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18 July, 2012

Junkyard Film's Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month: THE BLOB (1958)

Title:  THE BLOB

Year of Release—Film:  1958

Steve McQueen (credited here for the last time as Steven) was almost 30-years-old when he agreed to play rather unconvincingly the part of 17-year-old Steve Andrews in THE BLOB (1958).  His co-star, Aneta Corsaut, was 25-years-old when she agreed to take the role of Jane Martin, Steve’s prudish teen love interest.  While out in Steve’s car, indulging in some 1950’s post-War necking, they see a meteorite fall into the near-by woods.  Realizing that a hot space-rock was the most exciting thing on the menu for the evening, Steve drives over to see where it fell.  However, before they arrive, the meteorite is probed by an old farmer who gets some of the enclosed red ooze on his arm.  When the teens find him, he’s frightened and is pitifully whimpering “Save me” to the horrified pair.  Steve and Jane rush the badly injured man to the town’s only doctor who is preparing to leave town to attend a convention in a near-by city.  Leaving the farmer with the doctor, Steve and Jane leave to tell their equally middle-aged teen friends of what they’ve just experienced with Jane whining all the time about finding the farmer’s little dog.

Meanwhile, the doctor, having called his nurse into the office, discovers the old farmer completely enveloped in the throbbing, moving gelatinous and now much larger red glob.  Quickly consuming the doctor and his nurse, the blob next traps Steve and Judy in a local grocery store, where the duo hides in the walk-in freezer.  The blob first tries to squeeze in under the door but rapidly retreats from the cold.  Now, thoroughly alarmed, the teens rush to tell the police what has occurred but with typical us-against-them mentality, the cops don’t believe them.  The “kids” next round up all their middle-aged teen friends and get them to help warn the towns-folks of the impending invasion by setting off all alarms and sirens in the town.  This insures a scene of silly slapstick as one old man does not know which of his volunteer uniforms to don ... the fire fighter’s outfit or his Civil Defense uniform.  Still, some teens resist this effort and attend an all-night movie marathon at the local theater.  As the red ooze squeezes through the projection booth window, the terrified audience runs screaming from the theater into the streets, the now-gigantic red blob oozing behind them.
Witnessing this, the town’s adult population finally believes Steve and Judy but it’s too late as the blob once again traps the teens, along with Judy’s little bratty brother, inside a near-by diner (why it does this instead of simply eating the hundreds of by-standers is best left to the blob).  The diner, now encapsulated by the red menace from outer space (Get it, folks?  Red Menace!  The Cold War!), has power lines dropped on it, hoping the electricity will kill the blob but it only sets the diner on fire with our teens now trapped in the basement.  Steve grabs a fire extinguisher and shoots it at the flaming door, forcing the blob to withdraw.  Realizing it’s the cold that repels the thing, Steve screams “CO2!” repeatedly.  The High School principal, along with some of students, breaks into the High School (guess the principal forgot his keys) and, using the heisted extinguishers, freeze the blob solid.  The Army finally arrives and, boxing the thing up, drops it at the North Pole as Steve eerily predicts the onset of global warming by quipping “As long at the Arctic stays cold.”  The words “The End” slither across the screen before ominously forming into a question mark.

Although this is one of the first science fiction movies to be shot in Technicolor, it’s a surprisingly cheap film.  Scenes like the diner catching fire are not shown but rather told to us by on-lookers.  And it’s not a terribly suspenseful movie, either, as the town is populated by the cleanest-cut rebels without a clue teens and the two police officers are your typical good cop vs. bad cop types, with the good cop firmly on the teens’ side.  However, for its time, the special effects are surprisingly effective using a good mixture of stop action and reverse photography.  Steve McQueen, using his best Method Acting training, is far too sincere and serious for such a fun little movie about killer slime.  Still, in 2008 it was nominated (but lost to KING KONG) as Best Movie To Watch At The Drive-In. Originally intended as second-billing to I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, it was the far more popular movie and was promoted to a first-run status.  It’s bizarrely cheerful theme song was co-written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David, who did the cork-popping honors by pulling his finger out of his cheek.

A belated sequel followed in 1972 as BEWARE!  THE BLOB (also known as SON OF BLOB) and was directed by ‘Dallas’ star Larry Hagman.  A re-imagining was released in 1988 and starred Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith as the beleaguered teens.  In 2011, director Rob Zombie announced he would do another remake but, as of this writing, there’s been no movement on the project.

In July each year film geeks flock to Phoenixville, PA where many scenes in THE BLOB were filmed.  During Blob-fest, there’s a weekend-long street party with a costume contest, an amateur filmmaking contest and live reenactments of some of the film’s scenes, culminating in the Blobfest Run-out from the Colonel Theater.

And finally, for those of you who prefer your monsters more homegrown and leathery (not to mention fire breathing!), there’s the G-Fest, held each year in Rosemont, IL from July 13-15, to celebrate all things Gamera and Godzilla!

See you at the Cons!

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