From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
< The Blob
A few months ago I talked about classic Sci-Fi/Horror films from the 50's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and It Came From Outer Space. These were genre films but also were pretty serious and had messages about social issues from that time period. The 50's and the 60's was an era that also gave us campy films you've seen on MST3K such as The Horror of Party Beach, Robot Monster and Monster a Go Go. These movies were cheaply made, often laughable, and sometimes unwatchable. It seems like there's no real balance between the two types of Sci-Fi/Horror films from that time. However, I just watched a cult classic from 1958 that looked pretty campy on the surface, yet strong enough to be considered a good movie. This is The Blob, starring Steve McQueen.
I first learned about this movie years ago from James Rolfe (a.k.a. Angry Video Game Nerd). He not only reviewed this film but also told us about Blobfest, the annual festival in Phoenixville, PA in which people from all over the country come to The Colonial Theatre (the location where the climactic scene takes place) to celebrate the legacy of The Blob by watching the film. They hold a Steve McQueen lookalike contest, re-enact the famous crowd panic sequence, etc. It shows you how much this film means to local people and cult movie fans from all over the country even though it was regarded as a B-Movie at the time. What makes the film so fascinating? Well, as always, let's take a look at the plot first.
There's a mysterious meteor that lands near a nice quiet suburban town. Our heroes, Steve and his girlfriend Jane are two of the people who see this so Steve drives to the scene to see what it is. Unfortunately, there's an old man who lives near the site and his hand gets glued up by the blob after he stupidly pokes it with a stick. Steve gets him back to the local doctor for help. Later that night, Steve then sees the blob kill the doctor, but, as always, nobody believes him except his girlfriend. Steve and his teenage friends then have to team up to fight this creature from outer space. This covers 90% of the whole movie already. At this point, I realized why many younger viewers hate this film since it has a low body count and more scenes focus on Steve and his gang instead of the blob. It should be noted that The Blob isn't really a film about how scary the thing is, but it's about how our lead characters deal with it.
In the opening scene we see a totally awkward conversation between Steve and Jane. It seems like this couple gets along but not quite well. As the story progresses, we see the bond between them get stronger and at one point, she's the only person in the town who believes Steve's story while other people think it's a joke. What about the gang? Steve brings them to the crash site, but noone believes his story until Steve uses his calm and honest demeanor to convince them. In fact, he spends a huge chunk of this movie trying to get everyone to listen but the cops still think it's either a burglar or a dumb prank. Steve starts to lose faith until Jane convinces him to warn people since she has been dating him for a long time and knows how truthful he is. Some reviewers think it sounds ridiculous and too one-dimensional for us to believe that Steve can convince the whole town later on (yet no one has seen the blob except Steve and Jane). I think it reflects an attitude from the 1950's. It was a time when people still treated each other with politeness and were more honest than nowadays. I'm not claiming that the 50's were perfect, but since the film takes place in a small town...it makes me think that this film probably represents a certain spirit from that era in which everyone would finally come together to fight the blob in the end. As well as the "Let's stay young and have fun" attitude of teenagers, just like in American Graffiti. I mean, just listen to the opening theme song! It sounds nothing like a horror film and more like a soundtrack from a Cliff Richard movie.
Another clever detail from this film that I like is the dog. Jane finds a dog at the old man's shack near the meteor site and decides to take it home. Although it's a bit different from something like Jonesy in Alien (I'm convinced Ripley brought it to space only to scare us at the right time), this dog helped create a kind of hopeless atmosphere in the film. It gets killed while Steve and Jane are hiding in the grocery store. We don't even see it die, but we hear it stop barking and shortly after that Jane starts crying. It's a simple emotion inducing tactic for all the dog loving viewers to create sadness without showing more human death scenes.
No matter how corny it may seem today, The Blob has become a cult classic among film-lovers, including me. It's surprisingly fun and reflects the attitude of the 50's quite well. Recommended, especially if you want a fun movie night with your friend.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.