The Blob (1958)

Teens are people too!
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1958
Director: 
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Starring: 
Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland
The Setup: 
Flesh-consuming blob comes to call from outer space.
Discussion: 

I don’t recall how this suddenly made it to the top of my list, but I suspect it’s because I had been watching too many dreary ‘quality’ movies. Steven McQueen [this is the only movie he’s credited as Steven] starred in this, his first film, as a 35-year-old high school student [he was 28 at the time] with a dull girlfriend, Jane. She’s concerned that he’s a player and doesn’t really love her, for who she is, deep, deep inside, but it’s no matter because a meteorite lands just at that moment. They decide to investigate. Oh but wait—how could I have forgotten the opening credits, with the theme song written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David, who is Hal David’s brother, which is kind of a surfer/lounge number that goes “Beware of the blob it creeps, and leaps, and glides and slides across the floor..."

Anyway, Steve and Jane aren’t the only ones out there investigating that meteorite. The crazy old man who lives in a shack out in the woods goes out, too, and finds this round meteorite shell with a gooey chocolately center. He sticks a, well, a stick into it, pulls the goop out, and it promptly slithers onto his hand. He runs out across the road, where he is almost run down by Steve and Jane, who take him to the doctor. The doctor who is just leaving for a medical conference in another city—at 11pm? Must be taking the red-eye. He takes the guy in and him and Steve yammer on about what might have happened, until you’re like “Well, maybe the doctor should just LOOK at it!” Steve also describes it as looking “Kind of like a big blister.” That is covering the guy’s whole hand. Maybe Steve gets bigger blisters than I do.

But on the way to the doctor’s, Steve passed this group of cool dudes, led by the handsome Tony, who are all miffed and think they are owed some restitution because Steve dared to pass them on the road. It’s obviously the stale leftovers of Rebel Without A Cause, and it goes on forever, with them having a little mini drag race, the police getting involved, etc. But Tony is such a handsome hunk I wanted Steve to say “Okay, buddy! If you’re so tough, let’s take this homoerotic rivalry to the next level!”

So soon the old guy has been snarfed up completely by das blob, and the doctor and nurse are cornered in the lab—only it really looks like they could just step right around that thing at any time. Steve and Jane are just driving up when Steve catches a glimpse of doc being eaten in the window, and he calls the police. They show up, and Steve becomes the number one suspect, because, you know—those rotten, devil-may-care teens! SUCH a menace. The cops don’t believe Steve---and neither do the kids’ parents! Except Steve’s dad, who supports him, and I’m sure that this is why Steve’s such a moral, upstanding individual.

By this it’s apparent that there’s a LOT of teen melodrama here, mostly about how the teenagers want the adults to believe them, but the adults are prejudiced against teenagers, and just automatically assume that they’re all thrill-seeking nogoodnicks. And it’s all, I’m afraid, TOTALLY boring. But you can see it in the context of this film following Rebel Without a Cause, and trying to ride its ‘misunderstood-teen’ coattails.

By contrast, the scenes with the blob are actually fairly horrifying. It’s big gross mass that dissolves people like acid, and furthermore, it’s pretty sick to look at. The special effects here are pretty basic, but at the same time, ENTIRELY delightful—and wonderfully ingenious. You have sets tilted to make the blob “move” this was or that, a smattering of stop-motion animation, some hand-drawn animation, the old faithful footage-run-backwards, and my total favorite: jelly placed atop STILL PHOTOGRAPHS of the sets. These effects are delightful, EVEN if you can see precisely how they did them, because you marvel at the ingenuity that went into creating them. It made me reflect how, in trying to take their illusions to the next level, special effects artists have completely, and perhaps forever, ruined the sense of wonder their work used to create. In this, you say “Oh, it’s jelly on a photo that they then turned on its side,” and it’s delightful, whereas nowadays you can see something thirty times as spectacular, but you just say “Oh, ho-hum, they did it on computer.”

So Steve and Jane both sneak out of their houses, and soon meet up with Tony and his crew. They go out to the old man’s house, where they find the remains of the meteorite, the size of a soccer ball, which Steve says was “probably the size of the moon when it started out.” Let’s not let this guy teach a science class. At the old coot’s cabin Jane insists that they adopt his adorable puppy. She has a mind like a sponge—soggy and clogged-up—and she spends much of the rest of the movie hysterical, and is frequently on the verge of mental collapse over the little puppy and how he doesn’t have anyone, is all alone in this world, etc. So, since any calls to the police about the blobular menace are treated as pranks by those no-account kids, the teens set off fire alarms, the air raid siren, burglar alarms, etc. How they gained access to these systems is left unclear. Nevertheless, the whole town turns out. The main cop finally decides that Steve is a good boy, and believes him, overruling the snarling deputy with a chip on his shoulder. The top cop tells the town that there IS an emergency, but they aren’t sure what it is, so please go home. Oh I see, so they should just be generally worried? Over nothing in particular? Then it turns out that the grocery store where Steve saw the blob last is clear, but then—screams from the movie theater!

The blob, which is huge by now, streams out of the movie theater and is seen by everyone. Doggone it, those teens were RIGHT! Steve and Jane run in the local diner after her kid brother, and soon the entire place is covered in blob.

Blah, blah, running out of air, blah, blah, when they discover that the blob retreats from fire extinguishers, because the CO2 inside creates cold. So the police round up all the fire extinguishers they can, and here comes the rest of the town, with their home extinguishers! They support their local teens after all! Soon the blob is frozen solid, and they helicopter it off to the arctic—which, back in 1958, they thought would never thaw! This obviously BEGS for a modern-day sequel in which global warming frees the monster to rampage again!

It ends up being one-quarter pretty good blob rampage scenes, and three-quarters deadly dull teen melodrama [although I suppose drinks and friends could make these scenes amusing], making it still worth seeing, but less fun than one would hope. The special effects and the general looniness of the whole thing makes it fun, though, and it certainly delivers a lot more 50s monster movie fun than something like the unexpectedly dull Attack of the 50ft Woman. If you want a fun 50s B movie, this will fit the bill, and you won’t be sorry about watching the 1988 remake, which pays affectionate homage to this one while following through on all the true horror this monster entails.

Should you watch it: 

Sure! It’s a generally fun classic 50s monster movie.

RELATED FILMS:
THE BLOB [1988] is a loving remake that rightfully ups the horror and gore.