The Blob Gets No Respect

The Blob is an underrated creature which absolutely deserves to be on a higher pedestal in the world of monsters. The gelatinous mass simply rolls across the landscape, engulfing anything it comes in contact with. With every immersion, it gets bigger and bigger. There is no stopping it…except maybe a fallen bowl of ice cubes, as the amazing sequel shows us. Technically, The Blob can consume any living entity in the whole world; just as long as it doesn’t snow, it isn’t winter and its prey isn’t hiding out in a meat freezer. And for some odd reason, the Blob gets no respect!

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What always scared me most about The Blob is that we have no idea of where it came from, its origins or how the hell it really works. What does it feel like when this thing gets a hold of a person? Does it burn? Does it eat flesh slowly? I have no fucking idea. Its blood red color is disgusting and I get consistently creeped out by the many ways it attacks clueless victims. Don’t ever stop paying attention or that motherfucker is going to get you. Sewer drain, doorjamb, sink….he’s coming for you. Or is it a she? Who the fuck knows? I will NEVER get my hair washed at the barber after viewing the fate of the hippie victim in Beware! The Blob!. Another respectable point about this unjustly forgotten gooey mastermind is that it is 3 for 3 in the world of filmdom. This is a rare feat that not every creature could say. The Blob (1958), Beware! The Blob! and The Blob (1988) are all solid films, with their own unique charm.  Can you name another series of films featuring the same creature that goes 3 for 3? It ain’t easy.

The original Blob is something of a conundrum. It’s a film that gets laughed at and is called campy; but also a film that got the much sought after Criterion treatment for home video— a company which reserves their treatment for the elite in filmmaking. Criterion’s print of this film is gorgeous and well worth seeking out, containing two commentaries and a cool photo gallery of Blob memorabilia.  So what is this film: a campy laugh fest or a genuine horror classic? I’ll go with the latter.

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The Blob (1958) has been labeled as a camp classic, which is absolutely unjustified. Maybe it gets that label due to the title, which was originally The Molten Meteor, or the ridiculously catchy title tune penned by Grammy Award winning Burt Bacharach. You’ll be humming it for days after. Re-watching this film I realized that it is a near perfect 1950’s creature feature. Steve McQueen is great as Steve Andrews; but too old looking. He plays the films chicken little, who on the night of a meteor landing is on his first date with Jane Martin. Played by Aneta Corsaut, Jane and Steve’s relationship is charming and believable. Even though it was their first date, they both knew their connection was something more. Even in the face of the unbelievable, they both trust each other fully. Committed teenagers in a low budget monster movie is almost unheard of and it was great to watch these two become a couple, despite the ridiculous situation they are in.  The film was budgeted at 120,000 but was brought in under budget at 110,000. It went on to gross 4,000,000.

There are a lot of little interesting aspects in the movie, like the cute relationship between Jane and her brother, and the way Steve’s dad sticks up for him at the police station (instead of treating him like the clichéd meddling kid). Also, the quick side story about the angry cop’s wife being killed by a teenager, which adds a depth to his character instead of making him the typical cop who hates teenagers for the simple reason that they exist. I also loved the way the local teenagers called the cool cop, Dave, making me feel like these kids didn’t automatically rebel against authority. They just hated assholes. They only hate The Man if he treats them like shit, which is a good reason to rebel. All these little bits are smart script moves and extremely rare in the normally throwaway creature features of the 50’s. These tiny character moments elevate this film to classic status.

Don’t discount The Blob’s influence on later horror classics, especially after seeing the scene where the old man pokes the meteor and it cracks open revealing the Blob. It is very similar to the scene in Alien where John Hurt pokes the egg and the face hugger jumps out and attaches itself to him. The meteor opens exactly the way the alien egg opens. And after all these years, one can still celebrate the film’s awesomeness by going to the original theatre of The Blob’s attack, The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. Every year they have a 3 day “Blobfest,” where the highlight is a recreation of the movie theatre runout scene. There is also an appearance by the original Blob, which is now kept in a bucket by its current owner. Not a joke. “Blobfest” is being held this year from July 8-10 so go check out its website and revel in the gelatinous activities.

