The Return of the Monster Mash

“Slithis” is a delightful throwback to a bygone era of monster films that spawned from the 1950s. Science, acting and pacing take a backseat to the thrill of seeing a creepy monster create havoc in Venice, California. The film deliberately takes a slow pace, in order to pad the running time to 86 minutes, and this can only be recommended to the select few that love and respect this unique brand of cinema. Code Red recently discovered the negatives that were thought to be lost, and restored the picture for DVD.

The premise could easily be ripped from today’s headlines, and focuses on a nuclear leak that creates a mutant sea monster. Imagine Troma’s “Class of Nuke ‘Em High,” minus the lively energy, high-school setting and lowbrow humor, which is replaced by a creepy monster and inept scientific research.

In an early scene, where a scaly piece of the monster is examined by Dr. John (J.C. Claire), it is stated that the creature is organic, and yet somehow also inorganic. It is quite possibly that type of logic that lovers of bad movies will relish.

Of course, anyone that remembers the monster films of the early 1950s, can also remember that aside from inept scientific research those films also showcased some of the worst acting in movies, and “Slithis” is no different. The film follows Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard), who resembles Steve Guttenberg, minus the charm and personality. Connors is a high-school journalism teacher that for some bizarre reason decides to investigate the strange murders in the Venice area.

The creature has been killing winos and hippies, which is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, so why not leave Slithis alone?

Aside from Blanchard, none of the actors rise above mediocrity, with the notable exception of Mello Alexandria. Alexandria plays the sea captain and adds a bit of respectability to the picture. He is obliviously the one in the cast with some ability to act, and that is why his career has endured. The film should have focused on him as the main protagonist, and that would have created a better picture.

The film bounces back and forth between Connors’ mission to uncover the truth, and the perspective of Slithis, which feels like you’re looking through a Coke bottle. And maybe the biggest distinction between this monster movie and ones from the bygone era is that this film contains more of the red stuff that gore hounds love. The unique dual perspective and gore make “Slithis” a cut above the rest of the monster movies on the market.

Another special treat to audiences that were luckily enough to catch this in theaters was the “Slithis Survival Kit.” This contained everything one would need if they went into shock while witnessing the horrors of this picture.

The picture never takes itself seriously, and that enables the viewer to shut his brain off and relax. That light tone is set early by Stephen Traxler, who made this movie shortly after serving in Vietnam. It was an attempt to make something lighthearted after the harshness of what he had seen in Vietnam. It would have been great if Code Red could have gotten his participation on the DVD, but his interview in Stephen Thrower’s “Nightmare USA,” contains all the information you need to know on this 12-day production.

Code Red did an excellent job in creating a pristine picture out of long-lost negatives. It is clear to see the love and care that went into this restoration job. The only extras on the DVD are the original theatrical trailer and trailer reel of Code Red titles.

The trailer reel contains some memorable titles that one can look forward to. The reel gets started with “Horror High,” which is a combination of monster and high-school flicks that seems like a real treat. (It will hit stores in August.) “The Black Klansman” is exactly what the title states, and seems like a true piece of exploitation heaven. “A Long Ride from Hell” and extended trailers for “Family Honor” and “Brute Corps” are included. But the most interesting trailer is for the incestuous Robert Klein vehicle called “Rivals.”

In spite of all of this, “Slithis” is not a film for everyone. In fact, the casual moviegoer will not be interested in seeing this. This is simply one of those movies that is so bad it is good, and the audience for this picture will get to discover it again with a crisp, clear picture that surpasses the Media Home Entertainment VHS of the early ‘80s.

About Anthony Benedetto 153 Articles
I have always had a tremendous passion for the cinema. For me, movies provide a great escape. When done right, the characters and stories are something that I am instantly drawn into. Over the years, I’ve unintentionally become a movie encyclopedia that I often find myself the recipient of late night phone calls from my friends while at Blockbuster [One such conversation between the Editor of this site and the film “Redbelt” immediately comes to mind.] As far as my preferences go however, I love both the cult cinema and the classics. My love of film ranges from features such as “Amadeus” to “Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A- Rama.” I have a long range of film heroes as well that include, Michael J. Fox, Lloyd Kaufman, Robby Benson, Michael Caine and Jeff Bridges. On this site, I hope to teach people about cult cinema and have them rent films that they normally would not, turning you into the monster that I have become. Someday, I hope to be the star and director of my cult film, employing the old stop motion techniques used in films like “Flesh Gordon.”

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