From the DVD case: One of the great cult classics, The Blob melds ’50s schlock sci-fi and teen delinquency pics even as it transcends these genres with strong performances and ingenious special effects. Made outside of Hollywood by a maverick film distributor, a crew experienced in religious and educational shorts, and a collection of theatrical talent from Philadelphia and New York, The Blob helped launch the careers of superstud Steve McQueen and composer Burt Bacharach. (1958, color)
Mark says: There’s something about the simplicity of The Blob that endeared this movie to me as a child. A meteor falls from space, breaks open, and a gray gooey substance emerges. The goo, once attached to a human, ingests the flesh, blood, and bone (turning red in the process) and grows a little bigger. The more people it ingests the larger it gets. Simple.
A group of local teenagers are the first to encounter The Blob (excluding the adults who have already been devoured by the thing), but because they are only teenagers, they have a difficult time convincing authorities of the threat. A great deal of the film involves the teens trying to persuade and warn the adult population of the growing menace. Unfortunately, the only menace the townsfolk will acknowledge are the teenagers.
As a preteen I was intrigued by the idea that the kids were the heroes. The adults (parents, police, etc) are well-meaning, but it’s the teenagers who convince the populace of the problem, and ultimately, the teenagers are the ones who arrive at a solution to defeat the monster. I wasn’t a teenager yet, but I soon would be, and this notion was something I could really sink my teeth into.
Two films invariably come up when discussing The Blob: X the Unknown, because it deals with a “blob-like” creature, and, perhaps more interestingly, Rebel Without a Cause.
Steve McQueen, in an early role, plays Steve Andrews, a sensitive and misunderstood teenager. It should be noted that McQueen was 27 years old during the filming of this picture, and rather looks it. But McQueen plays the part so well that he makes the other (real) teenagers seem like actors. It’s McQueen’s portrayal that draws comparison’s to Rebel Without a Cause.
Steve’s girlfriend, Jane, is played by Aneta Corsaut (you’ll remember her as Miss Crump from The Andy Griffith Show). Aneta is also a rather old looking teenager (she was 23 at the time of shooting), but she conveys a certain vulnerability that almost makes her believable.
The rest of the gang is portrayed by Robert Fields, Anthony Franke, and James Bonnet (in the roles of Tony, Al, and Mooch, respectively). Their performances seem amateurish, and only Robert Fields (1975’s The Stepford Wives) went on to anything that could be called a film career.
Jane’s little brother, Danny, is played by Kieth Almoney. Danny may be the most obnoxious child ever portrayed in cinematic history. His cutesy antics are almost nauseating. What else can I say? Luckily, Danny does not get a lot of screen time.
The Blob does feature some veteran actors, though. Olin Howlin (Them!, The Return of Doctor X) was a veteran of over 150 films. He plays the Old Man and is The Blob’s first victim. This would be Mr. Howlin’s last picture; he passed away in 1959. You may also recognize Steven Chase (When Worlds Collide) in the role of Dr. T. Hallen.
The Blob was an independent production (picked up by Paramount), filmed far from Hollywood, in and around Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This non-Hollywood locale gives the film a genuine small-town feel, and a unique flavor as far as sci-fi pictures of the era go. I’m particularly impressed with the powerful colors (they vaguely remind me of the strong color scheme in War of the Worlds).
Unfortunately, the film could have made use of some Hollywood know-how to quicken the pace. The film is rather talky, and most of the scenes run just a smidgen too long. Still, the well-scripted story (Irving H. Millgate/Kate Phillips) never leaves us bored.
The special effects for The Blob were created by Bart Sloane. His technique of using tiny sets, photographs, and a hydraulic lift to put The Blob in motion are quite effective. If you purchase the Criterion Collection release of this DVD, be sure to check out the stills of Sloane performing his magic.
In the early portion of the film, the shots of the monster were achieved by using a modified weather balloon. Later, colored silicone gel was used to achieve the illusion. The monster is never truly scary, but it is interesting to watch. The only remotely suspenseful scenes are when Steve and Jane are trapped in the supermarket cooler, and then again when they are trapped in the basement of the diner.
You can’t talk about The Blob without mentioning the opening theme song, written by Burt Bacharach. It’s so goofy and out of place for a sci-fi/horror flick that you are taken off-guard on first viewing. Somehow, though, after watching the film, the song seems more appropriate. Finally, after several viewings, you can’t imagine any music more fitting. I’ve provided a link below so you can listen to the song yourself.
A key sequence of the film features The Blob attacking patrons at a midnight spook show. This must have been great fun for audiences watching the film in an actual theater. By the way, the film playing as The Blob descends on the crowd is Daughter of Horror (aka Dementia), narrated by famous Johnny Carson sidekick, Ed McMahon.
When it is discovered that the only way to stop The Blob is by freezing it (sorry, I’m not much for spoiler alerts) the townsfolk race to gather all the CO2 fire extinguishers available. Even the principal of the high school (Jane’s father, Elbert Smith) is willing to smash a window to gather more extinguishers (in this way, even the adults are redeemed by the movie’s conclusion).
When the monster is finally frozen, it is air lifted to the Arctic, where it will stay frozen “as long as the Arctic stays cold.” We’re given some doubt about this, though, because after “The End” is flashed on the screen, the words turn into a cheesy question mark, leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever really be safe from The Blob. (Sequels and remakes were produced, but not until many years later. I’ve never had the desire to watch them.)
The Blob, though lacking in suspense and pace, is certainly a favorite movie from my youth. The monster, McQueen’s acting, the teenage delinquent theme, and the overall unusual look and feel of the film, make it a genuinely good time.
Director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., with the success of The Blob, was able to go on and direct another sci-fi oddity, 4D Man, the following year.
Scene to watch for: Watch closely after Steve sneaks out of his house to talk with Jane. As their conversation is concluding there is a shot of Steve speaking earnestly to Jane. You’ll notice some smoke rising over McQueen’s left shoulder. That smoke is from a cigarette McQueen was hiding behind his back while they filmed the shot.
Line to listen for: “Maybe the thing you saw was a . . . a monster?”
Trivia: Steve McQueen was originally signed for a three picture deal, but he was so difficult to work with that the producers released him from his contract for the other two movies.
Recommendation: If you can get your hands on the Criterion Collection release of this DVD, I highly recommend picking it up. It is an amazing transfer with clear, crisp colors and well-balanced sound, not to mention several other perks (including a special collectible poster).
Bonus: Listen to the theme song.
Wikipedia entry: The Blob.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! out of 5.