Now on to the bizarre creation that is Larry Hagman’s 1972 sequel, Beware! The Blob! aka Son of the Blob. I honestly love this movie because I don’t know what the fuck to make of this WTF weird-fest. It’s more like an odd series of Blob vignettes with a loosely connected story. There are bizarre extras, bizarre cameos, an opening credit sequence showcasing a cat running through a field and the Blob wreaking havoc on all sorts of people as it pops up everywhere. Geographical limitations be damned. This motherfucker jumps all over the joint, killing everything all over the town and showing up fifty places at once. Honestly, what the fuck is this? I don’t know; but what I do know is that it’s remarkable.

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The director is Larry “JR” Hagman of Dallas fame. This is his one and only film and it’d be interesting to hear the story behind his decision and process in making Beware! The Blob!. What compelled him to go behind the camera? He had previously done some TV directing work, but this was his first and last feature. Deservedly so, I guess. Godfrey Cambridge plays a drunk, Schlitz drinking, horny husband, Dick Van Patten as a camp counselor and Burgess Meredith in an uncredited cameo as a drunk hobo. There’s improv legend Del Close, Gerrit Graham in an ape costume, Carol Lynley as his girlfriend, Cyndi “Shirley” Williams as a hippie singing in a sewer drain, comedian Shelly Berman as an oddball hair “artist” who charges $400.00 a haircut and the director himself as a drunk— a perfect role for him because he must have been really shitfaced during the filming of this one.

All this insane nonsensical filmmaking leads to an entertaining mind numbing experience, where each viewing expands the limitations of my “what the fuck were they thinking” brainwaves. Somebody seriously needs to write a “making of” book about this film. The special effects are horrible with The Blob being portrayed by a large red balloon, red plastic sheeting and red silicone. The main reason for all this craziness on screen is that during the filming, the script was thrown out and mostly improvised. It absolutely shows that no one gave a fuck, except maybe Robert Walker and Gwynne Gilford as Bobby and Lisa in the wraparound story. All in all, an extremely entertaining second feature for our hero, The Blob.

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Fast forward sixteen years later to 1988’s The Blob, a big budget remake with a decent pedigree of talent. The film is directed by Chuck Russell, who directed the best (although Joey will debate this as second best) Nightmare series entry, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and written by Frank Darabont, director of The Mist. Kevin Dillon (in a role long before portraying Johnny Drama on Entourage) and Shawnee Smith (of the Saw series) are the leads. With the duo is fantastic, but the special effects is the real star of the film. Done by Lyle Conway, creator of Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and Tony Gardner, creator of Return of the Living Dead’s Tarman. This time around, The Blob is purple in color and is able to move around a lot more, using all of its parts to grab, pull, suck and crush its victims. It’s bubblier than a red piece of Jello; but I don’t know if that works as much for me. I guess I like my Blob traditional. In the remake we also get an explanation of The Blob’s origin, which makes it out to be a man-made military weapon. I wasn’t crazy about that, and it loses its mystery. There are some unexpected deaths, great special effects and a good cast, with the returning Del Close as a crazed preacher. This a fun film, but just a step below the original and its sequel, which is not bad for a remake.

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So in the end, the Blob is a genuine, classic monster that needs to be discussed more when it comes to movie creatures. The three films are camp extravaganzas, and are over the top with good and bad special effects. All three are worthy of multiple watches. So what is the future of this gooey god? It was announced back in 2009, in a bizarre choice, that Rob Zombie would direct a remake. That got scrapped, but I would have loved to see what he would have done with it. Zombie’s take would have been crazier than Larry Hagman’s oddly uninvolved directorial choices, and maybe not as effects heavy as the 1988 remake. Maybe we would have gotten a white trash blob raping and pillaging towns as it relentlessly pursues Sheri Moon Zombie. Cue numerous shots of the Blob chasing Sheri Moon Zombies bare ass. Sounds awesome.  Now the word on the street is that Simon West is attached to direct a remake, but I have not heard any further news.

Let’s get this gelatinous monster back on the screen and further enjoy its insane rampages. There are many unsung heroes in the world of horror movies. Whether the tree in From Hell It Came, the octopus in Octaman, or the brain creatures in Fiend Without a Face, someone needs to champion for these much maligned monsters.

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