Director/Screenplay – Stephen Traxler, Producers – Paul Fabian & Stephen Traxler, Photography – Robert Caramico, Music – Steve Zuckerman, Art Direction – Catherine Deeter. Production Company – Fabtrax Films
Alan Blanchard (Wayne Connors), Judy Motulsky (Jeff Connors), Mello Alexandria (Chris Alexander), J.C. Claire (Dr John), Win Condict (The Monster), Dennis Lee Falt (Dr Erin Burick), Rocky Fumarelli (Preston), John Hatfield (Bunky), Stephen J. Hoag (Doug), Wendy Rastattar (Jennifer), Hy Pyke (Jack Dunn), Daphne Cohen (Helen Dunn)
Venice, California is plagued by a series of killings where victims are found mauled near the canals. High school journalism teacher Wayne Connors becomes fascinated by the case. He obtains a sample of mud found at the scene of one of the attacks and a scientist friend confirms that it has radioactive traces. He believes that the attacks are being caused by a Slithis, a creature that was found formed out of the radioactively contaminated mud created by leakages at another nuclear power plant, and that similar things have happed at the power plant in Venice. Pressing on past the ridicule of the police who are determined to blame the killings on a cult, Wayne sets out to track down the monster.
Spawn of the Slithis was a low-budget film that attained minor attention in the late 1970s. Nobody involved with it appears to have gone on to do much anything again. Stephen Traxler only ever directed a single tv movie again, although has a number of subsequent credits as a producer and production manager.
Spawn of the Slithis was a fairly typical monster movie of the era. It came along just a couple of years too early to join the great 1980s spate of Alien (1979) copies – see the likes of Scared to Death (1980), Without Warning (1980), Forbidden World (1982), Parasite (1982) et al – of which it could slip in alongside with little difference. Having been made just that other side of the dividing line however, it is less an H.R. Giger lookalike than it draws on an older model – The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). The associated explain-all cause belongs very much to the 1950s – atomic mutation – mixed with a few dashes of the 1970s’ prime cause d’etre – pollution.
In most regards, Spawn of the Slithis is not a terribly interesting film. It is not particularly a bad one – although there is one hilarious bad movie moment where the police lieutenant ridicules Alan Blanchard’s ideas of the monster. The actor in question – who chooses not to take any screen credit – plays with a balmy overwrought hamminess that makes for one of the truly worst performances ever committed to celluloid.
The problem is more that director Stephen Traxler allows everything to transpire in a dull way. There is very little ever engendered in terms of suspense and tension when it comes to the monster’s attacks. The one scene that stands out is the one where the monster invades a houseboat to attack Stephen J. Hoag and Wendy Rattastar as the girl he has brought home. The scene is notable for the fact the guy is despatched fairly quickly whereas the attack on Rattastar is dealt with in some detail, showing her screaming and trying to get away and the monster ripping her top off – in other words, the old standby of the monster as rapist. The film certainly gets itself together for a well-sustained climax – albeit one that seems to be modeled in no small part on the latter half of Jaws (1975) – with various parties trying to trap and fight off the monster aboard a fishing boat.