Since its release back in 1958, the infamous scene of cinema-goers running from fear of their lives in The Blob has cemented The Colonial Theatre in film history and brought patrons to its doors to reenact the scene. This has now been embraced on an annual basis where the theatre resides in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania as part of their Blobfest celebrations.
What is this appeal from this gelatinous glob? What causes people to still live out this moment from the celluloid archives over sixty years on.
Looks like its time for another retrospective…
The Blob (1958)
Directed by Irvin Yeaworth, The Blob would feature Steve McQueen for the first time in a leading role for a feature film; and let’s face it brings the cool factor in what is essentially a B-Movie science fiction horror film about an alien life form that crash lands on Earth to decimate small town America.
The rift in this case would see a reversal in image of the delinquent American teens. No longer are they outcasts with a grudge against the system, but these representatives of the outskirts of society, are actually the solution and bastions of hope in a world surrounded by Soviet oppression and the impact that the Cold War would bring about. The threat of this entity that would ooze its way around town and consume people, altering them with infectious zeal, and growing larger with every passing day.
McQueen’s teen, Steve is introduced while on a date with his girlfriend Jane (Aneta Corsaut) at lover’s lane when they witness a meteor crash, and they go in pursuit to find where it has landed.
The first to be consumed by the red entity is Barney, and one of the elder citizens of the town, who makes the foolish mistake of poking the meteor with a stick, and having the gloop envelop his hand. Steve and Jane take Barney to the local doctor, little knowing that he will be the next victim.
Time to call in the authorities who are sceptical of Steve’s warnings, putting it down to another wayward prank.
Before long the blob engulfs The Colonial Theatre leading to the afore-mentioned scene of patrons running enmasse, and then turns to another young American icon, in the diner where Steve and Jane are trapped. The solution and salvation comes in the form of carbon dioxide extinguishers, freezing out the creature.
These few flashes of what should have been a forgotten flick with its low grade science fiction storyline would resonate deeply and send ripples across the the drive-in movie scene, one that would be notably replicated 20 years later when screened during Sandy and Danny’s date in Grease.
As the film draws to a close, we’re left with the blob being dumped into the Arctic and the words The End? This open-ended conclusion will lead to the possibility of return, which of course it would do 14 years later with…
Beware The Blob aka Son of Blob (1972)
Unfortunately the sequel would prove to be a train wreck of epic proportions and would be the one and only time that Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing, his Dallas alter-ego) would direct a feature.
The issue is that it does too much to replicate the original without making a mark of its own. In doing so, it becomes insignificant and paltry in contrast. Where it tries to add humour, it misfires in a big way, and the trio of drifters consisting of Hagman, Meredith Burgess, and Del Close who are taking over by the blob smacks of wasted talent.
Hagman also seems to miss the point of its origin, by having the entity encroach on the hippie movement as though it is a plague on America’s wellbeing. This seems counterintuitive to the idea that youth are the answer to overcoming evil in its wake. Instead the solution is more of an attack on our media consumption with the Sheriff standing in a pool of blobooze; a symbol of the current state of America, wallowing in the stagnant quagmire that forms the building blocks of its forefathers.
And the least said about the skating rink sequence, the better.
What is interesting though and probably its greatest claim is through Dean Cundey who worked as one of the team in charge of The Blob’s special effects. Cundey would go on to work on The Thing, and Halloween.
It would take a further 16 years before new life would be born out of the blob that would not only find its mark but resonate with a new audience.
The Blob (1988)
Thanks to director Chuck Russell, The Blob would rise again at the height of the 80s home entertainment scene. It also capitalised on the body horror movement with creature effects that was a signature of its time.
On its release, it was overshadowed by other features which is a crying shame, as looking back at the film now, it has its own appeal and the humour lifts it above the crowd, marking it as one of the better horror features in the latter end of the decade.
It goes bigger, but perhaps not better than its predecessor. It does boast Shawnee Smith (Saw) screaming her ass off and Kevin Dillon, mullet included, as our troublesome protagonist. He is our rebel against the cause in a world that is now born out of distrust against the regime, filled with conspiracies. Our blob is also manufactured by mankind as a biological weapon, fueling the fire of scepticism, and shifting the film’s threat from outer space to one that is our own undoing.
If this film passed you by, or was missed amongst the crowded horror scene that branched its way into the home movie rentals market, then it is well worth a look.
For this writer, casting my eyes across the three instalments of the franchise with its beats and mis-beats, and the fact that it’s been nearly forty years since the last entry made a wave, is the time ripe for another awakening.
How the blob will manifest if it does resurrect once more is one that intrigues, for its guise and current state of climate, given all that has transgressed since the 80s, would seem to be the perfect fodder for humankind’s demise.
- Saul Muerte