The Blob (1958)

The Blob was Steve McQueen’s feature film debut. Science fiction films of the era were either deadly serious in mood or a designed as campy entertainment. This film straddles the two and results in an enduring and enjoyable viewing. This is not high-art, it was made for almost nothing and it’s plot is very simple.

Kids on a weekend, harmless fun.  Who hasn’t worn a hubcap on their head?

The movie was told from the perspective of teenagers, mainly Steve and Jane, two crazy kids who are parked for a bit of harmless necking.  McQueen was 28 at the time, hardly a teenager, but close enough to make it work.  He already had an aura of coolness, but he reigned it in than contemporaries Brando or Dean.  McQueen did more with less.

The old man opens the meteorite but he finds more than he bargained for.

The film was made for just over $100,000 and brought in over $4 million during its release, not a bad return. Intended as a cheap drive-in film, it was a surprise hit. McQueen supposedly turned down a piece of the profits for a little more money upfront. Bad decision.

These monster or alien from outer space films usually went like this: monster appears, terrorizes humans who report it but no one believes them, monster then causes destruction, and the rest of the film trying to destroy it.

In The Blob, Steve and Jane see a meteor and go to where they can find it.  The encounter a man who had come in contact with the meteorite, which opened to produce a slimy mass (the blob) that attaches itself to the man’s hand.

The nurse confronts the blob over an unpaid office visit.

They take him to the doctor, who tries to figure out how to treat it. Unfortunately, it grows and kills the doctor and his nurse.

In the meantime, McQueen and his pals investigate the site where the meteorite fell from the sky.

Every time the blob eats someone, the size of the blob increases. It moves, sort of rolling, pulsates and changes color. Like uninvited guests for dinner.

Jane and Steve, not the date they have planned.

Steve and Jane go back to the doctor’s house but can’t find him, so they go to the police, who investigate, but don’t know what to think of Steve’s fantastic story.

One of the officers, a younger cop, thinks the teenagers are trying to scam them. He believes that teenagers are usually up to no good, and need to be to knocked down a peg or two. His boss is a cooler head, and is willing to take the kids seriously and investigate their story.

Meanwhile, the blob makes its way to town and begins finding people alone at their jobs. That will teach them for keeping late hours. After each snack, the blob grows bigger.

Released by the police to their parents, Steve and Jane sneak out of their houses to meet up. Steve begins to doubt what he saw until Jane convinces him to go with what he believes happened.  Steve recruits his friends to help, although it takes a bit of convincing for them to take him serious. The group separates and goes looking for the blog.

At the supermarket, Steve and Jane notice the front door is not locked. They find the blob inside and take refuge in the meat locker. The blob tries to get inside by oozing under the door, but it suddenly stops and pulls out.  Remember this for later.

They make their way out of the supermarket, they find their friends and call the police.  Unfortunately, they the hothead cop answers the phone, and he doesn’t believe them. The kids make a lot of noise by revving their car engines to wake people up and get their attention.

The noise has attracted a crowd where Steve tries to convince the police to take this seriously, by searching the supermarket.   The store turns out to s empty.  Meanwhile at the cinema down the street, the blob attacks the projectionist, stopping the movie. Patrons run out into the street screaming, some taking refuge in the diner across the street.  Jane’s little brother has followed her parents to the market.  Steve, Jane, her little brother and others seek refuge inside the diner. The blob attacks the diner.  They flee to the basement for safety as the police shoot down the power line, hoping it will electrocute the blob.  The electricity has no effect.

Movie goers on the run from the blob.  There won’t be a second feature.

The blob oozes to the basement.  Steve and the diner owner use some fire extinguishers to put out a fire caused by the power line.  They suddenly realize the blob doesn’t like the CO2 from the fire extinguishers.

The police tell the teenagers to roundup all the fire extinguishers they can find. The school principal reluctantly breaks a window so they can get extinguishers from the school.  They use the fire extinguishers on the blob until it is frozen.

Steve and others are able to escape from the diner.  The police have requested the Air Force to drop the blob in the arctic. That the last shot in the film is something being parachuted into a frozen  landscape. “The End” appears on the screen and then it turns into a big question mark. Oh my, an ambiguous ending.

Originally, The Blob was part of drive-in twin bill.

The film is only 83 minutes in length, but it says everything it needs to. It’s a tight and efficient film.  This length was perfect for the drive-in market it was intended for.

Directed by Irwin S. Yeaworth, Jr., The Blob was his second film.  His directorial debut was The Flaming Teenage, about the downfall of a teenager to booze, women and drugs, before going to jail and being spiritually saved. A typical year in the life of a teen. Yeaworth would direct only six feature films before turning his career to directing religious films, sometimes with Billy Graham.

Yeaworth was from the Pittsburgh, Penn. area where The Blog was mainly shot. Working on a small budget, Yeaworth did a creditable job, especially with the movement of the jello-like monster.  The acting is sometimes stiff and it nearly veers into a sermon about juvenile delinquency, but overall it is a reasonably made film for the budget and the throwaway nature of films like this in the era.  Who knew the film would have such longevity 60 years later?

The cast is mostly unknowns or character actors.  Aneta Corsaut, who played Jane, was unknown at the time.  In the next decade she would be Helen Crump, Andy Taylor’s girlfriend and later wife on The Andy Griffith Show.

The film’s music was composed by Ralph Carmichael but the opening theme song was written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David (not brother Hal).  Their song “The Blob” is a light, jazzy number that sets the mood to the “fun” setting on the dial.

It’s a fun film, a bit naive in this day and age, but it holds up as a good film from this era.  In 1988, a remake was made.  It’s not an improvement on the original, but it’s in the same spirit.

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