Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spawn of the Slithis (1978)

This was the second time I'd seen "Slithis." The first time I saw it was several years ago as a Weird-Wednesday-last-minute-alternate. So much of that screenings lasting impact on me seemed to be rapt up in the performance of one man and one man only, Hy Pyke, as the local Chief of Police.

His 2 scene performance was almost completely eyeball-driven, maniacal, abrasive, and absolutely hilarious in it's attempts to convey high drama. It was such a show-stopping, disorienting 2 minutes of cinema that years after my initial viewing of it I was denying myself sleep just to take it all in again.

The film is basically a take on the "Creature from the Black Lagoon." The sea creature in question, Slithis, is a bruting, hulking, slime-spewing beast born of vague radioactivity; basically, a guy in a rubber suit. Here's a production photo:

Throughout the film Slithis lurches from the water to the land slapping, palming, and skinning any animal that gets in it's way.

Meanwhile, a frustrated school teacher named Wayne (Alan Blanchard, given off a strange Steve Guttenberg vibe) attempts to put an end to the whole "those who can: do, those who can't: teach" philosophy by spearheading an investigation to find out what the hells been killing everyone in Venice. His group of monster hunters includes his girlfriend Jeff, his biologist buddy Dr. John, and Chris, the black boat captain whose every exchange with Wayne somehow manages to make him look even whiter than he normally does.

The one thing I wasn't prepared for Thursday night when I walked into the theater was to see how well "Slithis" stood up after a second viewing. Hy Pyke's scene-assault was only one piece of the enjoyment puzzle, so to speak. Some other amusing moments included:

--The opening slow-motion-fresbee-game between a skinny kid and a fat kid that ends in animal mutilation.

--The young high school girls who run around campus listening to the news on their radio.

--The bearded, good-natured, scientist-friend, Dr. John, whose entire character seems designed to explain the plot. My favorite quote of his occurs when Wayne's girlfriend asks him one of those inquisitive, yet skeptical-girlfriend questions. I think it was something along the lines of "Why did they call it that?," to which Dr. John responds "For the same reason your parents named you ‘Jeff.'"

--The drunken Country and Western bar that features turtle races, and is the origin of one of the films best portions; a 15 minute date sequence that seems to belong to an entirely different movie until it abruptly comes to end at the grubby slap-happy hands of Slithis.

--The "Star Trek" calender inside the lavish home of the deformed doctor.

I imagine watching the first half of the film on video might be a little tedious, but as a movie-going experience, the time flew by for me. Slow pacing, bad acting, and low production costs aside though, your enjoyment of this movie will probably come down to how much fun you have watching the guy in the rubber suit, and in the end, who wouldn't love this face?

"Spawn of the Slithis" screened on Thursday 8/7/08 at the Alamo Ritz and was presented by Terror Thursday.

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