The Blob (1958)
Indescribable... Indestructible! Nothing can stop it!
Year of Release: 1958
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Running Time: 86 minutes (1:26)
Director: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr./Russell S. Doughton Jr.
Steve McQueen ... Steve Andrews
Aneta Corsaut ... Jane Martin
Earl Rowe ... Lt. Dave
John Benson ... Sgt. Jim Bert
Robert Fields ... Tony Gressette
James Bonnet ... 'Mooch' Miller
Tony Franke ... Al
One of the most memorable of the giant monster films of the '50s, this sci-fi classic concerns a shapeless, flesh dissolving mass that emerges from a fallen meteor and grows larger with each victim it absorbs. At first scoffed at by the police, teenage hero Steve Andrews and his girlfriend, Jane Martin, enlist their drag-racing buddies to alert the town to the danger, before being wrapped in a diner that is completely enveloped by the Blob in the film's spectacular climax.
The Blob, remindin' us that when you go pokin' your stick into somethin' gooey, unbidden, you deserve whatever happens to ya.
And speakin' of things we'd all prefer stayed outside our orbit, I'd like to take a minute to let all the jerks of the world know that there're those of us who appreciate the fact that you refuse to compromise your identities in order to gain social acceptance.
You may be wonderin' where I'm goin' with this or whether I've been down at Barky Bark's Pet Outlet lickin' the Cane toad with the teenagers who can't afford magic mushrooms, so I'll just come right out with it: whoever came up with the rule that says you gotta be nice to someone just 'cause they're nice to you needs to get a job as a Walmart door greeter for a coupla weeks and dislodge their head from Mr. Rogers' hinder.
I'm not tryna be ugly, it's just that every time we plan to do somethin' that normal people do Sadie Bonebreak's better-looking half always insists on goin' even after ya spend half an hour spellin' out all the reasons she's gonna hate it.
Seems like this all started when Cleave Furguson started datin' Roxanne Bigelow, 'cause Roxanne just fell right into place like she'd been one of us since we were hidin' bullfrogs in Mrs. Danziger's coffee thermos. Mrs. Sadie, by contrast, spent her formative years in the library as part of the summer reading program wearin' mittens to protect 'erself from paper cuts - in other words, takin' her anywhere's like when your mom used to make you bring your little sister along to play with your friends. She either gets hurt, embarrassed, or stuck somewhere that requires the fire department to come extricate 'er, and by the time you get home for supper she's already spilled the beans to your parents and suddenly *you* are the bad guy.
Anyway, like I was about to say - it was hotter'n a blacksmith's ballsac last weekend, so Billy Hilliard wanted to go tubin' down the river to cool off. Which's fine, I was definitely on board given that Shankles's been parked in front of the box fan nonstop for the last week soakin' up all the air conditionin', 'cept Billy couldn't remember where he left his tube and ended up gettin' Mrs. Sadie when he called up Sadie classic to see if it was in her shed.
"Mah fube ova veow?" Billy asked instead of hangin' up and callin' Sadie's cell like anyone with a lick of sense woulda done.
"Oh, hi Billy! How are you? We were just looking at bath towel designs for the addition Sadie promised to add to the house this summer. We can't decide between the monogrammed hers & hers with the floral-print caligraphy, or the--" Mrs. Sadie rambled.
"Mah fube womuh, have you veeh ih?" Billy repeated, having realized his mistake far too late.
"Well, what's it look like?" she murmured, obviously put out over Billy's lack of interest in the finer points of crapper feng shui.
"Bwack. Bow' thix fee' high. Roun'," he explained while tryin' to hold the phone and rub his temples to prevent the emerging headache from intensifying.
"It's in the garage! Tell him to get it the hell outta there so I can finally put my welder away!" Sadie yelled from across the room.
"Were you boys going swimming?" Mrs. Sadie asked in that sweet little pixie voice that makes you wanna force 'er to drink whiskey at gunpoint till she sounds like a human bein' instead of an animated K-Pop singer.
"You're screwed man, she's gotcha now," I groaned. "Might as well take it like a man."
