DIRECTED BY: Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.
WRITTEN BY: Theodore Simonson & Kate Phillips (screenplay); Irvine H. Millgate (story)
PEW PEW: This isn’t by any means an action fright fest.
CAT FOOD: There are a few comments made about unfairly judging youth, and the adult population does seem to have a hard time taking the young adults seriously. There’s also a possible nudge to global warming.
The era of B-movies that spans the fifties and sixties is a science fiction fan’s dream — or nightmare. The quantity of science fiction or sci-fi-related films released is staggering, to say the least, however, the quality isn’t always up there.
I suppose it all depends on the kind of science fiction fan you are. If you’re into a more romantic sci-fi, where the science is dubious and the plot is more about seeing strange worlds and crazy monsters and ways of life, then you’ll probably love this era. If you’re into hard sci-fi, where the science is close to accurate and the plots are more about technology and the human condition, then perhaps the B-movies aren’t for you. I count myself as being one of the very fortunate who love both.
This, the original version of The Blob, isn’t by any means brilliant, but it’s one hell of a riot and a very nice looking riot at that. Once we get past the truly dreadful opening theme song that attempts to sabotage any sense of seriousness the film might present (I was very close to face-palming during the thing), we’re introduced to a very young Steve McQueen (in his first leading role) as he attempts to play tonsil hockey with his girlfriend Jane (NOT Janey).
As he tries to goad her into giving him some (fifties-style, by saying he’d wished for it on a shooting star), the two happen to notice a giant ball of rock that shoots down to Earth and lands nearby. We leave the two for a moment and meet up with an old dude who of course has to go poking and prodding at the meteor. While he’s being a nosy old feller, a gelatinous substance attaches itself to the end of his stick before taking up residence over his hand, growing larger as it consumes his flesh.
The resulting killing spree unfortunately does have to wait a bit through fifties car posturing and Steve’s banter with the police, which firmly establishes him as ‘one of those damn kids,’ but at the very least a good ‘one of those damn kids.’ I’ll point out that McQueen is 27 playing a 17-year-old… it doesn’t hinder the film any, but it is a little funny. They’ve obviously done this a lot, even in modern films, but during this era, the gaps were considerable. I remember a Twilight Zone episode where the narration says the main character is 34 but the actor is seriously like fifty years old!!!
So anyway, the titular monster ends up taking out the old dude, the doctor who tends to him, and the nurse who was probably disturbed from a nice sleep to come in after hours and be ingested within two minutes of arriving at work. Steve and his girlfriend notice this and attempt to notify the police and the townsfolk, who are of course quite skeptical of their claim.
Although you don’t see much in the way of kills, the film is, for the time, quite entertaining. Not that I don’t like black and white movies (I love them), but what works in The Blob’s favour is that it is in colour, unlike many of its B-movie peers. The blob, as a result, looks really cool and the more it kills, the more it changes colour. Being the thing wasn’t a very complicated creation, the film can also afford to show it off more often. The blob gets huge, takes on a late night movie house, and engulfs an entire diner.
The movie is genuinely fun once it gets going. It doesn’t bog itself down with too much seriousness as it knew it was destined to be part of a drive-in double feature. The suspense is there, with sprinkles of emotion (this sometimes seems wedged in there and awkward), and there is a great deal of humour. I’d especially like to point out the scene when a couple of Steve’s friends try to warn party goers about the thing (the dude’s Paul Revere joke tickled me) — and also the scene where a squirrelly old dude wakes up to an air raid siren and a fire siren going off at the same time and can’t decide which volunteer service he’s supposed to appear as (‘This has never happened before, what am I supposed to wear?!’).
As long as you go into the picture with an eye for what made this era great, you should have no problem at all enjoying the original version of The Blob.