Monday 26 March 2012

The Blob (1958)

One of the most fondly-recalled monster movies of all time is Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr's (only in America would you get a name like that) THE BLOB, which was released in September 1958 by the independent Fairview Productions.  That it was picked up for distribution by Paramount partly explains why it's so well remembered: first, it would have been seen by an awful lot of people, and second, it was a cut above the bargain basement drek that was inundating drive-ins and cinemas across the US at the time.

There is another reason why THE BLOB has lingered longer in the memory than its peers and that's the presence in the cast of one Steve McQueen.  Still looking young enough at 28 to play a teenager, and still being billed as "Steven", this was made just two years before his star-making turn in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.  It's tempting to watch him in THE BLOB and think 'Yes, you can see why he went on to mega-stardom' but you really can't.  He's not particularly good looking, has crap hair and his role is miles from the macho, uber-cool, anti-authoritarian characters that he's known for.

Steve McQueen
He play Steve Andrews, a typical teenage kid growing up in Pennsylvania who just wants to make out with his bird and race his car.  It is during one such makeout session that Steve sees a comet fall to Earth.  Gallantly forgetting about the snogging, he pelts over to the crash site and finds nothing more exciting than a hot lump of space rock.  However, a farmer foolishly prods it with a stick and the next thing you know there's a lump of intergalactic jelly stuck to his hand.  Steve takes him into town to see the local doctor thereby unwittingly exposing the population to the horror of The Blob!

Oopsy ...
Of course Steve being a bit of a tearaway, the police don't believe him until it's almost too late.  In a memorable finale, the whole town unites against the Blob which has destroyed the cinema and trapped our hero in a dinette.

The Blob oozes out of the back wall of the cinema
It's all nonsense, of course, but it's done with sufficient gusto to be enjoyable nonsense.  The effects aren't bad for the time and it's crisply photographed with plenty of vibrant colour to keep the visuals interesting.  Wisely, Yeaworth elects to keep the blob off screen most of the time and the characters never refer to it as such so the whole thing has a slightly more sophisticated air than you might expect.  There's the usual stuff about teens vs authority, to keep the drive-in punters happy, but if the film has a message I suppose it's something along the lines of 'there comes a time when a boy has to prove he's a man'.

Film anorak notes:
Aside from McQueen, the other soon-to-be-famous name attached to The Blob is Burt Bacharach, who co-wrote the title song.

Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr, to give him his full title, made a handful of genre films in the 50s and 60s but quit the mainstream movie business to go and make religious films, for he was a noted God botherer.

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