"My tits're sweatin' like a pothead on random drug test day, tell 'em I'm comin' with," Sadie hollered just before the backdoor slammed shut.
"Sadie wants to go too. Ya know, nobody's ever invited me..." Mrs. Sadie started sayin'.
"Oh, you'd hate it," I assured 'er after takin' the phone from Billy before he dragged us even further down the rabbit hole.
"Snakes, rusty old car chassis, and would you believe some people even PEE in that water? Nah, the river's no place for a nice girl like you. And skin cancer! Those UV rays, I'm tellin' ya, you'll outlive us all stayin' home outta the sun," I continued.
"Oh. I see. Well, maybe another time then," she whimpered before hangin' up.
"Didn' wolk dih ih?" Billy grumbled.
"Never had a chance," I confirmed.
By the time we got over to Sadie's place to collect Billy's tube they were both waitin' in their suits, and I've prolly mentioned this before, but you might as well forget tryna string an intelligible sentence together when Mrs. Sadie's wearin' anything less than a turtle neck, 'cause her two redeeming qualities're basically weapons-grade brain drainers. Just watchin' 'er bend down to pick up 'er noseplugs'd turn Bill Nye into Larry the Cable Guy, and when I saw 'er adjustin' 'er two-piece I pretty much gave up on tryna stop 'er from goin' since anything I said woulda come out soundin' like somethin' Kanye West wrote in the bathroom.
Now, I'm a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong, so lemme just state for the record that Mrs. Sadie did an alright job of keepin' 'er boobs tubed out there. She weathered the dead trout brushin' up against 'er hand pretty well and only partially deafened us when we went under the old bridge and cleared out all the spider webs with our faces, and she seemed downright pleased with all the fishermen whistlin' at 'er from the bank (Sadie, on the other hand, has never shared her missus' sentiment when it comes to cat-calls, and as a veteran tuber, had packed a slingshot and a jar fulla ball bearings for the occasion, which she put to frequent use).
Turns out Sadie didn't pack nearly enough ammo though, 'cause by the time we'd floated down to the Topaz (for those of you who've never partaken of this cultural experience 'cause you live in the city an're afraid of bumpin' into the corpses of police informants - normally whatcha do is park a rig where you plan to get out) there was quite a gatherin' of desperate perverts waitin' to get Mrs. Sadie to pose for pictures. She'da prolly stood out there the resta the evenin' doin' it too, 'cept one of 'em hadda go and point out the leech she had clingin' to the underside of 'er right hooter.
It's been a coupla days and I'm finally startin' to hear sounds in the lower octaves again, but the shriek she let out when she saw this thing hangin' off 'er reportedly shattered the light bulb in Sty Sullivan's porch fixture (Sty typically calls the cops two or three times a week just for somethin' to do, so I'm not sure I buy it), and about a half second later that bikini top went flyin' and so did she.
Catchin' up to 'er wasn't that tough 'cause every few steps one of those bunker busters'd fly up and stun 'er for a few seconds, but gettin' 'er to hold still so we could remove the leech was another matter. Anytime one of us'd get a hand on 'er she'd start throwin' elbows, or in the case of Billy and I, firin' kicks at our crotchal regions, and so she made it purt'near to Tijuana Tom's Mexican Cuisine and Custom Pinata Palace by the time we got 'er corralled and Sadie was able to yank that sombitch off 'er.
That got 'er calmed down enough for us to get 'er inside the Videodome, and we wrestled 'er into an old promotional Full Moon Entertainment shirt that'd been hangin' on the wall since 1992 before anybody got arrested for indecent exposure... or exceptional exposure, I don't even know what you'd call this.
'Course Edgar Mastrude was P.O.'d about the shirt and claimed it was a priceless relic of home video history until I was able to convince 'im that enough people'd seen Mrs. Sadie bouncin' through town that she'd probably tripled its value if he was willin' to auction it, and he was able to get a grip after that. Billy and me got a pool goin' based upon how many babies'll be born 9 months from now too, so if anybody wants to get in on it just let me know. In any event, we beat the heat, so the day wasn't a total loss.
