Spawn of the Slithis (1978)

I must confess that I’ve got a special fondness for clunkily sincere el cheapo retro 50’s contemporary horror creature features centering on the bloody exploits of a mean, nasty, butt-ugly humanoid beast that’s quite obviously this poor putz in a none-too-convincing rubber suit. Among my all-time favorites in this particular sub-genre are the shamefully overlooked underwater “ALIEN” prototype “Destination Inner Space,” the so-crummy-it’s-killer cheesebag classic “Track of the Moonbeast,” the snazzy subterranean “ALIEN” rip-off “Scared to Death,” the irresistibly abysmal Filipino clinker “Demon of Paradise,” and this sweet late 70’s honey.

We all know the endearingly clich├ęd plot for this one: the Imperial Electric Plant on the East Coast of California has been secretly dumping radioactive sludge in the ocean; said toxic bilge creates a lumpy, hulking, lumbering, seriously unsightly mud-caked slimy mutant with a ghastly complexion and a murderous anti-social disposition that first snacks on cats and dogs before going on to butcher hapless folks around Venice and Marina Del Ray by slashing faces to a grisly pulp, tearing off limbs, cutting into soft flesh with its lethal clawed hands, and eventually attacking a young couple making out on a houseboat. Of course, the cops prove to be totally ineffectual, so it’s up to several true blue everyman types — a goody goody two shoes high school science teacher, a take-charge macho fisherman, and a few heroic teenagers — to track down and kill the foul fiend before things get too out of hand.

This charmingly chintzy and clumsy winner possesses all the usual low-budget grindhouse movie vices, namely murky cinematography, a cornball score, a standard-issue straight-down-the-line predictable story, an “it ain’t over yet!” open-ended sequel set-up conclusion, and laughably amateurish acting (unsung fright film hambone Hy Pyke gets the top bad thesping dishonors with his grotesquely overdrawn eye-rolling comic cameo as a histrionic police chief). Paradoxically enough, it’s the film’s very glaring weaknesses that are part and parcel to its engagingly fumble-fingered allure, for writer/producer/ director Stephan Traxler invests every last lovably cruddy frame with a winningly wobbly floundering enthusiasm and sense of wholehearted commitment which in turn makes “Slithis” loads of righteously inept goofball fun. Traxler scores bonus points for throwing in handy helpings of gore, a dash of nudity, lotsa crackling vitality, and, best of all, even some stinging social commentary with a sub-plot concerning the public’s indifference to Slithis picking off luckless vulnerable and defenseless homeless people — these on-target biting observations predate the similarly themed (and equally underrated) C.H.U.D. by a good six years!