The Blob (1958)

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“An alien life form consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.” — IMDb

The Blob, director Irvin S. Yeaworth’s second film, is such a classic in its own right that it’s amazing that EVERYONE didn’t see it in theaters for its 1958 release (on a double bill alongside I Married a Monster from Outer Space).  It was both of the leads’ feature film debuts — Aneta Corsaut (who plays Jane) would go on to have a role in The Andy Griffith Show, and Steve McQueen (billed as Steven McQueen in the opening credits, who plays Steve) would become “The King of Cool”, starring in many films from Bullitt to Papillon and would be the highest paid movie actor in the world in 1974.

It takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1957, with the film opening with a teenage couple — Jane and Steve — enjoying a date at a lovers’ lane when they see a meteorite crash to earth nearby. In their effort to find it, they come across an old man (Olin Howland) who found the crash site first and now has the contents of the meteorite — a small ball of an unidentified gooey substance — engulfing his hand. They bring him to the nearby doctor’s office, not knowing yet how much the whole town is in danger…

** SPOILERS! **

Ultimately, it’s exactly the feel-good 1950s campy sci-fi movie you expect it to be. It never takes itself too seriously, and the monster — essentially a giant glob of semi-transparent Gak — is weird and mysterious enough to be interesting but never quite delivers on the scares. It’s more a building sense of tension as the kids try to convince adults and police officers alike that they aren’t playing an elaborate prank — there really IS an alien creature oozing its way through town and killing innocent people!

The special effects, while cheesy at times, are overall quite good for the time period. I thought one of the first scenes — where the gelatinous mass quickly engulfs the old man’s hand — was pretty great, as was the goo creeping its way under doors. There are moments where it’s obvious that miniature sets were used, but I still appreciated the charm, like when the blob squeezes its way through the projector windows in the movie theater, presumably gobbling up some movie-goers and causing everyone to run screaming in terror (a great scene).

The opening song, “The Blob” (written by Mack David and Burt Bacharach), is brilliant — I only wish the rest of the movie had followed in line with that level of tongue-in-cheek humor. It definitely did get a few laughs from me — the man pulling military jackets and hats out of his closet during the air raid sirens before exclaiming “this has never happened before — what do I wear!?” was great — but I wish it had poked fun at itself a bit more.

The acting vacillates between stiff and humorously dramatic, in part, of course, because of the mediocre script. There are scenes that seem to go on forever with fairly needless dialogue — one of the early reviews of the film stated that it “talks itself to death” and I’d have to agree — and then moments where people are beside themselves with terror, like the nurse throwing acid on the blob and stating “nothing will stop it!”. Steve McQueen still manages to be largely charming and likable (I particularly liked him trying to put one over on the police officer who questioned him about driving backwards), but Corsaut’s role is pretty forgettable.

The ending was also SO CLASSIC. Sure, we just loaded this frozen, killer jelly into an airplane and parachuted it down to the arctic. Why not? As long as it stays frozen, we’ll be good! The end…!!?!

Definitely not a favorite of mine, but its classic status can’t be ignored, and I’d still recommend it as a must-watch for the genre, if for nothing else than watching Steve McQueen save the town from being eaten alive.

Rating: 5/10 | Director: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. | Writer: Theodore Simonson, Kay Linaker, Irvine H. Millgate | Music: Ralph Carmichael | Cinematography: Thomas E. Spalding | Starring: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Stephen Chase

 

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