I've spent two days tryna mop the mascara off the hardwood in the Videodome and I've come to the conclusion that it'd be simpler to just get it designated as a historic local landmark and call it good, 'cause that gunk Mrs. Sadie smears on 'er face must come out of a tar pit in Venezuela or somethin' if it can survive the combined might of Mr. Clean, the Scrubbing Bubbles, and the Toilet Duck.
Anyway, that was about all the estrogen I could stand for one day, so Billy and I grabbed the first flick we saw from the 1950s and got the heck outta there before Edgar committed those melons to memory and tried makin' me finish his shift so he could go home and do somethin' unnatural with Bambi. Fortunately what we ended up snaggin' was my favorite science fiction flick of the decade 'cause I dunno if we coulda handled somethin' like Crash of the Moons after the day we'd had. After a microwavin' a coupla leftover grease-burgers from the Grime Time and gettin' some decent cushions under our boulder-bruised hinders our quality of life improved dramatically. You prolly already know the skinny on this one, so I'll skip the oversimplified metaphors and head straight into the educational portion of the program. First, drag racin' backwards down a city street's one thing, but run a red light and you've taken the offramp of no return into Nogoodniksburg. Second, blastin' your child's pet protoplasm into space and tellin 'em it ran away is not only dishonest, but downright inconsiderate when aimed towards a planet with carbon-based life forms. And third, there're far more hazardous biological specimens to be found lurking in the darkness of a movie theater than those left by men in raincoats.
The movie begins with Steve McQueen and his chick (Jane) neckin' on the outskirts of town until she starts gettin' suspicious about his alleged astronomical motivations for takin' 'er there and he decides to quit pawin' at 'er to go chase a fallen star so she don't end up with a molestial body and hafta move across the country and change 'er name to escape the eternal, burning shame of bodily impurity. Meanwhile, down the road apiece, a Marshall Applewhite lookin' hermit livin' unchanged in the wilderness since the dawn of toilet paper also notices the meteorite streak across the sky and manages to locate and prod it with a stick till it cracks open and a wad of Big League Chew slithers onto his hand and starts chowin' down like a panda in a weeaboo man cave. Unfortunately, while that's goin' on, Steve's hunted a two mile stretch of the connecting road like a Californian with a deer tag and given up on findin' the sky jockey, only when he's about to turn around the old coot darts across the road in front of his Plymouth Cranbrook like a clinically depressed park squirrel and purt'near gets squished into codger cobbler. Steve stops and picks 'im up despite the risk of havin' to listen to a bullet point presentation about what's wrong with his generation and havin' the Smuckers Premium Preserves leave a sticky mess all over his upholstery, and takes 'im into town to see if the doctor's got any kinda treatment that might mitigate the spread of extra-terrestrial gelatin desserts. Soon as the doc sees what's goin' on he makes this face like somebody just kicked 'im in his penicillin shot and sends Steve and Jane to look for clues as to what happened even though it's a school night and Steve's hopin' to graduate this year on account of his finally bein' old enough to avoid the draft, but first they hafta backwards drag race Steve's buddies from 5th period Metal Shop (Tony, Mooch, and Al) and get hassled by the heat for disturbin' the peace and makin' a lotta upstanding middle-class citizens stand on their porches cross-armed, wonderin' what the world's comin' to.
Then the doc ends his nurse's marriage by callin' 'er back to work before dinner's on the table, only by the time she gets there the old man's already been melted into recluse juice and the two of 'em get digested by the goobonic plague after accidentally destroyin' a load-bearing lamp and knockin' out power to the operatin' room. Steve witnesses the consumption of Dr. Mealgood and tries tellin' the cops but nobody'll believe 'im 'cause he's too young to have hair growin' outta his ears, and while that's goin' on the gummi snare rolls into a garage and eats the mechanic for usin' inferior Japanese parts in open defiance of the United Auto Worker's Union. Fortunately, the cops decide to let Steve and Jane go on account of their upstanding suburban background, but the thought of all their neighbors whisperin' about 'em at block parties is too much to bear, and so they sneak out to prove they're tellin' the truth by recruitin' their chunkheaded friends and their bullet bra'd bimbi to canvas the neighborhood for key parties in the hope they'll find people open-minded enough to believe their story about flesh-eatin' jello. Elsewhere, Steve and Jane head over to his dad's store to make sure the bubble blobble isn't inside recruiting condiments, 'cept they get cornered in the meat freezer and it starts lookin' like slime time until it shrivels up like George Costanza in the pool and squirms back under the door.
