Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Blob (Yeaworth. 1958)

"How do you get people to protect themselves from something they don't believe in?"...


The year is 1957, and you are in a small Pennsylvania town. The Cold War is in full swing, and everyone is living in a constant state of fear over the future of the modern world. You and your best gal pal are at the local "make out point" when you see what seems to be a falling star. This particular falling star makes a startling boom as if it has crash landed on Earth. While investigating the crash site, you find a little rock that looks like it could have been a piece of the moon. But that is all you find. Seems harmless, right?

Well, it isn't. And though the main characters in this B-movie campfest believe that their night can continue as normal - the audience knows what is really happening. After all, the seemingly infinitely long opening credit sequence features a cheesy tune, written by a young Burt Bacharach, that literally tells the audience everything they can expect for the next 82 minutes. That falling star is actually....you guessed it....THE BLOB!

Directed by Irvin Yeaworth (who at the time was most well known for his work making inspirational religious short films) as the "B" side of a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Space, this was not a film that a lot of people expected to succeed. Strangely enough, The Blob was a sleeper hit that grossed a domestic $4 million at the box office after only costing $110,000 to produce. What made a film like this a hit? Three words: "Starring Steven McQueen".

Mr. McQueen only had one credited role to his name before being cast as the lead in The Blob, and this is the only example of a film where he is billed as "Steven" rather than the ultra cool Steve that he would later utilize.  His presence meant nothing to the film or studio when it was originally released, but rather in retrospect after he went on to make a few classic movies under his newly found macho persona. It is likely that without his [later] added star power, The Blob would have been forgotten about like many other B-movies from the 1950s. It certainly would not have gotten a Criterion release. I mean, have you ever heard of I Married a Monster from Outer Space? No? Exactly.

Though Steve obviously became the most famous Blob-alum, the actress playing his girlfriend in the film, Aneta Corsaut, did also go on to greater fame as a recurring character on The Andy Griffith Show. Casting these young actors was a very smart [read: lucky] studio move that has helped keep the movie relevant. It also helped that the leads were talented. For some unknown reason The Blob does not play out as much as a monster picture as it does a teen flick. These dough-eyed kids (who all look to be about 30) have their game of tonsil hockey interrupted by an amoeba-looking monster, find the aforementioned monster, and then spend most of the film trying to convince their peers, parentals, and local law enforcement that their story is not an elaborate prank. When one person does not believe them (would you??) they move on to the next available authority figure to tell the entire story over again....

This leads to ample screen time for the young couple, and less for the titular monster. The monster itself is not much to look at - which could be why it does not appear many times on screen. Don't get me wrong, the Blob does not evade being seen in the same vein as your garden variety Cloverfield monster, but it does only make sporadic appearances throughout the film.

My favorite (and probably the most famous) scene features a group of unpaid extras fleeing a movie theatre in a frenzy after seeing the Blob for the first time. Why is this scene memorable? Well, the extras were simply townspeople who lived in the town where the movie was shot. When you watch the film, you can see that these extras are not running in fear, but rather in pure delight. You can almost feel their general sense of "We're gonna be in the movies!!" as the crowd unloads out of the theatre "terrified", but also with an electric smile on each face. Check out the picture at the top of this post. Does anyone in that picture look like they have just come across a monster?

The Blob is okay. It isn't great. It isn't bad. What it lacks in prowess it makes up for in campy ridiculousness. It is also pretty fun to see a young Steve McQueen making a fool out of himself for a measly $3,000 paycheck. Some people have theorized that the Blob monster was meant to represent the creeping threat of Communism. I don't know if that is true or not, but if it is - Communism sure looks like grape jelly.

The Blob: C












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