Monday, February 24, 2014

#1,288. The Blob (1958)

Directed By: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

Starring: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe

Tag line: "Indescribable... Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!"

Trivia: Steve McQueen was offered $2,500 or 10% of the profits. He took the $2,500 because the film wasn't expected to make much. It ended up grossing over $4 million

I live in the general area where 1958’s The Blob was filmed. Valley Forge is a stone’s throw from where I grew up (I spent a lot of time at the National Park there, and used to jog the 5-mile track that runs around a portion of it), and I often drive by the Colonial Theater, which features prominently in the movie (Founded by Harry Brownback, the Colonial has been around since the very early days of the 20th century. Birth of a Nation played there in 1915, and two years later, Harry Houdini performed one of his patented death-defying escapes on the Colonial’s stage in front of an audience of 300 people). To see these places I recognize in a movie that’s well over 50 years old is kinda surreal, and the fact the film is considered a sci-fi classic, and starred the incredible Steve McQueen, makes it a doubly awesome experience.

While sharing an amorous moment in the front seat of a car, teenager Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and his girlfriend Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaunt) spot a meteor hurtling through the sky, which comes crashing down just over the next hill. Steve wants to check it out, but before he can get there, an elderly man (Olin Howard) locates the piece of space debris and pokes it with a stick, releasing a gelatinous material that crawls onto his hand and latches on. When they finally arrive on the scene, Steve and Jane find the old man in a panic, and drive him to the office of Doc Hallen (Stephen Chase). As Steve and Jane head out to investigate the meteor (temporarily sidetracked by a drag race with some of their pals), the glob on the old guy’s arm envelops his entire body. What’s more, it also devours Doc Hallen’s nurse, Kate (Lee Payton), and eventually the doctor himself. Steve and Jane get back to Doc Hallen’s in time to witness his death, and rush off to inform the authorities of what’s happened. Naturally, when the two policemen (Earl Rowe and John Benson) arrive at Doc Hallen’s, neither the homicidal pile of goo nor its three victims are anywhere to be found. Chalking it up as a prank, the cops call the teen’s parents to come pick them up, but with a deadly alien life form on the loose, Steve and Jane remain determined to track it down, enlisting the help of their friends as they continue to search for what could only be described as “The Blob”.

For a 1958 low-budget picture, the effects in The Blob are fairly impressive (while admittedly cheesy, the sequence at Doc Hallen’s office is also pretty cool), and the film has its share of tense moments (aside from the ending, there’s a scene where Steve and Jane encounter the Blob at a grocery store owned by Steve’s father, escaping only after they lock themselves in the walk-in freezer). Of course, some of the appeal of The Blob (for me, anyway) is seeing Steve McQueen in an early role, the last time in his career he would be billed as “Steven McQueen”. While the movie does drag on occasion (despite the nail-biting climax, the first half is definitely more action-packed than the second), The Blob is, for the most part, an entertaining sci-fi / horror flick.

Every year since 2000, the city of Phoenixville plays host to “Blobfest”, a weekend-long event in July the kicks off on Friday night with a screening of The Blob at the Colonial, immediately followed by a re-enactment of a key scene from the film, with audience members running from the theater in a panic as if the Blob were attacking them. While I’ve yet to have the pleasure of attending Blobfest, I know it’s something I’ll have to do at some point, if not for the movie itself, then for the experience. In this small corner of Pennsylvania, The Blob isn’t just a motion picture; it’s a link to the past, and I can’t help but smile at the thought its influence will continue for many years to come.

1 comment:

Katherine Wilder said...

This is one of my all-time favorites, and it's too cool that you know the theater! Yes, loved Steve McQueen in this, and also his girlfriend, who later played Helen in Andy Griffith! The remake didn't even come close! Sounds like the Blobfest is a must do! Thanks for a great post!