'Course the cops still think the kids aren't alright, so Steve and his gang of civil disobedients are left with no choice but to park their cars in the town square and lay on their horns like the film just broke at the drive-in and crank the air raid siren until everyone in town's outta bed and ready to fight the reds to the last man. Too late though, 'cause while all the adults were at home boomin' up more babies, the malleable malcontent's oozed its way into the theater's air ducting and eaten the projectionist right before a reel change, and by this point everybody's so terror-stricken that they don't even stop for Milk Duds on the way out. Then the quicker-ichor-picker-upper comes pourin' outta the theater and Steve and Jane hafta hide out in the diner across the street 'cause Jane's runt of a little brother's gone out to fight the cosmic coagulate with his Buck Rogers laser pistol, and next thing ya know the plasmatastasizer covers the diner like ketchup on a truck stop meatloaf, trappin' everyone inside with limited oxygen and one of the most obnoxious child actors this side of House by the Cemetery. I'd imagine everybody's seen this one three or four times by now, but just in case any Zoomers got lost on their way to Tik Tok I'ma shut up now so's the ending don't get ruined. I'm only comfortable ruinin' 90% of the movie - givin' away the ending goes against everything I sit for.
Alright, so maybe it isn't the most ambitious flick of the 1950s science fiction boom, rife with political subtext and social commentary - but pound for pound it might be the most fun. The Blob walks the fine line between "legitimate threat to the safety of mankind" and "midnight monster flick" better than its contemporaries, and while there may not have been a great deal of competition for that particular honor, that in no way diminishes the film's charm. I'm not trying to take anything away from flicks like The Day the Earth Stood Still, or The War of the Worlds, but like most of the successful science fiction titles of the decade, those were very serious pictures with budgets 10 and 20 times that of The Blob, respectively. Consequently, the latter with its lighter tone holds up better 60+ years after the fact. When compared to flicks like Forbidden Planet, or The Fly, The Blob proves to be a textbook example of the better movie not always having the greater entertainment value (as it's no match for any of the aforementioned titles in terms of production value), but it remains a science fiction juggernaut where it concerns rewatchability. Wanna get your kid into classic science fiction but don't know where to start? The Blob. How about one you can discuss at length while it's running without missing critical plot points? The Blob. Need something devoid of nuclear explosions, laser blasts, and anti-aircraft fire 'cause Nana's asleep in the next room? You got it - The Blob. And for a flick from the '50s it's shockingly well-paced, with the action kicking off early and holding steady throughout while still managing to pencil in enough character development to make the cast likable and relatable. I'm not gonna go into cute production stories the way I would while discussing an obscure title most people are unfamiliar with because that kinda thing has already been done by more insightful reviewers than myself, rather, I'd simply like to point out that 60 years after its original release, there exists an annual event called Blobfest that takes place at The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where part of the movie was filmed. They screen the flick several times, do reenactments of the iconic theater scene from the movie, sell merchandise, and basically celebrate the movie, but the point I'm trying to make is - there is no Day the Earth Stood Still festival, Invasion of the Body Snatchers Festival, or even a Thing from Another World festival. Just a Blobfest. Might be something to that.
So, now that we've determined this flick is more fun than Bring Your Own Body Paint night at the strip club, let's line this sucker up next to the titans of science fiction and see if there really is always room for jello. The plot is simple as they come, with literally nothing in the way of twists or surprises to blow your mind. That said, by making little to no attempt to explain the creature's origin or physiology, the writers avoid falling into the "bad science" trap that ensnared so many other genre productions of this era, and this conservative approach ensures the story remains focused, plausible (as these things go), and easy to follow. In other words - they went with a lowest common denominator approach and told a good story that allows the audience to rest secure in the knowledge that their socks will remain firmly attached to their feet.
