Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movie Review: The Blob (1958)

From WrongSideoftheHeart.com
I held out on watching The Blob for many years because of its cheesy, B-level reputation. However, after watching it for the first time this past weekend, I can honestly say that the film deserves way more credit than it has previously received, and I swear that has nothing to do with Steve McQueen in the lead role (although I will admit that he was my main motivation for viewing the film.) The Blob is everything a 1950s "horror" movie should be: fun, goofy and entertaining! No, you are not going to be so scared after watching it that you will lose sleep, but I actually found the concept and the build-up of suspense a little creepy. I also recognized some plot aspects that reminded me very much of Alien, and while I haven't researched this, it's plausible that the 1979 space horror classic was partially inspired by The Blob

This was not Steve McQueen's first movie, but it was his first leading role in a major motion picture. His name appears as Steven McQueen in the credits. Speaking of the opening credits, the movie had my attention from the get-go thanks to them. It's obvious that the filmmakers never intended for the movie to be taken too seriously, because the groovy, catchy theme song (Beware of the Blob) was co-composed by none other than Burt Bacharach. I also loved the use of mid-century modern graphics to represent the Blob getting bigger and bigger.

From mcqueenonline.com
When the movie opens, "teenager" Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen, who was 28 when the film was released) is making out in a convertible with his girlfriend Jane (lucky girl, as played by Aneta Corsaut) when they see a falling star land a few miles from where they're parked. Steve really wants to investigate it, so they take off to try to find it. Meanwhile, the meteor has landed in an old man's farm. 

The old man (Olin Howland, a veteran actor whose appearance in The Blob marks his last role) finds the meteor and naturally, instead of calling the cops he does the smart thing instead, which is to take a stick and begin poking at it. The meteor cracks open, and the material inside coats the stick and oozes onto his hand. Unable to get if off, he yowls in pain and goes running into the street, where he is rescued by Steve and Jane. 


The couple take him to the local doctor, who is just closing up in anticipation of traveling to a medical convention. He gives the old man anesthetic to knock him out and determines that he's dealing with some sort of parasite. He sends Steve and Jane to the old man's property to see if they can find any information that might enable the doctor to treat him. 


While phoning his nurse to return to the office to assist him, the Blob is spreading across the old man's body. I actually found this part to be the creepiest--while the doctor is on the phone, we witness its movement under the blanket. By the time the nurse has arrived, the old man is now gone, completely engulfed by the Blob, which resembles a giant pile of melted red gummy bears. Attempts by the nurse to stop the Blob by throwing acid on it do not work, and she becomes the space ameoba's next victim. When Steve and Jane return to the doctor's office (with the old man's dog in tow), Steve witnesses the doctor get eaten by the Blob through a window. 


At this point the police get called (finally!) to help, and they check out the inside of the doctor's house, which is in shambles. Unfortunately, the "monster" that Steve claims he witnessed is nowhere to be found, and the cops are convinced that he and his teenage buddies are pulling a prank. 

From Collider.com
The Blob has moved on, and its next victims include a car mechanic, bar goers, and a grocery store janitor. With each person it consumes it grows bigger. My favorite part of the movie is when the Blob makes it way to the local movie theater, where many of the teenagers are digging the "spook show." Ironic since they're about to get the spook of their lives! The shot of the giant Blob pouring out of the front doors of the movie theater is the classic scene often associated with this movie. And now, finally, the stupid cops realize that Steve isn't lying!

The movie's climax takes place within a diner, where Steve, Jane, Jane's little brother, and the diner's owners take refuge in the basement while the Blob completely engulfs the building. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it, but let's just say that there appeared to be a nod to global warming, even though folks in the 50s didn't know about it yet. There also was a hint revealed about how the Blob would eventually be stopped while Steve and Jane take refuge in the grocery store. 

