"Listen, now listen to me, everybody, this town is in danger. Now, several people have been killed already! Now we - we had to make this noise so you would listen to us, so we could warn you!" - Steve Andrews
I had a specific request for a certain movie to be covered as part of this year’s 13 Screams – so this one is for my buddy Karen Woodham, High Priestess of Geekdom at www.blazingminds.com and Phase Radio. Though, on reflection, when Karen mentioned that The Blob had scared her as a child, she may have been referring to the remake. (If that’s the case Karen – I’ll cover the remake another time – fair enough?)
The Blob is an iconic movie, made at the height of the sci-fi monster movie craze of the fifties, an era of film making that I’ve probably spent far too much of my life watching. There were plenty of classic films made during that era, some of them still stand up strongly today as great examples of film making and storytelling, like Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still and It Came from Outer Space or Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Sadly, The Blob is not an example of great cinematic accomplishment (Sorry, Karen).
The more I see it, the more convinced I am that it was never meant to be taken seriously, just as Invasion of the Saucer Men is obviously a comedy usually dismissed as an inept B-movie by those who haven’t seen it. For one thing, the plot, as far as it goes – is a pretty generic one. An alien menace lands on Earth, and the only people who can save us are a bunch of teens. So just from that, we can safely surmise that we’re not exactly in Arthur C. Clarke territory.
Leading the hot rod racing, carefree and irresponsible teen crowd in this quiet, white picket fence middle American (I guess) town is Steve Andrews, and if the film was ever meant to be taken seriously, here right in the opening scenes, is its first major fail. Casting Steve McQueen as a teenager was never going to work, was it? Undeniably one of the most charismatic film stars of the sixties and seventies – but his face, even when he was younger, looked older than he was - much the same as Jeremy Renner in the Avengers movies. But – and I can’t emphasis this enough, having a guy with a lived-in face as a teenager is bad enough, but when the actor is 28 years old at the time of filming…..well….
Moving on, Steve and his girlfriend spot a shooting star one night while parked out of town, but an old man finds the meteor first and in the way of old country folk in sci-fi movies, pokes at it with a stick. A gelatinous lump of reddish alien ooze attaches itself to the old guy’s hand, causing him to run into the road, crazed with pain where Steve nearly runs him over.
Well, it seems that the ooze, or the Blob of the title grows in size as it absorbs whatever it attaches itself to, and boy is it hungry!!!
The whole film takes place on one night – practically, you might say, in real time. That’s how long it takes to convince the reluctant town sheriff’s department that there’s a monster on the loose, that it’s eaten the old guy, the town doctor and his nurse – and that those irrepressible girl chasing teens who insist on drag racing everywhere and their saviours. Worst of all, the Blob finds its way to a buffet at the local cinema where it seems just about the whole town population has gathered for a late-night horror show.
The scenes with the blob oozing through the glass doored entrance of the picture palace can be split roughly fifty/fifty with some decent effects and some that have to be seen to be believed – the Blob ooze was literally pushed through a cardboard cutout of the cinema’s front.
It’s Steve who finds the Blob’s weakness when he and his girlfriend are hiding in a supermarket refrigerated store-room– it can’t stand the cold, so those plucky teens get all the CO2 fire extinguishers they can find and immobilise the gelatinous menace until the military can transport it to the North pole, where presumably, it’ll stay frozen for all time.
A goofy, guilty pleasure – but then, we need some laughs here and there in the 13 Screams.
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