The acting ranges from competent to good and relies heavily on the charisma of Steve McQueen in his first starring role. It's pretty much all about Steve, as nearly every supporting character in the cast looks to him for guidance throughout the flick, and despite the fact that he personally didn't care much for the film in his younger days, it was his performance in The Blob that landed him the part of Josh Randall on Wanted: Dead or Alive. Aneta Corsaut is likable (if unlikely to pass the Bechdel Test) as the wholesome girlfriend Jane, and Earl Rowe is solid as the only cop on the force who remembers having been a teenager himself, but with the exception of the opening sequence where the old man is attacked by the blob there may not be a single scene in which McQueen does not appear, so the movie lives and dies by his performance, and he carries the flick admirably.
Here's who matters and why ('sides the inimitable Steve McQueen, of course): Aneta Corsaut (Bad Ronald, The Toolbox Murders 1978), Olin Howland (Them!, The Return of Dr. X), Stephen Chase (When Worlds Collide), John Benson (4D Man, The Space Children), George Karas (4D Man), Elbert Smith (4D Man), Vincent Barbi (Blood Orgy of the She Devils, The Aftermath), Jasper Deeter (4D Man), Pamela Curran (Mutiny in Outer Space), Robert Fields (The Stepford Wives 1975, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster), Jack Harris (Star Slammer, Schlock, Beware! The Blob, Equinox, Dinosaurus!, 4D Man).
Aneta Corsaut would be best known as Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show, but other'n that, these folks're alright.
The special effects are actually very good given the budget, and although we're ultimately just watching a glob of silicone mixed with red dye ooze around middle America for an hour and a half, they carried it off pretty well. The miniature used for the theater isn't especially awe-inspiring, but the shot of the blob being split as it oozes through the dividing pillar and reconnecting itself on the other side is so amusing that the average viewer won't really even notice. It's really just that scene and the one where the blob is attacking a photo of the diner across the street from the theater that're noticeably goofy, and for the most part, the creature goos its way through town in an endearing fashion. The cel animation during the climax and the shots of the critter absorbing the old man's arm are fine for the time, and I should also mention that the original blob has refused to dry up and remains intact in its 5-gallon bucket in Phoenixville, so if you're in the area during Blobfest, be sure to check it out.
The shooting locations depict 1950s Anytown, U.S.A. perfectly, with its immaculately manicured lawns, suburban housing, and the general appearance of being a normal neighborhood *just like yours*. Or, just like your grandparents' anyway. The old man's cabin and the meteorite impact site were actually sets created on a sound stage and, in conjunction with suitable low-lighting conditions, really do look like they're out in the woods. The rest of the movie was filmed in various locations in Pennsylvania, including Downingtown (the diner), Royersford (the grocery store), and of course, Phoenixville (the theater, auto shop, and the doctor's office), and they all look very authentic because, with the exception of the doctor's office, they chose existing businesses to film in, and the theater and diner still operate to this day in their original locations. Excellent work by the location scout.
The soundtrack will always be known for the ultra cheesy theme song by "The Five Blobs," which was written by Burt Bacharach and sung by Bernie Knee, who hadda sing the song five times so nobody'd know there was actually just one Blob and riot. I'm gonna guess that you had to be there, 'cause the theme song is goofy by design (the studio didn't want to give the impression that the movie was excessively frightening) and inconsistent tonally with the movie as a whole. The rest of the soundtrack is pretty fair by '50s standards and even borders on having its own identity instead of sounding like every other American horror flick from that decade (I realize it's a science fiction film first and foremost, but the soundtrack leans more toward horror stylistically). The lighter scenes have suitable slapstick tracks, and the serious sequences manage to create a little suspense as needed, so mission accomplished. Probably composer Ralph Carmichael's crowning achievement, right up there with his theme song from My Mother the Car. Overall, The Blob is my favorite '50s science fiction flick and has very solid production values. It may not get the highest rating of any sci-fi movie from that decade, but it's the first one I'd recommend to anyone looking to get into this era and genre of film. It's fun, it's accessible, and it may be the best-paced film of the entire decade, so hop in your Plymouth Cranbrook, crank that Burt Bacharach tune, and beware of the blob.