck on a meteor hurtling through space. It is a typical big rock, probably made of clay, then a further backdrop set behind it, stars.

slim 10The fact that the first object they have to do something on in space is a meteor and not a planet adds a certain oblique eccentric zest to the proceedings, first of all because it is amazing in a futuristic way that they can land on a zooming meteor, but, then, meteors are less well known as terrains, so they are estranging, then, too, as they are small and moving, at least in the average mind of the viewer, this allows for the spaceship that transports the characters from fictive space to background space to make as it were a glancing blow against the thing

slim 11where the eccentricity of the sighting, in the mind at least, provides as it were an alibi for the bouncing awkwardness of the model in its movements, to momentarily collude in a brief illusion of “realism” relative to each other so that in that little wobble of visual-mental space it feels, however artificial it is, like outer space, it is grounded

slim 12

then they revert to standard carts on the surface of another planet routines, which are filmed according to the norm, but with just a hint of the uncanny, because they are doing this on a meteor

slim 14but then, having come in over the gap to collude into an illusionistic moment, by contact of craft and meteor, in the middle space of the background, they now further avail themselves of the eccentricity of the meteor by allowing in the fore-nooks of it, in the foreground of the model, an element unseen by the crew, a pollution, a contagion, as a promiscuous meteor would, in fact, be more likely to pick up, according to the miasmic-contagious imagination, the green slime itself, nice tucked as it were into the foreground of the mission

slim 15this is quite well done, to present it in this way

slim 16

it is also true that right from the first, the movie as it were pauses, to undertake an abstract study of it per se

slim 17it has a life of its own

slim 28 1it, as it were, is pushed forward out of the front of the background space, into the front space of the visual plane of the movie, in the viewer’s space, who comprehend it, by the rules of frontal hypnosis, as a kind of abstract entoptic presence, which wows by the fact that in its abstraction it seems to have burrowed in under the fictive space it passes to take on as well as character and a dramatic motion and the like. It is in your face, from the get go

slim 18

but. then. the fun thing being, for the suspense of the movie, is that the characters are oblivious, and as it was first introduced, as an eccentric oops in a nook in the front of the meteor landscape, now it hitches a ride with the man in the spacecraft and thus finds its way into the fictive space of the movie

slim 19it is by the push-pull of the background space, on the fictive space, and by the first glancing blow, then next intrusive inyourface presentation of the slime, then, at last, to cause it to recede again to the feedback loop of glancing, hitching a ride, that by this back and forth a tension is created all of which acts together to evoke a sense of menace coming from space against the characters in the movie.

Then, next, in order to accentuate dramatically that the menace of the green slime is being carried forward by accident back to the mission site, the source of its contamination must be blown up

slim 20but then, while that blow up saves earth, it jeopardizes the crew, because the blast will emit a force field that will take them down (an age old trope, used to convey the danger of space) so their shield takes a hit and in the taking of the hit turns green, suggesting, but not saying, that the green slime is aboard

slim 21and then the blast force of the blast makes the overheated space without dangerous and green

slim 22and their escape brings jubilation back at the base

slim 23but, it is also here, that the movie makes first use of advanced futuristic visuals, of having, somehow, a camera that can track them in space, and show their route, and their survival (where that camera would be is uncertain)

slim 24this introduces the element of the movie that I want most to write about. Since this is a TV in a movie, it is fundamentally intermedial, but an intramedial representation of it. Since it is asks us to view it as viewers pretty much in the same way as we view the movie, but with one remove of frame, so that it is a movie inside a movie, I place this in the frontal space, the inyourface accostive space of the movie. Moreover, in order to work, it requires that a character comes forward out of the fictive space (though not really, but I cant work out the complexities of that) for him or her to as it were play the representative of the viewer looking at the movie, but looking at the movie over his or her shoulder, so that, for a brief moment, the movie abdicates its position as a movie happening in fictive space, to step forward to simply represent itself as a movie being watched by other movie watchers in the movie, along with us.

slim 25

then, the most important part of this is that provided by the vertical inset graphic, which indicates that addition to bringing a character forward in an emissary role to then represent us as we view the movie as a movie in a movie with him or her, the view back into the movie, in the fictive space, and in the background space, is by way of a distancing device. That is, and most of the time it looks through the fictive space into some background miniature space, the movie situates the frontal space up in the glass onion level of communication by way of graphics and abstractions only, but then forces you to view the content of that sight down the whoosh of falling asleep, where what happens in the background is seen as if through a telescope turned around, my favorite metaphor for micropsic perception of space, unbelievably so, disorientally so, imagined as being in the other room, in other words, this distancing suturing is an oblique and estranging way to add mystery and allure, and the line of sight that I title it is intercom space. It is in, in fact, intercom/surveillant space, the space of sightlines by way of the remote control camera, this movie’s version of a type of intramedial visual distancing or intensification devices which go back to the origin of modern horror in Nosferatu, and all the way along a great line of examples of weird videos of horrors in horror, this is the dark and wonderful heart of this movie.

