Directed by Irvin S Yeaworth Jr
“Just because some kid smacked into his wife on the turnpike doesn’t make it a crime to be 17 years old.”
Why Did I Get This?
I first saw this in my teens, probably after seeing the terrifically gory 1980s remake (which I’d love to revisit at some point), and remember thinking that Steve McQueen was the oldest looking teenager since the cast of Grease but still looked very cool. Because, y’know… he’s Steve McQueen.
Other than that, it’s not really a film I’d thought about for a long time until Late Reviewer contributor and all round lovely person Vikki Layton sent me it through the post a few months ago along with a selection of other cult classics… thanks again, Mrs L!
Honestly, even if it’s goofy as hell, I’m looking forward to revisiting it. Let’s see how it goes…
The Late Review
As always, the Late Review will go into detail about the film from start to finish, so if you’re looking to avoid potential spoilers, scroll down to the next heading.
A small meteorite crashes to Earth near a small Pennsylvania town, and a flesh-eating jelly-like creature emerges from it, consuming anyone it touches. Can a bunch of teenagers led by Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen), and his girlfriend Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut), convince the local police force – and their own parents – that the town, and possibly the world, is in danger?
Let’s address the elephant in the room right away – yes, Steven McQueen (as he is credited here in his first leading role), was 28 years old when The Blob was released. Yes, he is meant to be playing a teenager. And no, he is not a particularly young-looking 28.
But if you can suspend your disbelief enough to watch a film about a bit of man-eating jelly, I’m pretty sure you can suspend it long enough to accept McQueen the teen.
While The Blob bills itself as a sort of horror film, you’d never know it from the incredible opening theme – a jaunty, swinging little jazzy ditty by Burt flipping Bacharach and Mack David that, frankly, is a silly little delight that now lives rent-free in my head. If you’ve never heard it, treat yourself by clicking below…
In terms of the film itself, the cast tend to play it straighter than the musicians, and I don’t think that’s a particularly bad thing. The old hermit who discovers the meteorite outside his rural cabin goes for genuine terror as his hand gets consumed by the tiny ball of transparent goo.
Interestingly (to me, anyway), a point that’s not remarked upon in the film is that the blob is pretty much transparent when it lands, but becomes blood red as it feasts upon the local townsfolk. I suppose that’s because the only guy who saw it as a see-through goo was quickly eaten by it, but it’s something that you almost pick up subconsciously as the film goes on without any exposition needed.
The blob itself seems to be delivered using a nice mix of effects – there’s a load of reversed shots, miniature work, forced perspectives and extreme close-ups, as well as a matte painting or two towards the end as it surrounds a diner where our heroes are taking shelter.
Some of these effects work better than others – the shot of the blob moving down the stick to attach itself to the old hermit’s hand is great, while the latter shot of what appears to be a colour photocopy of a movie theatre behind a fist-sized ball of red jelly is less so.
But for me, this kind of film isn’t about technical brilliance, just about a fun, creepy, occasionally daft and often entertaining way to see what was popular a few decades before I was born. Sure, it’s less convincing or creepy than some of the old Universal horrors, but it’s dealing with a completely different beast, and I’m happy to sit back and enjoy it as a whole.
Something I was quite interested in was the efforts to give some of the minor characters a decent back story, particularly the police deputies. While they could be dumb ciphers, one is discovered to be a chess enthusiast who is midway through a lengthy game via the police radio with an officer at another precinct.
The other is spoken about by McQueen and his friends as being a bit of a hardass towards teenagers, and views their occasional harmless pranks as dangers to society. This reputation is promoted further when he catches them in a short backwards drag race, but it’s only about an hour into the film we realise that his wife’s car was hit by a teenager on a nearby road, which has left him bitter towards anyone below the legal drinking age ever since.
It’s a nice touch that gives a background character a bit of depth, and even if it doesn’t really go anywhere, it shows the filmmakers were putting a bit of thought into their characters.
The attitude of the cops and parents in this town seem to be sort of at odds with the attitudes of most 1950s adults towards teens in movies – rather than assuming they’re dangerous, ungrateful or just downright rude, they’re thought of as generally decent, but with a penchant for pranks that just get on the tits of the town elders, rather than hurt anyone. Not malicious, just goofy. The cops are less worried they’ll hurt anyone, and more that they’ll make the department “look silly”.
It’s not a badly shot film either, though there are a few scenes where either McQueen or Corsaut perform for around 90 seconds with the back of their head to the camera – it’s a bizarre choice, but clearly not done to disguise doubles, just a really odd thing to notice. There are also a couple of badly stumbled lines which have been left in, maybe because the budget precluded further takes, but also perhaps in an effort from the filmmakers to make the characters delivering them more human? Let’s be generous and go with the latter, eh?
The nighttime search of McQueen’s dad’s supermarket for the blob is actually pretty creepy, and the frantic handheld camerawork as a theatre of moviegoers race screaming into the street is genuinely effecting and a startling contrast to the steady camera we’ve become used to.
Something else I also found unsettling was the final ten minutes of the film where it genuinely looked as if our heroes were destined to meet a sticky end in the basement of a burning diner while the blob tried to consume it. It wasn’t quite at the same level of distress as the ending of Frank Darabont’s The Mist, but for a moment it seemed it might head that way.
Of course, they worked out a way to escape, the army sent a chopper to dump the beastie into the Arctic where they hoped it would freeze itself solid until they could work out a way to kill it, and we’re left with one of my favourite things from genre films – a credit reading The End dissolves into a ?
Clearly, the producers knew this blob had legs… as it were.
Take it for what it is, and The Blob is a good time. It’s silly, a little stilted, and occasionally slow, even taking a break around 47 minutes in for McQueen to recap the entire plot to anyone who’s just walked in, but it’s a fun film nonetheless.
Will I revisit it? Yeah, I reckon I probably will. I think it’s just the right level of creepy and silly to watch with Junior Late Reviewer… maybe. Even if he’s not interested though, I’m happy to keep this one on my shelf for a future rewatch.
I really wanna see the gory remake now though.