The Blob: Pure Nostalgia

I have a nostalgic attachment with The Blob (1958): this was the first movie I saw in a movie house. The theater was filled with young kids, most older than I was, so it had to be the Saturday matinee. I had gone there with my older brother, so it was a special time for me. It was an old-time theater with a performance stage and a huge curtain, used for plays and vaudeville productions just a few years prior, I’m sure. It was a double feature, with I Married A Monster From Outer Space as the second movie. The MC came out on the stage with a microphone and started ramping up the kids for the “monster movie.”

I remember him saying, “Which movie do you want to see next?” (silly question!)

The kids screamed, “The Blob!”

“Are you sure?”

“The BLOB!!!” (of course!)

Then the movie started, with all of us kids ready to get spooked out. And the first thing we hear is that campy intro music written by Burt Bacharach.

It sounds “hip” and upbeat, like something straight out of a beatnik hangout where they recite poetry and drink espresso. Recorded by a group called “The Five Blobs,” it also sort of makes fun of the movie, as in “we know this is a goofy movie, but let’s have fun with it.” Not very monster-movie like. (By the way, The Five Blobs turn out to be One Blob, who recorded his voice singing five times. Creative!)

Next we see a very young Steve McQueen kissing a girl (Aneta Corsaut in her film debut, a few years before she became Sheriff Andy Taylor’s girlfriend on The Andy Griffith Show). Also not very monster-movie like, at least not for a young kid. The young couple see a meteorite fall nearby and go in search of it. They find an old hermit (Olin Howland in his final role before his death) who has some growth on his hand. The old hermit had found the meteorite first and found this gooey stuff inside. The kids rush the old hermit to the doctor and leave him there.

From that point on, the Blob proceeds to devour the old hermit, and anyone else that it comes across. It's not so interested in plants or mailboxes or cars, just people. The more people it consumes, the larger and redder it gets, eventually growing to the size of a building. Meanwhile, the two young kids are trying to convince authorities and citizens of the several deaths and the growing threat to all of their lives. Because they are young kids, no one believes them. The entire movie takes place in a single night, ensuring the monster is always lurking in dark corners, adding to the townspeople's’ disbelief that anything is out there.

The film follows a successful formula for horror films, giving the audience very little direct views of the monster. It remains silently in the shadows or on the edge of the screen in most scenes. The Blob itself is created from silicon gel and increasing amounts of red dye. The filmmakers could force the gel through tight spaces to give it the appearance of seeking out new victims.

In the climatic scene in the film, the Blob rises up and falls on an old-time dining car, trapping our heroes inside. When I saw that for the first time, I felt all the fear that the Blob’s attack was meant to instill. What a horrible sight! Watching that same scene as an adult, I realized that the red gel was piled up high and made to fall over on a flat photograph of a dining car. I laughed my head off at the “special” effects involved with that scene!

Trapped in the dining car with no way to escape, McQueen discovers that the Blob retreats in the presence of cold, specifically CO2 fire extinguishers. He calls that out to the Police Chief through an open phone line, and the high school principal takes a bunch of hot-rodding teenagers off to the high school to get more extinguishers. Just as the firefighters on the scene run out of CO2, and the end of our heroes is in sight, six cars of kids show up with fire extinguishers. The young audience and I cheered as though Sam Houston had just arrived to save the Alamo, cheering that lasted several minutes! I’m not sure how 20 hand-held fire extinguishers can completely freeze a Blob the size of a building, but it worked for us at the time!

After getting our heroes out of the dining car in one piece, Police Chief Steve says, “I don’t think it can be killed. The Air Force is sending a Globemaster (transport plane?) and we’re taking it to the Arctic where it will stay frozen.” That sets the stage for the final scene in which a large crate is parachuted down onto the frozen tundra. The words, “The End” fade-in on the screen, but then morph into a large question mark.

Obviously, they were keeping the door open to a sequel, although I don’t think Beware The Blob (1972) is what they were envisioning.

An interesting trivia point, the Blob gel has never dried out and it is being kept in its original five-gallon pail. It has been dragged out and used in several Blob-fest events over the years.

This was Steve McQueen’s first major role, but obviously not his best (he was 27 when it was filmed). You can catch him over-acting at times, but in his defense the writers often gave him some pretty lousy lines. The film cost $120,000 to produce, and the gross receipts were over $4 million. Apparently, Steve McQueen thought the film would bomb so he opted for a set fee instead of 10% of the profits.

This is a fun film to watch, and I enjoy revisiting my childhood fascination with it at least once a year.
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