Now, the invasion of the ship by the slime is carried out, cinematically, in both the fictive space, and, then, to accentuate it, in the intercom space between the frontispiece or pronaos and the opisthodomic (background space) (these terms, while undoubtedly pedantic, taken from Frazer’s commentary on Pausanias, nonetheless allows one to talk in a regular way of the fact that all ritual space had a fore and backspace, and a cult space or holy of holies in there too, the pronaos is the front area before getting to the cella, the interior space, and, then, all temples also had a backspace, an opisthodomic space, so, that is what, when I deal with this in a more physical way, I call them. Thus, this movie has some good give and take in the cella, or middle fictive space. In one sequence, all the staff are in the mess, having a party, but the fun thing is that the walls are decorated with snazzy mod graphics of a swirling nature which communicates to us both that we are in outer space, and the place is décor’d accordingly

slim 26and that, somewhere in the back area of the cella or fictive space, there is a contamination happening, which results in the slime and its creations coming aboard, this pattern referring to its red eyes

slim 27the fun part of this back and forth is that it, as all horror movies do, implicates the humans as weak for taking their eye off the ball, as when humans party, and pour the champagne, just as much as when they shower, there is trouble brewing

slim 28this implication is then further subdivided into the fact that the tension between the skipper and the captain over the heart and body of Ariana Paluzzi is the main source of tension in the place, and both that specific tension, and her sexual energy, wakes up monsters in the miasmic horror universe

slim 29indeed, unless I am mistaken, it is when skipper handsome guy ex asks her to dance

slim 30and he then insists with his phallic jaw that she still loves him, making her wet, in a way, that the foaming something in the pants in the storeroom, if not on him, foams up

slim 31and tumesces into its mature, identifiable form as the green slime manifest

slim 32and then surges forward into the pronaos space of the camera, closeup, to give us a green slime boner, if you will, bam

slim 33this further sequences the crazy pop art pictures behind the worrying current with added impulse of emergency beckoning, as they go red

slim 34then code red breaks out, foreign presence in the ship

slim 35so, that is a nicely orchestrated section, as per the time-tested traditions of horror of blaming contaminations from without on sexual tension. Then, there is a second very good confrontation sequence, also entirely in the fictive space, the model work having moved forward onto the stage of the cella. Here, they encounter the thing, whatever it is, in half grown form, on a catwalk, it’s quite a good, halfformed whatisit?

slim 36then, spliced by the railing, it reaches up its tentacles, also very good

slim 37then the green slime monster is introduced to us also in an entoptic way as filtered through the what am I seeing? mesh of the net tossed over it

slim 38and, at last, the cycloptic red eye of the thing invades the picture space

slim 39now, sometimes, the cella sequences, that is, on the stage of the real people and actors, interacting with the models, in the fictive real space, are simply, wonderfully daft. The set director or someone had to obviously figure out some interesting ways in which the crew would have to encounter these little R2D2 contraptions of slime with feelers flinging out all over, and since that was their structure, the encounter had to be of a nature where things are circling around it in a somewhat dodgy way in order to give maxium look out! just missed! energy to the rotation of its menace. This is best done in a truly wonderful visual sequence of the thing invading the infirmary of all places, using the age old device of evening out or handicapping the contest by making one side infirm, in this case, the human, and so too the humans involved get to cast themselves in the victim role, fighting off a more powerful other. So the thing breaks out, and starts lashing out

slim 40beds are wheeled out of the way

slim 41there are lots of good action shots, broken by abstract shots of the tentacles feelering out at them, grasping, wriggling at them

slim 42then, there is a confrontation

slim 43and an attack

slim 45then there is a counterattack, and more good shots like this

slim 46now, it’s true, since one of the major purposes of the station is to be a hospital, the movie felt that, having done that sort of thing swell once, let’s do it again, it might’ve gone to the well once too often, but here too more of these strange shots of beds being rolled around by nurses in a game of musical chairs, but of beds, with a menace abstractly imagined as the figuration of the very wake space left in the conning trail of all the visual bed zooming

slim 47In Part 2 of this note, having noted some routine use of space in the fictive space, especially with the art, I will focus on some amazing intercom/surveillant space creations in which The Green Slime not only takes on a life of its own, but seems to become a menacing character evoking the overall menace of space in whole, that is, it finally becomes a cult presence.

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