The Blob (1958)

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*. Chances are you’ve heard of The Blob. Chances are that even if you haven’t heard of it, if someone told you there was a movie called The Blob you’d guess it was a 1950s drive-in feature about a blob from outer space that lands on Earth and starts to eat things. Because that’s just what blobs do — the target audience would have gleaned that much from watching films of amoebas in science class — and this is a movie called The Blob.
*. In other words, this is a very strong premise, archetypal in its simplicity. The Blob is infinitely plastic, capable of being interpreted in any number of ways. Does it represent mindless consumerism? Godless communism? A bulging, blood-swollen id? All and none of the above?
*. The strength of the (low) concept is this film’s saving grace. It has to be, since it has almost nothing else going for it.
*. I credit it with one great scene, which is when the old man (Olin Howlin) discovers the meteorite and first gets the goo on his hand. That’s surprisingly well done. The Blob slowly oozes down a stick toward his hand, and when he quickly reverses his grip on the stick the goo just as suddenly reverses motion and grabs him. That’s a great scene. Enjoy it, because it’s all you’re going to get.
*. Steve (or “Steven” as he is credited here, for the last time) McQueen’s debut. Preposterously posing as a teenager at the ripe old age of 27. Despite being the only real actor around, he appears to be somewhat sick with himself for being here.
*. The rest of the gang look about the same age (Aneta Corsaut as Jane was in her mid-twenties as well). This isn’t that surprising, but it does undercut the film’s main theme, which is the conflict, eventually overcome, between the rebel-without-a-cause teens and the town’s adult authority figures (police, firefighters, the school principal). If everyone looks like an adult this doesn’t have the same impact.
*. There are moments that are so bad they’re good. When the kids are in the woods and they hear a dog barking and they assume a house must be near one of them says, rather unhelpfully, that “it doesn’t sound like a house, it sounds like a dog.” I wonder if that was even in the script. It sounds like such an absurd improvisation.
*. Another bit of great badness is Jane’s little brother Danny, whose performance is so awful that many commentators have been led to speculate if either the actor or his character were mentally handicapped.

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*. These moments are, however, few and far between. As for the Blob itself, it’s basically a silicone breast implant with red vegetable dye added. The special effects are terrible, but the director, Irwin Yeaworth, had no money to work with. Even so, he apparently came in under budget.
*. We’ll be safe “as long as the arctic stays cold.” Hm. I guess that is a problem now, isn’t it? Damn global warming.
*. Yes, it’s a drive-in classic. That doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s cheap, slackly directed, and poorly acted. The Blob itself is a joke, the one-note plot is strained past breaking (no one believes the kids, but they’re telling the truth!), and yet it still sort of works, at least as an SF-horror meme if not a movie.
*. The strangest thing about it is that there would be a number of sequels (and a 1988 remake) that weren’t any better. Larry Cohen’s The Stuff (1985) was the most interesting cast-off, though not a lineal descendant. Perhaps there’s only so much you can do with this material, or perhaps Jack H. Harris (the producer of such other classic low-budget fare as Equinox and Dark Star) didn’t want anyone to make a good Blob movie. Intentional or not, that lack of success is quite a perverse accomplishment.

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