Yes, there are some very laughable parts in this film, and the characters do some stupid things (I wanted to slap Jane when she dropped the deceased old man's dog when she encounters the Blob in the supermarket.) The Blob's movements are very herky jerky, but overall I thought the special effects were passable considering what was available in the movie industry in 1958. Also, I'd like to give thanks to the movie makers for choosing to make the film in color, so that I could gaze at Steve McQueen's baby blue eyes.


McQueen thought the movie would be a flop, so he opted for a lump sum salary of $3,000 instead of 10% of the profits; the movie ended up grossing $4 million, so you do the math. However, his film career would take off in a few years. 


I realize that this film got an 80s makeover and a sequel of sorts, but I have no interest in them compared to the nostalgia value of the 1958 original. All in all, I enjoyed The Blob...a fun horror-themed flick to watch on Halloween, or a hot summer night. 


Here's the opening credits featuring that groovy song:


12 comments:

Keir said...

The theme song is atrocious! Burt Baccarach was responsible for that travesty?!
And what's with the glorification of Steve McQueen? I never understood his appeal...

JZ said...

It was Burt's first real hit. For ages he wouldn't talk much about it. To his credit he now laughs about the song. We all have to start somewhere. In any case, it's better than half of what's on the charts these days.

As to Steve McQueen, any guy who can race cars, become a pilot, and act very well is alright by me.

Brother Bill said...

Love The Blob (especially that kooky theme some, credited to "The Five Blobs").

Actually the idea that man-made CO2 emissions might contribute to a warmer climate DOES go back to the 1950s (although back then it was considered more of a speculative possiblity than an actual concern). It gets mentioned in the 1956 Frank Capra-directed educational film "Our Friend the Sun" (which is still a lot of fun to watch today).

Brother Bill said...

Oops--actually it was called "Our Mr. Sun", not "Our Friend the Sun".

Desiree said...

I never got to finish watching The Blob but the first twenty minutes I did see were hilarious. And of course, the theme song is fantastic.

Pam@GoRetro said...

I love the theme song. It's reminiscent of "Tequila" by The Champs. I saw an alternate version online that used a more foreboding opening theme, but I like the Bacharach composition that they ended up going with. Next on my must-watch list is "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Them!" I must say "The Blob" has inspired me to brush up on the sci-fi and horror movies from the 50s.

Brother Bill - very interesting about the global warming knowledge in the 50s! "Our Mr. Sun" sounds familiar...perhaps I saw it in elementary school. I'll look it up.

ApacheDug said...

I think I just found my new theme-song for my own blog! Thanks for the great piece Pam, haven't seen "The Blob" in years but it bears re-watching. My mom (who was a teen in the 50s) always said this movie captured the era better than films like "American Graffiti" (well, other than that giant blob I guess... :)

And for the record--who doesn't love Steve McQueen?! My god, that's un-American!! :)

Pam@GoRetro said...

Thanks, Doug! Anyone who doesn't like Steve McQueen had best stay away this week when I post June's Retro Hottie of the Month...I'm giving fair warning!

Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com said...

Pam! Love your review of The Blob, which has become a fave movie of mine since I moved to the town where they filmed much of the movie (Phoenixville, PA) - The theater where all the teens run out is actually still there (The Colonial Theatre) and every summer they have a Blobfest, where the running out scene is reenacted. I've never done the running, but it's so much fun to watch! Here's a link to this year's event - and beware of The Blob! thecolonialtheatre.com/category/events/blobfest/

Pam@GoRetro said...

Mod Betty - thanks for the info! I have heard of Blobfest and cannot believe I failed to mention it--so cool to know the infamous theater still exists. I watched the run-out on YouTube from a couple of years ago and it was a riot! This event looks like a blast and I'm going to post about it and give it some PR. Maybe I can make it out there next year. By the way, I just found and followed you on Twitter.

Pam@GoRetro said...

Here's the run-out video clip...some people eventually just strolled out, including one dude dressed like Buddy Holly. In reality they'd be dead by the time they got their lazy a$$es out the front doors!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJ4002V0ZYs

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

The Blob looks great, but is painful to watch.

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